Motivational Basis of Dissonance: The Singular Role of Behavioral Consequences

Steven J. Scher, Joel Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


This article provides the first empirical test of the idea that discrepancy is not needed in order to arouse cognitive dissonance. Dissonance was aroused when Ss felt responsible for some aversive consequence, regardless of whether their behavior was consistent (writing a proattitudinal essay) or inconsistent (a counterattitudinal essay) with beliefs. The data demonstrate that in both situations, dissonance is aroused. This result, based on the dissonance motivation model of Cooper and Fazio (1984), strongly suggests that the motivational basis for dissonance is the felt responsibility for aversive consequences. The theoretical implications of this outlook are explored, including a discussion of the many ways that it expands the applicability of dissonance theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)899-906
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1989

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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