Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 40, Issue 6, pp 842–861 | Cite as

Why are attitude–behaviour inconsistencies uncomfortable? Using motivational theories to explore individual differences in dissonance arousal and motivation to compensate

  • Karine J. LavergneEmail author
  • Luc G. Pelletier
Original Paper


Using cognitive dissonance theories and self-determination theory, we explored the role of individual differences in global and contextual motivational orientations on dissonance arousal processes following spontaneous attitude–behaviour inconsistencies (ABIs). Study 1 (N = 382) showed that individual differences in global motivation relate to the frequency of ABIs and dissonance arousal across important life domains. Studies 2 (N = 282) and 3 (N = 202) showed that individual differences in contextual motivation toward the environment predict the relative frequency of ABIs and the quantity and quality of proximal motivation to compensate for ABIs in that context. Autonomous motivation was associated with a tendency to compensate for ABIs to both reduce dissonance and restore self-integrity. Controlled motivation disposed individuals to reduce dissonance to protect ego-invested self-structures, and to be indifferent to non self-threatening ABIs. Amotivation left people indifferent to ABIs. Individual differences in motivational orientations could explain why ABIs are uncomfortable and motivate people to compensate differently when they face ABIs.


Cognitive dissonance theory Action-based model of dissonance Self-determination theory Dissonance arousal Attitude–behaviour consistency 



This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Grant No. SSHRC-435-2013-0997) and conducted at the University of Ottawa as part of the first author’s doctoral thesis project. The University of Alberta is the first author’s current affiliation. We wish to thank the Human Motivation Research Laboratory research assistants and trainees who provided assistance with this research.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standards

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 17 kb)
11031_2016_9577_MOESM2_ESM.docx (14 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 14 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of OttawaOttawaCanada
  2. 2.University of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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