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Cognitive Dissonance

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Cognitive dissonance is an experience in which individual’s encounter psychological discomfort when they simultaneously have thoughts that are in conflict with each other. Cognitive dissonance often serves as a motivational force as it often drives them to seek to reduce discomfort.


Leon Festinger, a social psychologist, is the originator of this theory and presented it in his first book on the matter in 1957 [3]. Since then he has done more research on the matter and provided a foundation for later studies in social psychology. According to Festinger, individuals seek to have psychological consistency such that thoughts, beliefs, values and actions usually coincide and are supported by each other. This experience is termed cognitive consonance and allows for mental equilibrium. Equilibrium, a condition in which there is balance, allows for harmony, and low levels of anxiety, discomfort, shame or guilt. Unconsciously individuals aim to function in this manner....

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  1. Aronson, E. (1997). Back to the future: A retrospective review of Leon Festinger’s, “a theory of cognitive dissonance”. American Journal of Psychology, 110, 127–137.

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  2. Brehm, J., & Cohen, A. (1962). Explorations in cognitive dissonance. New York and London: Wiley.

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  3. Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Evanston, IL: Row, Peterson.

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  4. Festinger, L. (1962). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.

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  5. Starzyk, K. B., Fabrigar, L. R., & Soryal, A. S. (2009). Reminder: The role of level and salience of attitude importance in cognitive dissonance. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin Jan, 35(1), 126–137.

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Correspondence to Norissa Atingdui .

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© 2011 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC

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Atingdui, N. (2011). Cognitive Dissonance. In: Goldstein, S., Naglieri, J.A. (eds) Encyclopedia of Child Behavior and Development. Springer, Boston, MA.

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