Cognitive dissonance theory is concerned with how perception and cognition influence and are influenced by motivation and emotion. Hundreds of experiments have tested dissonance processes. For the most part, these experiments have explored 110 Cognitive Dissonance Theory the ways that the experience of cognitive dissonance causes attitude and behavior changes.

Leon Festinger formulated the original theory of cognitive dissonance in the mid-1950s. Festinger theorized that when an individual holds two or more elements of knowledge that are relevant to each other but inconsistent with one another, a state of discomfort is created. He called this unpleasant state dissonance. Festinger theorized that the degree of dissonance in relation to a cognition = D/(D + C), where D is the sum of cognitions dissonant with a particular cognition and C is the sum of cognitions consonant with that same particular cognition, with each cognition weighted for importance.

Festinger theorized that persons are motivated by the unpleasant state of dissonance to engage in cognitive work so as to reduce the inconsistency. To reduce the dissonance, individuals could add consonant cognitions, subtract dissonant cognitions, increase the importance of consonant cognitions, or decrease the importance of dissonant cognitions. One of the ways of reducing dissonance assessed most often is change in attitudes. Attitude change in response to a state of dissonance is expected to be in the direction of the cognition that is most resistant to change. Tests of the theory often assume that one’s most recent behavior is usually most resistant to change, because it is often very difficult to undo that behavior.

Littlejohn, Stephen W and Karen A.Floss. (2009). Encyclopedia of Communication Theory.USA:SAGE.178-179

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