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Cognitive Dissonance

  1. Louisa Egan

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0194

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Egan, L. 2010. Cognitive Dissonance. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. Yale University

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Few constructs within social psychology have generated more research and controversy than cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance describes a state in which two or more cognitions (including attitudes, beliefs, values, and behaviors) conflict such that the inverse of one follows from another. When Festinger first introduced the concept of cognitive dissonance in 1957, he used the example of a smoker encountering information that smoking was bad for his health. Festinger proposed that such a dissonant state is aversive and motivates cognitive change, just as the aversive state of hunger motivates eating. The more important and the greater the difference between the cognitions, the greater the need to reduce dissonance will be. Festinger argued that dissonance may be reduced through a variety of means. For instance, the individual in this example might reduce dissonance by (1) ceasing to smoke; (2) questioning the evidence that smoking is bad for his respiratory health; or (3) deciding that, perhaps, it is true that smoking is bad for his health, but that it keeps his weight down and the dangers of being overweight are worse than the dangers of respiratory illness.


  • cognitive dissonance;
  • attitudes;
  • social psychology;
  • social cognition