Twenty five on: Yet another version of cognitive dissonance theory?


  • Robert Vincent Joule

    Corresponding author
    1. Laboratoire de Psychologie Sociale, Centre de Recherche en Psychologie Cognitive (Associé au CNRS), Université de Provence, France
    • Département de Psychologie, Université de Provence, 29 Avenue Robert Schuman, 13621 Aix-en-Provence, France
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  • Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique


The aim of this article is to highlight, 25 years on, the innovations of Festinger's theory of dissonance as regards its conception of cognitive functioning. Analysis of the dissonance ratio, on the basis of which Festinger evaluated the total amount of dissonance D/(D + C) gives rise to three propositions: (1) The total amount of dissonance is evaluated on the basis of a particular cognition G. (2) This cognition is neither the denominator, nor the numerator of the dissonance ratio; it is the cognitive expression of an effective conduct. (3) No presupposition is made concerning possible consonance or dissonance-relations between cognitions C and D.

Thus reduction in dissonance is not presented as a process that always orients cognitive activity toward greater consistency, but as a rationalization of conduct which may adapt to an increase in certain inconsistencies, and even generate them.

This new insight into Festinger's theory may be thought of as a new version that is quite distinct, both from earlier revisions of the theory, and from the various theories of cognitive consistency. It is hoped, moreover, that it will provoke reflection concerning the current orientatlons of cognitivism in social psychology.