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Festinger's Theory of Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is important in social psychology because it provides insight into the psychology of choice, and knowledge about how people ultimately realize that certain specific behaviors will lead to anticipated results.

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Leon Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance stipulates that if a person's beliefs are not in harmony with one another, the person will experience a discomfort that he or she will attempt to eliminate by altering his or her beliefs. Just one of the many kinds of evidence which Festinger obtained involved the dissonance that smokers experienced as information began to appear in the 1950s that smoking causes lung cancer. He showed that heavier smokers who did not succeed in stopping were more reluctant to accept the evidence than were more moderate smokers who also could not stop. Heightened cognitive dissonance is achieved when two incompatible and contradictory beliefs or appraisals are activated and held to be true at the same time. The dissonant state can be heightened by eliciting both positive and negative beliefs and emphasizing that they cannot co-exist. For example, the belief ...

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Leon Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance stipulates that if a person's beliefs are not in harmony with one another, the person will experience a discomfort that he or she will attempt to eliminate by altering his or her beliefs.

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