Cognitive Dissonance Theory

                                    Cognitive Dissonance Theory


Mass Communication Theory


Auster, Donald (1965). Attitude change and cognitive dissonance. Journal of Marketing Research (JMR). Vol. 2 Issue 4, p401-406


Using an experiment designed to evaluate the persuasiveness of ideological vs. technical propaganda; the author finds that the ideological propaganda is more effective in influencing the participants. “Further analysis provided empirical support for cognitive dissonance as an explanation”(abstract). The study showed that despite being less liked, the ideological propaganda was more effective because it correlated more closely with the participants’ preconceived attitudes and beliefs.

This study was significant in that it shows how cognitive dissonance theory can explain the increase in the effectiveness of communication messages.  This study contributed to the theory by applying it to propaganda and showing how the concept can be manipulated to influence opinion.


Morwitz, V. G.; Pluzinski, C (1996). Do polls reflect opinions or do opinions reflect polls? The impact of political polling on voters’ expectations, preferences, and behavior. Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 23, no. 1, 53-67


            Using evidence from the 1992 Presidential campaign and the 1993 New York city mayoral campaign, the authors examines the effects of opinion polls on the decision making process of voters. The author finds that “voters use political polls to maintain or move to a state of cognitive consistency” (abstract).  The authors use “cognitive dissonance theory as the basis for their predictions” (Morwitz, 1996 p.55)

            This study uses cognitive dissonance theory to show that voters may change their minds to closer reflect the perceived public opinion. The major contribution of this study to the theory is to show how easily people can be influenced by concepts related to the theory, even regarding to very important decisions.


DeSantis, Alan (2003). Sometimes a Cigar [Magazine] is More Than Just a Cigar [Magazine]: Pro-Smoking Arguments in Cigar Aficionado, 1992-2000. Health Communication [1041-0236] vol:15 iss:4, 457 -480

            By examining the pro-smoking messages in the magazine Cigar Aficionado, the author shows that up to seven different message types “serve to relieve the cognitive dissonance associated with consuming a potentially deadly product and maintain a loyal readership” (abstract). The author finds that the magazine has been successful in reducing cognitive dissonance associated with cigars and as a result, the popularity and usage of cigars has increased.             This study extends cognitive dissonance theory by examining how a positive cognitive dissonance (cigars are harmful) can be reduced by using messages that run counter to the preconceived dissonance. The study shows how cognitive dissonance can be intentionally manipulated and dismantled using conflicting messages.  The study also contributes to the theory because it shows a substantial effect on the cigar market, indicative of the power of cognitive dissonance. 

Chyng Feng Sun, Karin Scharrer, Erica (2004). Staying True to Disney: College Students’ Resistance to Criticism of The Little Mermaid. Communication Review, Vol. 7 Issue 1, p35-55


Using a college media literacy program, the author examines students’ perceived differences between Disney’s The Little Mermaid and the original fairytale upon which the film was based.  The purpose was to see how students would react to a negative comparison and critique of the film bearing in mind the lifelong positive exposure to the film and Disney in general. The author found that students generally did not change their positive attitudes towards the film, despite criticism and negative comparison to the original fairy tale.

            This study is significant with respect to cognitive dissonance theory because it focuses on the difficulty of dismantling preconceived attitudes and opinions, “our first observation was how deeply penetrating Disney’s influence had been.”(Chyng, 2004 p.53) The contribution of this study to the theory is in showing how deeply influential messages received in childhood remain strong many years after the exposure.



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