Explorations in Cognitive Dissonance

By Jack W. Brehm; Arthur R. Cohen | Go to book overview

Preface

The publication in 1957 of Festinger Theory of Cognitive Dissonance stimulated widespread interest among psychologists in the issue of cognitive discrepancies and their motivating effects. Since then, investigators concerned with dissonance theory have utilized it in studying a broad range of phenomena, such as attitude change, decisional processes, social interaction and mass behavior, among other things. The particular interest in dissonance theory seems to us to be the result of a number of factors. For one thing, there exists a paucity of even moderately elegant and clearly stated theoretical models in social psychology. Secondly, the generality of the theory and its seeming applicability to a wide range of significant psychological problems have made investigators take note immediately. Also, a special virtue of the theory is that it has implications for numerous nonobvious effects that do not appear to be easily predictable from either common sense or from other current psychological formulations. And, finally, the operations for testing derivations from the theory appear to be clearly specifiable within an experimental framework, making the theory an attractive one for experimentally oriented psychologists.

Dissonance theory is becoming more widely used and with wider usage inevitably must come some imprecision in its application. Thus the theory may be overextended to explain the motivating effects of any perceived discrepancy, to understand all decisional conflicts, or to

-vii-

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