Since its publication by Leon Festinger in 1957, the theory of cognitive dissonance has generated an enormous amount of research and considerable theoretical discussion. It has been supported by the bulk of the published research, but some research and, more importantly, some of the theoretical discussion has called into question one or another aspect of the theory. Because of the amount and variety of accumulated research, and because of the disparate nature of the questions raised, an evaluation of dissonance theory has become increasingly difficult for the involved scholar as well as the interested observer. Have some derivations been supported while others have been disconfirmed? Have there been telling theoretical or methodological criticisms? Has dissonance theory been replaced or subsumed by alternative theories? In short, after hundreds of empirical tests by innumerable researchers, after numerous criticisms of the theory and the methods used to test it, and after various alternative theories have been proposed, what is the status of dissonance theory? Answering this question has been our primary intent in writing the present volume.
As implied by the above questions, there are various dimensions on which dissonance theory might be evaluated, and we have selected those that serve our particular purposes. We are primarily concerned with what dissonance theory can tell us about human behavior that other theory or knowledge does not tell us. This concern leads in turn to two kinds of evaluation: (a) the extent to which the basic propositions of the theory have been supported, and (b) the extent to which dissonance phenomena are interpretable in terms of alternative theories. In addition, we have tried to show the degree to which dissonance theory has been useful in the understanding of a variety of behavioral phenomena.
Given our intentions, it will come as no surprise that we have devoted little attention to metatheoretical or epistemological issues. Perhaps less obvious will be the fact that we have not attempted to be exhaustive in our report of the