As set forth by Festinger ( 1957) dissonance theory sounded much like a model of consciously mediated cognitive activity. The person becomes aware of a contradiction between sets of cognitions, then proceeds to reconcile the contradiction. At least it is easy to infer such conclusions from the original statement of the theory. Although Festinger ( 1957) was not totally explicit on the issue of whether consciousness is necessary, he took a more definite position in 1964 in the context of discussing postdecision regret. At this writing he indicated that a person would be likely to focus attention on dissonance immediately after behavioral commitment. More important, Festinger suggested that the purpose of such focused attention would be that of reducing dissonance. He questioned that there could be any route to dissonance reduction other than focusing on and directly dealing with dissonant relations.
There is an implicit model of human being in the above suggestion. In order for dissonance to be experienced, and hence to be reduced, conscious attention must be directed toward the cognitive elements involved. In this respect dissonance resembles any other theory of cognitive activity, for it is generally assumed that cognitive work is at a conscious level and that the cognitive contradictions antecedent to dissonance reduction must be experienced directly, or consciously. But such assumptions are not necessarily warranted. The a priori imputing of conscoius mediation to dissonance reduction processes assumes certain psychological processes, the occurrence of which is not shown directly in the numerous experiments on dissonance reduction. This imputed process involves the conscious realization of conflicting cognitions, followed by an active phase of coping directly with such cognitions. But dissonance reduction could proceed by an alternative process.
For one, responses to the dissonance-provoking situation may take place through an unconscious psychodynamic process. Certainly psychoanalytically oriented personality theories assume that unconscious patterns of response