Certainly the numerous laboratory experiments we have examined have a plethora of implications for the worlds of buying and selling, politics, religion and psychotherapy. In fact, it is probably a short leap from the laboratory to the matter of dissonance reduction in naturally occurring settings. The leap seems short because the experimental research has shown that behavior, and opinions in particular, of a political or religious nature can be influenced substantially by the dissonance process. Unless naturally occurring conditions are unsuitable, in the sense of not meeting assumptions for application of the theory, there is every reason to think that dissonance phenomena should be readily observable in any context. The only real difficulty with carrying the theory into the applied or naturalistic realm has to do with the question of confounding of variables, which can be averted in the laboratory.
This chapter is devoted to an overview of applications of the theory outside of the experimental laboratory, and to research conducted by those whose purpose is other than theory testing. Among the projects we will discuss are historical analyses, observation of group phenomena, correlational studies, and experimental investigations that have been undertaken for reasons of practical import. The research of this chapter has been categorized in terms of broad areas of application, rather than with respect to amount of scientific control. Accordingly, there are a number of seemingly startling juxtapositions of well-controlled field experiments with less-than-controlled historical or political analyses. We hope that the reader will not be dismayed by these incongruous groupings of research, for methodology is not the central concern in this chapter. Of greater importance is the extent to which the theory has been taken to a number of important topic areas, and the extent to which diverse methodologies have been brought to bear on each of those areas.
To date the most thoroughgoing applied extensions of the theory have been in the area of marketing research, perhaps because those interested in marketing would have a special interest in creating conditions conducive to purchasing and