I found an offer on a nice bottle of good white sparkling wine on the shelf of Tesco on a special price offer. On my way to the checkout while finishing my shopping I began to think about getting home, put the bottle in the fridge in order to get it fresh while preparing dinner and having a glass of it with my friend as an “aperitivo” with some nibbles and canapes before dinner. Once at the checkout and the cashier scanned the wine the price that came out was not the one I saw but it was more expensive (apparently somebody did not put it back on the right place) there was a difference of about £ 3…I could have left it, take another cheaper bottle but…No I took it, but why? If the correct price has been on the shelf (or the bottle on the right price tag) I would not have considered buy it…so what’s happened?

Apparently it all come to Festinger’s (1957) cognitive dissonance theory that suggests that we have an inner drive to hold all our attitudes and beliefs in harmony and avoid disharmony (or dissonance). So when our feelings and reality are in conflict you must find a way to lesser the discomfort that it causes us.

In the case of consumer behaviour that means that we will go ahead in order to reduce the dissonance created by the anticipation of the expectations and benefits that makes us feel more committed to the purchase. Where dissonance arrived its higher level, and will invalidate its decision or change its behaviour (Brehm & Cohen, 1962).

A Cialdini, Cacioppo, Bassett, and Miller (1978) study on two group of students is an example of cognitive dissonance low balling technique. One group was asked to come for a psychology study at 7 am, only 24% accepted. The second group was asked the same thing but without telling them the time 56% accepted and only after they have agreed to take part in the study they were told the time (7am) and that if they wanted they could still withdraw, the result was that nobody did. On the day of the actual test 95% of the second group showed up.


Cognitive Dissonance can be use also in the recruiting process for example Zappo’s a US online shoe company. After a 2 weeks training the potential customer service candidates are offered two options either sign a contract with Zappos or take 2000$ and reject the job. That has two advantages first to stop candidates that are not 100% interested in working with them and second to create cognitive dissonance because even if in a moment in time they will regret not having accepted the money they will persuade themselves that they must have been a good reason (they love their job and Zappos…) to so otherwise they wouldn’t have denied the 2000$.








2 thoughts on “

  1. Wide topic!

    It is also applicable to many other things… like… smoking!

    Why do we smoke while we definitely know that there is a good chance for us to die faster, younger and suffering more?

    It seems that people who smoke alter their beliefs in order to reduce the dissonance like: “I know an elderly man who is smoking and who is very healthy!” leading to the “confirmation bias”(Peter Wason, 1960) when people search and look at only the evidences that confirm their choices. Another thing to consider would be the backfire effect (Brendan Nyhan & Jason Reifler) for example in France 50% of the surface of every cigarette pack are labeled with a sentence like: “Smoker die sooner” “Smoking can kill”… the backfire effect will make people exposed to a contradictory evidence to their beliefs first rejecting it, and second reinforcing their initial belief.

    Concerning health and social issues the institutions should study more the way to send a message before launching such laws (cigarette pack advertisement) and before any campaign…




  2. Great blog, cognitive dissonance is something that occurs in many aspects of life and can prevent people from doing things that will be of benefit because they don’t like the mental discomfort of doing something they don’t like.

    For example it is generally accepted that going to University is good in the long run as students being better qualified, learn life skills. and ultimately become more employable. However the cost of University is now so high that it makes students feel uncomfortable as that level of debt is insane. For example to do a 4 year course students could be looking at £50,000 worth of debt if they’re living away from home. For this reason many young people will not bother with University as they are uncomfortable with this being in this much debt, which is why preventing students from experiencing this cognitive dissonance by lowering tuition fees should be of great importance to Governments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s