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Cognitive Dissonance: Progress on a Pivotal Theory in Social Psychology Edited by Eddie Harmon-Jones and Judson Mills

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Tell any smoker that his habit is unhealthy, and he most likely will agree. What mental process does a person go through when he or she continues to do something unhealthy? When an honest person tells a "white lie," what happens to his or her sense of integrity? If someone must choose between two equally attractive options, why does one's value judgement of the options change after the choice has been made?

In 1954 Dr. Leon Festinger drafted a version of a theory describing the psychological phenomenon that occurs in these situations. He called it cognitive dissonance: the feeling of psychological discomfort produced by the combined presence of two thoughts that do not follow from one another. Festinger proposed that the greater the discomfort, the greater the desire to reduce the dissonance of the two cognitive elements. The elegance of this theory has inspired psychologists over the past four decades. Cognitive Dissonance: Perspectives on a Pivotal Theory in Social Psychology documents the on-going research and debate provoked by this influential theory.


List of Contributors



  1. An Introduction to Cognitive Dissonance Theory and an Overview of Current Perspectives on the Theory
    —Eddie Harmon-Jones and Judson Mills

I. Perspectives Employing the Original Version of the Theory

  1. Improving the 1957 Version of Dissonance Theory
    —Judson Mills
  2. A Radical Point of View on Dissonance Theory
    —Jean-Léon Beauvois and Robert-Vincent Joule
  3. Toward an Understanding of the Motivation Underlying Dissonance Effects: Is the Production of Aversive Consequences Necessary?
    —Eddie Harmon-Jones

II. The Role of the Self in Dissonance

  1. Dissonance, Hypocrisy, and the Self-Concept
    —Elliot Aronson
  2. Self-Affirmation Theory: An Update and Appraisal
    —Joshua Aronson, Geoffry Cohen, and Paul R. Nail
  3. Unwanted Consequences and the Self: In Search of the Motivation for Dissonance Reduction
    —Joel Cooper
  4. What Exactly Have I Done? The Role of Self-Attribute Accessibility in Dissonance
    —Jeff Stone
  5. A Self-Accountability Model of Dissonance Reduction: Multiple Modes on a Continuum of Elaboration
    —Michael R. Leippe and Donna Eisenstadt

III. Mathematical Models of Dissonance

  1. Computer Simulation of Cognitive Dissonance Reduction
    —Thomas R. Shultz and Mark R. Lepper
  2. A Multiplicative Power-Function Model of Cognitive Dissonance: Toward an Integrated Theory of Cognition, Emotion, and Behavior After Leon Festinger
    —Haruki Sakari

IV. Dissonance and Affect

  1. Moving Beyond Attitude Change in the Study of Dissonance-Related Processes
    —Patricia G. Devine, John M. Tauer, Kenneth E. Barron, Andrew J. Elliot, and Kristen M. Vance
  2. "Remembering" Dissonance: Simultaneous Accessibility of Inconsistent Elements Moderates Epistemic Discomfort
    —Ian McGregor, Ian R. Newby-Clark, and Mark P. Zanna


  1. Social Communication and Cognition: A Very Preliminary and Highly Tentative Draft
    —Leon Festinger (1954)
  2. Reflections on Cognitive Dissonance: 30 Years Later
    —Leon Festinger (1987)
  3. Historical Note on Festinger's Tests of Dissonance Theory
    —Judson Mills

Author Index

Subject Index

About the Editors


Eddie Harmon-Jones is an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. He received his doctorate at the University of Arizona in 1995. He has conducted research on the necessary and sufficient conditions for the arousal of cognitive dissonance and on the role of affect in the dissonance process. In addition to continuing these lines of research, he conducts research aimed at understanding the motivation underlying dissonance processes.

Judson Mills is a professor of psychology and director of the Graduate Program in Social Psychology at the University of Maryland, College Park. He studied with Leon Festinger at the University of Minnesota and at Stanford University, where he received his doctorate in psychology in 1958. He worked as Festinger's research assistant during the period 1954–1957, when Festinger was developing the theory of cognitive dissonance.



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