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Deviprasad Goenka Management College of Media Studies

Media Psychology - Cognitive Dissonance

By Prof. Arati Kamath

June 27, 2018 at 03:30 PM



We all like to enjoy living in stability but when a person has two contradicting beliefs leading them to become distressed. This level of discomfort leads to cognitive dissonance .Here the individuals reacts and makes an attempt to return to consistency and motivated to reach consonance again. So to be stabilised, a person will either change their beliefs, behaviours or add new beliefs.

Psychologists are always curious to understand how cognitive dissonance plays an important role in media.

Cognitive dissonance plays a role in making judgments, decisions, and evaluations. It also helps in improving your aptitude and make precise choices. Advertising has already brought a change in audience’s beliefs and behaviours through cognitive dissonance therapy. It is very important to have an understanding on cognitive dissonance in order to be effective in this industry.

Let us take an example of an advertisement of a shampoo. A beautiful woman’s hair blows in the wind. She looks happy, healthy, and gorgeous. The underlying message is that you too could look happy, healthy, and gorgeous if you use the same shampoo she uses. You experience dissonance because you want to look and feel happy, healthy, and gorgeous, but you don’t necessarily use that shampoo.

As a consumer you are left with few options, such as you can reject the claim completely or you can resolve the dissonance by accepting the message and changing your behaviour, meaning you buy the shampoo. Or you can resolve the dissonance by accepting the message and changing your belief. The consumer may start to see yourself as less beautiful and healthy because you dont use that product.

The consumer can modify their original belief system or they can resolve the cognitive dissonance by actually buying what they are selling. The advertiser, of course, wants the consumer to do the latter. And if you choose the former, your self-esteem will likely take a hit since you must acknowledge you dont possess these positive qualities.

The more persuasive and more convincing the advertisement, the stronger the dissonance and the more urgently you will need to resolve it.