A general model of dissonance reduction: unifying past accounts via an emotion regulation perspective

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Cognitive dissonance has been studied for more than 60 years and many insightful findings have come from this research. However, some important theoretical and methodological issues are yet to be resolved, particularly regarding dissonance reduction. In this paper, we place dissonance theory in the larger framework of appraisal theories of emotion, emotion regulation, and coping. The basic premise of dissonance theory is that people experience negative affect (to varying degrees) following the detection of cognitive conflict. The individual will be motivated to alleviate these emotional reactions and could do so by reducing dissonance in some manner. We argue that detection of dissonance will follow the same principles as when people interpret any other stimuli as emotionally significant. Thus, appraisal theory of emotion, which argues that emotions are generated via the cognitive evaluation of surrounding stimuli, should be applicable to the dissonance-detection process. In short, we argue that dissonance-reduction strategies (attitude change, trivialization, denial of responsibility, etc.) can be understood as emotion-regulation strategies. We further argue that this perspective contributes to reconciling fragmented (and sometimes contrary) viewpoints present in the literature on dissonance reduction. In addition to proposing the general model of dissonance reduction, we illustrate at the hand of empirical data how research on dissonance reduction can be performed without relying on experimental paradigms that focus on a specific reduction strategy.


Enheter & grupper
Externa organisationer
  • Stockholms universitet

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Psykologi (exklusive tillämpad psykologi)


Antal sidor14
TidskriftFrontiers in Psychology
StatusPublished - 2020 nov 11
Peer review utfördJa