Action-Based Model of Dissonance: On Cognitive Conict and Attitude Change
Cognitive dissonance theory (Festinger, 1957) and its research have led to an increased understanding of attitude change processes. In this chapter, we review Festinger’s original theory, review some revisions of the theory, and then describe a more recent conceptualization of dissonance, the action-based model. The action-based model begins with the assumption that many perceptions and cognitions automatically activate action tendencies. This assumption is consistent with several perspectives, such as William James’s (1890) ideomotor conception, Gibson’s (1966, 1979) ecological approach to perception, and subsequent elaborations of these basic ideas (Berkowitz, 1984; Dijksterhuis & Bargh, 2001; Fiske, 1992; McArthur & Baron, 1983; Smith & Semin, 2004). The action-based model goes further to suggest that when these “cognitions” with action implications come into conict, a negative affective state is aroused, referred to as dissonance. Our model posits that dissonance affect is aroused because conicting action-based cognitions have the potential to interfere with effective action. The organism is motivated to reduce this negative affect and ultimately reduce the “cognitive inconsistency” in order to behave effectively. This way of conceptualizing dissonance processes addresses many problems with past theories concerned with dissonance, and it suggests a framework for integrating an array of other nondissonance theories and research.