Definition of Dissonance Theory

Dissonance Theory, derived from the concept of cognitive dissonance, refers to the uneasiness or tension that consumers might experience due to inconsistencies between their beliefs and actions related to a purchase decision. In digital marketing, this theory is often used to understand a customer’s post-purchase behavior and find ways to reduce the dissonance. Marketers use various strategies like reassurances, customer reviews, and testimonials to alleviate the customers’ doubts and ensure satisfaction with their purchase.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Dissonance Theory” can be transcribed as: /dɪsənəns ˈθɪəri/

Key Takeaways

  1. Dissonance Theory, proposed by Leon Festinger, states that individuals experience psychological discomfort and seek to reduce it when they hold two or more contradictory beliefs, attitudes, or values.
  2. This cognitive dissonance motivates people to change their behavior, beliefs, or attitudes to align with each other and restore a sense of internal consistency.
  3. Dissonance reduction can be achieved through various strategies such as justifying one’s beliefs and actions, changing the beliefs or attitudes themselves, or seeking information and opinions that support one’s current stance.

Importance of Dissonance Theory

Dissonance Theory, in the context of digital marketing, is important because it highlights the psychological impact of inconsistencies between a consumer’s beliefs, actions, or attitudes and the marketing messages they receive.

The theory suggests that individuals strive for internal consistency, and when dissonance arises, they are likely to take measures to reduce the discrepancy.

As a result, understanding and incorporating Dissonance Theory into digital marketing strategies can help marketers better engage with their target audience by crafting consistent, relevant, and authentic content.

This, in turn, can enhance customer satisfaction, foster brand loyalty, and ultimately drive favorable consumer actions such as repeat purchases, positive reviews, and brand advocacy.


Dissonance Theory, in the context of digital marketing, serves as a vital strategy for marketers aiming to understand and influence consumer behavior. The purpose of this theoretical approach is to comprehend the psychological underpinnings that drive consumer decision-making, particularly relating to post-purchase situations.

By analyzing the cognitive dissonance experienced by consumers, marketers can create more targeted and effective advertising campaigns, while also fostering lasting relationships with their customers. Cognitive dissonance refers to the mental discomfort experienced by individuals when they encounter contradictory information or conflicting attitudes that challenge their existing beliefs, thereby creating an uncomfortable tension.

In digital marketing, Dissonance Theory is invaluable for predicting how customers might react, modify their behavior, and engage with a brand following a sizable purchase or commitment. By anticipating potential buyer’s remorse and addressing the dissonance experienced by consumers, digital marketers create opportunities for positive reinforcement through personalized communication and tailored marketing efforts, ultimately establishing trust and loyalty between customers and brands.

Examples of Dissonance Theory

Dissonance Theory, often associated with Cognitive Dissonance, is a psychological concept that describes the discomfort individuals experience when they hold contradictory beliefs or when their actions and beliefs do not align. In digital marketing, this discomfort can impact consumer behavior and decision-making. Here are three real-world examples of Dissonance Theory in digital marketing:

Online Product Reviews: A customer purchases a product online because the advertising portrays it as high-quality and reliable. Yet, when they read negative reviews from other users, they experience cognitive dissonance. As a result, the customer might either dismiss the negative reviews to match their initial beliefs or question the product’s quality and consider returning it. To tackle this issue, marketers could address the negative feedback and provide accurate information, which may help bridge the dissonance.

Social Media Influencers: Imagine an eco-friendly brand partnering with a social media influencer who regularly posts about the importance of sustainability and environmentally-friendly practices. However, if the influencer is caught using non-eco-friendly products, their followers may experience dissonance—believing in the influencer’s promotion of eco-friendly products but witnessing contradictory actions. As a result, the brand’s reputation could suffer. To tackle this, brands must carefully select their partners and collaborate with those who genuinely align with their values.

Retargeting Ads: A potential customer is researching a product and has visited the brand’s website several times. Eventually, they choose a competitor’s product. Despite their decision, they still receive retargeting ads from the previously considered brand, causing cognitive dissonance and making them reconsider their decision. Marketers can manage this dissonance by personalizing retargeting ads to show value and offer exclusive deals, thus trying to influence the customer’s beliefs and make them reconsider their decision.

Dissonance Theory FAQ

What is Dissonance Theory?

Dissonance Theory, or Cognitive Dissonance Theory, is a psychological concept that suggests individuals experience mental discomfort or dissonance when faced with conflicting beliefs, attitudes, or values. This discomfort often leads to an attempt to reduce the dissonance by changing one’s beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors.

Who proposed Dissonance Theory?

Dissonance Theory was first proposed by Leon Festinger in 1957. Festinger was a social psychologist who extensively researched human behavior and cognitive phenomena, and his theory has greatly contributed to understanding the psychological processes behind decision-making and attitude change.

What are some examples of Cognitive Dissonance?

Cognitive Dissonance can occur in various situations, such as:

  • Smoking despite knowing it is harmful to health.
  • Maintaining a belief in astrology while being a proponent of science and scientific thinking.
  • Continuing to eat meat despite believing in animal rights and welfare.

These situations create dissonance as there is a conflict between one’s knowledge, beliefs, and actions.

How do people resolve Cognitive Dissonance?

There are several strategies people use to resolve Cognitive Dissonance, including:

  • Changing beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors to align with each other.
  • Acquiring new information to support one’s existing beliefs or attitudes.
  • Reducing the importance of conflicting beliefs or attitudes.
  • Rationalizing the inconsistency or justifying their behavior.

Resolving Cognitive Dissonance is a natural process by which people seek psychological consistency and balance.

What is the importance of Dissonance Theory in psychology?

Dissonance Theory is important because it plays a key role in understanding human behavior, specifically decision-making, motivation, and attitude change processes. It helps explain why people make certain choices, how they rationalize their actions, and how they deal with conflicting information. Cognitive Dissonance Theory has been extensively researched and applied in areas such as marketing, communication, education, and social psychology, making it an essential concept in understanding how humans process information and make decisions.

Related Digital Marketing Terms

  • Cognitive Dissonance
  • Post-purchase Evaluation
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Psychological Consistency
  • Buyer’s Remorse

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