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Cognitive Consistency Theories

According to these theories, people are motivated to seek coherent

attitudes, thoughts, beliefs, values and feelings. If these are inconsistent, these
will produce a tension state in the individual, and motivate the individual to
reduce this tension by making their relevant cognitions consistent.

Balance Theory by Fritz Heider

Concerned with an individuals perception of the

relationships between himself and other two
elements in a triadic structure.
P-O-X theory where P: person, O: comparison
person, X: object
A balanced triad occurs when all relationships are
positive, or balanced, or consistent
Balance, according to Heider is rewarding but
imbalance can also be rewarding and exciting.
Heider: The tension produced by unbalanced situations often has
pleasing effect on our thinking and aesthetic feelings.
3 ways to restore balance:
1. Change ones attitude toward either the object or the other person.
2. Distort reality to perceive that the relationship is balanced.
3. Cognitively differentiate the relationship

Limitations of Balanced Theory:

Makes no prediction about how imbalance will be resolved

Cannot predict which thoughts or cognitions to change
Does not recognize degree of liking

Congruity Theory by Charles Osgood and Percy Tannenbaum

P: audience, O: message source, X: object/concept

Quantified the degree of liking for the source
Congruity exists when a person holds identical attitudes toward a source,
topic or issue.
Proposes a formula that predicts the amount and direction of attitude
change based on the audiences attitude toward the Source and the
audiences attitude toward the Concept.
Semantic differential scale: Seven-unit evaluative scale, from extremely
negative (-3) to neutral (0) to extremely positive (+3)
Attitudes tend to lie at extremes of good-bad dimension
Assertion: attitude towards another object or concept
2 Post Hoc Hypotheses:
1. Assertion Constant: when a source makes an assertion about a
concept, that assertion tells us more about the concept than about
the source
2. Incredulity: When a source was made to same something
unreasonable, attitude change predicted by the Congruity Theory
did not occur

Limitations of Congruity Theory:

Ignores message content

Does not predict that attitudes toward the source would change less than

Cognitive Dissonance Theory by Leon Festinger

Three possible relationships among cognitions: consonance, dissonance,

and irrelevance.
Declares that dissonance is an unpleasant motivating state that
encourages attitude change to achieve or restore consonance.
When there is an inconsistency between attitudes or behaviors
(dissonance), something must change to eliminate the dissonance.
Two factors that affect the strength of dissonance:
1. Proportion of dissonant and consonant cognitions
2. Importance of the cognitions.
Considers all of the relevant thoughts at once, considering both the
proportion of consistent (consonant) and inconsistent (dissonant) thoughts
and the importance of those thoughts.
Three ways to eliminate dissonance:
1. One may change cognition to reduce dissonance.
2. A person who experiences dissonance can add a new cognition
3. Change the importance of cognitions.

Limitations of Cognitive Dissonance Theory

Does not predict how dissonance will be reduced in any situation.

Does not consider the nature of the persuasive message.