Cognitive Dissonance and Consumer Behavior: Reactions to the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health

by Joel Cohen, Harold Kassarjian



The field of human behavior and its various subsets, especially consumer behavior, is fully as complex and as confusing as the jargon with which we attempt to describe it. A possible approach to understanding and predicting consumer behavior might be to look at the various needs, motivations, and goals underlying pertinent behavioral patterns. Among the underlying needs which may have a substantial effect on a consumer's acts and decisions is the need for cognitive consistency. Although the human organism is continually receiving stimulus information through its perceptual apparatus, the individual tends to interpret it in a meaningful manner to reduce the ambiguity and uncertainty that would result from either an absence of relevant information or a jumble of unassociated or conflicting information. This cognitive reinterpreting process and its search for consistency deserve further analysis, since the individual is often faced with inconsistencies in everyday life. A social psychologist Leon Festinger has developed a theory that may hold a solution to questions regarding consumer behavior. This theory should have broad application in the field of consumer behavior and may make important contributions in communications and advertising.

California Management Review

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