Monday, October 12, 2009

The Truth

"The Truth" about Cognitive Dissonance


                Don't read the next sentence.

                See, telling people what not to do never really works. It is a much better idea to use persuasion and propaganda techniques to get your point across to the right people. A tactic that is used by The Truth, which fights the negative and misleading information that is used by the big tobacco companies to sell a product that helps to shorten your life, can be described as  the use of cognitive dissonance.

                Cognitive dissonance, by definition from Merriam-Webster Dictionary online,  is" psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously". These conflicts can arise from attitude, belief, and knowledge discrepancies. 

                If you have seen any of the truth ads it would be clear to you that the tactics used are of a wide variety. Cognitive dissonance is also used in numerous ways throughout the campaign. Truth ads do not tell people to stop smoking, they simply present conflicting information from the information the tobacco company is presenting, that may in turn cause cognitive dissonance by the viewer of these ads.

                How many people do you know that absolutely love being told what to do, what to think, or what they should believe? I know that I can say I don't know any. This is why many executives in the communication industry understand the importance of propaganda and persuasion, because instead of telling you must prove and show why your argument or views are in fact correct.

                Another great example of cognitive dissonance hard a work can be found on the ever popular site of Facebook. There are numerous applications that are thrown is users faces every time they login. A tactic to get other users to download the application is in fact, cognitive dissonance. While I understand these applications truly have little importance, or real value they consume the site. If one friend downloads the application and it is shown to other friends that reduces the dissonance for that friend. The conclusion will be that the application must be fun if my friend uses it, and/or invited me to try it out for myself. This "Kiss Me" application screen is an example of an invitation for other friends to join the fun, and a visual example of the reduction of dissonance. 

                Cognitive dissonance is experienced every single day by people. It's very common, and people change their minds often based off cognitive dissonance, and they also will avoid experiencing any dissonance if they feel their opinion will or side of the issue will be put into question. Avoidance of topics or downgrading others opinions because they contradict with yours is often used to evade any kind of dissonance. The Cognitive Dissonance Theory developed by  Leon Festinger backs this assertion of avoidance.

                Parents, are another major group of people that use cognitive dissonance to persuade. If you sit and really think about growing up in your parents household I am sure you can think of a time when this was used and you never realized it. When one repeatedly attempts to persuade someone to do something that person will loose credibility and authority will diminish as well, and the more resistant the other will become to avoid dissonance.  How many times do parents use the "disappointment" word to promote better behavior which creates dissonance within the child that is now rethinking their position or action that caused this.

                Encouraging cognitive dissonance c an truly help to persuade another person, but it is something that needs to be done almost cleverly, to stay away from resistance from the other party in response. I can think of no better example as having just the right balance as the truth campaign. The commercials are very humorous, but make the impact.

                Cognitive dissonance is a great tool to use to persuade, just ask the truth creators, facebook, and your parents. 


cognitive dissonance. (2009). In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved September 29, 2009, from dissonance

Festinger, L.: A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University (1957)

Kam, D. (2009, April 16). Using Cognitive Dissonance to Your Advantage. Retrieved from Marketing Business Strategies:



Erin Montgomery

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