“When we do something that is not in line with our beliefs, we change our beliefs”

When there’s a mismatch between our beliefs and behavior we experience what Leon Festinger calls a ‘cognitive dissonance’. And we have a strong motivational drive to reduce this dissonance.

cognitive_dissonanceWe can’t change the displayed behavior anymore, but we can change our beliefs and cognitions. In order to reduce dissonance we simply alter our beliefs, which we actually do a lot. There are 3 ways to do so:

  • We lower the importance of the dissonant elements,
  • we add new consonant beliefs to create a consistent belief system, or
  • we change an existing cognition.

Cognitive Dissonance is strongly related to ‘self-consistency‘ and is sometimes referred to as “adaptive preference formation”.

Clarifying story

Ancient Greek fabulist Aesop used a great example of cognitive dissonance in his fabel “The Fox and the Grapes”.

“When the fox fails to reach the grapes, he decides that in retrospect, he does not want them after all… as they were not ripe yet.”

Online Persuasion tips:

Integrate cognitive dissonances in your business and sales strategy in such a way that your customers have to internalize buying and using your product.

  • Be hard to get.
  • Be expensive.
  • Be hard to get rid off.
  • Do not provide (large) incentives when asking your customers for a favor (such as ratings and reviews).
  • Even test with providing incentives for not buying your product (e.g. in your checkout page).


Further reading on cognitive dissonance: