The Effect Of Cognitive Dissonance On Consumer Behaviour

David Swift
4 min readFeb 16, 2024

Cognitive dissonance theory (Festinger 1957) states that people experience a mental discomfort when they hold contradictory beliefs, attitudes, or values, or when they act in ways that are inconsistent with their self-image. To reduce this discomfort, people try to rationalise, justify, or change their beliefs, attitudes, values, or behaviours. This is important when using data from previous purchase habits, and navigational or click-though patterns to perpetuate and predict future purchases.

Cognitive dissonance can affect consumer behaviour in various ways. For example, after making a purchase, consumers may experience post-purchase dissonance, or buyer’s remorse, if they doubt their decision or encounter negative information about the product or service. To cope with this, they may seek confirmation from others, ignore or avoid conflicting information, or return or exchange the product or service.

Another example is when consumers face a choice between two or more alternatives, such as brands, products, or services. This can create pre-purchase dissonance, or choice anxiety, if they perceive that each alternative has some advantages and disadvantages. To resolve this, they may use heuristics (mental shortcuts we use to solve problems), to simplify their decision-making process, such as relying on price, quality, or popularity.

Marketers can use cognitive dissonance theory to influence consumer behaviour in different ways. For instance, they can create or amplify cognitive dissonance in consumers who have not yet made a purchase, by highlighting the benefits of their offer and the drawbacks of their competitors’. This can motivate consumers to switch their preferences or take action.

Alternatively, they can reduce or prevent cognitive dissonance in consumers who have already made a purchase, by reinforcing their satisfaction and loyalty. This can be done by providing positive feedback, testimonials, guarantees, or after-sales service. This can also help prevent cognitive dissonance from arising due to negative word-of-mouth or unfavorable reviews.

What are the implications of cognitive dissonance theory for consumers?

Cognitive dissonance can help consumers understand their own behaviour and emotions, and how they are influenced by external factors. By being aware of the sources and effects of cognitive dissonance, consumers can make more informed and rational decisions, and avoid or cope with regret or anxiety. They can also challenge their own assumptions and biases, and seek out diverse and credible information.

Cognitive dissonance theory has been challenged and questioned, particularly concerning how people measure the degree of dissonance they experience and how much effort they put into reducing it.

Additionally, individual differences, such as personality, culture, or motivation, can affect the occurrence and resolution of cognitive dissonance. Furthermore, situational factors like time, context, or social norms can influence the perception and expression of cognitive dissonance. Other psychological factors such as emotions, attitudes, or beliefs can interact with cognitive dissonance.

AI technologies used in the selection of product choice to their consumers that are enlightened by inclusion of appreciation of cognitive dissonance, tempering product offered by variations and timing are therefore far more likely to have a greater return than those that don’t.

What is Customer Behaviour?

Consumer behaviour means understanding the process and means of how audiences make end decisions. It includes focusing on their actions, engagement patterns, as well as usage or disposal of specific products or services — and the mental, emotional and behavioural responses that trigger those actions.

Why do marketers need to study it? Simply because the influence of psychology is a key factor in forming preferences, which eventually leads to purchases. The ability to connect with your audience right from the beginning of their journey, to instill trust and convey why and how you reign supreme over your competitors can win you life-long customers, a.k.a. recurring business opportunities.

While business use to have an ICP and buyer personas they want to target, these days AI enables us to focus this on each individual, using tools such as SwiftERM, to preselect products with the highest potential buying propensity for each individual consumer. It provides the fundamentals for understanding who you’re targeting and what potentially would interest them. Personal consumer behaviour prediction provides the underlying element that drives quality ROI and ensures business development.

Think about Apple. Behind its winning marketing strategies and an ever-increasing number of customers who swear by its products is its ability to change with the shifts in consumer behaviour. With iTunes capturing first-party data, or the company leveraging reference groups, or hooking people on product experiences, Apple invests greatly in understanding its customers.

As per their customers’ behaviour, and preferences, Apple implements changes in its physical and digital elements to revamp its product offerings which in turn leads to customer delight.

Originally published at https://swifterm.com on February 16, 2024.

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David Swift

SwiftERM hyper-personalisation SaaS for ecommerce email marketing.