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Cognitive dissonance theory

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Cognitive dissonance theory

(Science: psychology) a theory of attitude formation and behaviour describing a motivational state that exists when an individuals cognitive elements (attitudes, perceived behaviours, etc.) are inconsistent with each other, such as the espousal of the ten Commandments concurrent with the belief that it is all right to cheat on one's taxes; a test which indicates that persons try to achieve consistency (consonance) and avoid dissonance which, when it arises, may be coped with by changing one's attitudes, rationalizing, selective perception, and other means.

See: balance theory, consistency principle.