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Harmon, Jones and Mills Essay

Harmon, Jones and Mills describe dissonance related to decisions in the following manner. They say that when a person takes any decision, each of the negative aspects of the chosen alternative and positive aspects of the rejected alternative is dissonant with the decision (Harmon Jones and Mills, 6).  This means that when a purchase has been made, the purchaser according to the Theory of Cognitive Dissonance tries to reinforce his decision by disregarding the bad qualities of the thing purchased.

In advertising, this theory plays an important role. It has made advertisers realize that they need to create dissonance before a purchase has been made and reduce it after the purchase. A lot of advertisements are created while keeping this in mind. For instance, before a purchase advertisers try to highlight the negative qualities of other available alternatives while after the purchase the advertisers try to reinforce the purchase decision by highlighting the positive aspects of the purchased product or service (Cornwell).

These advertising strategies help consumers stay positive about the goods they have purchased. Dissonance arises within the person who purchases the goods through good qualities of the rejected alternative while negative features of the chosen alternative. Such a position especially arises

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when the purchase decision was either very costly or involving (Winsor and Hesperich). Persuasion through dissonance helps advertisers in such a way that they can use their advertisements to bring attitudinal change as a product of dissonance.

This research study has been designed to prove the existence of cognitive dissonance in the purchase of high priced items. The hypothesis for this study is as follows: According to the theory of cognitive dissonance, recent purchasers of important items such as cars or appliances are more likely to have positive attitudes toward their brands than those who have owned the brand for a longer period of time.

A sample of twenty people was taken out of which ten have recently bought a car while the remaining ten have used the same car for more than five years. The brand of the car was same for all the twenty people in the sample, i.e. Suzuki. These people were tested using a short questionnaire which was designed to test the following three research questions:
• Do recent purchasers have more positive attitudes?

• Are there differences in beliefs about brands between recent purchasers and longtime owners?

The ten people who have recently purchased a Suzuki car highlighted a large number of positive aspects of their cars while those who have kept it for a longer period also highlighted a number of negative qualities of the car. Hence, this proves that recent purchasers have positive attitudes towards their cars. The recent purchasers said that it is a low cost, light weight and easily available car while the others said that it comes cheap but requires a lot of maintain ace and has a very light body which can easily get damaged.

Since, the recent purchasers seemed happier with the car than those who have kept it for longer periods thus; it proves the second research question that there are differences in beliefs of the two groups.

This study provides evidence of the existence of cognitive dissonance. Hence, advertisers and product or service providers need to keep in mind while designing advertising campaigns for their products. They need to use advertising to reduce dissonance before the purchase decision has been made and reinforce the decision after the purchase decision.


Cornwell Tiffany. Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. Advertising 382J.

armon-Jones, E. & Mills, J. Cognitive Dissonance Progress on a Pivotal Theory in Social Psychology.  Washington, D.C.:  Braun Brumfield, Inc. 1999.

Winsor and Hesperich. The Relationship: Cognitive Dissonance and Advertising. 2001.

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