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Exploring Cognitive Dissonance Factors in Consumer Buying Decisions

1. Introduction

The theory of “cognitive dissonance” is of great importance in consumer behavior and marketers have lots of interest in analyzing the post purchase behavior of consumers experienced by them. This paper has  explored  the  factors  that  create  cognitive  dissonance  in  consumer buying decision making particularly among the consumer goods purchaser  in  the  city  area.  Some  of  these  are  family  status,  religious value,  customs,  belief  etc.  the  study  also  reveals  the  problems  and identified  probable  solutions  to  overcome  these  problems.This  article explores the  implications of cognitive dissonance  on varied aspects of consumer buying  behaviour.Some of the  factors  leading to dissonance post purchase.
1.  Introduction 

(1)Definition of Buying Behavior 
Buying Behavior  is the decision processes and acts of people  involved  in  buying and using products. 
(2) What Is Cognitive Dissonance? 
People tend to seek consistency in their beliefs and perceptions. So what happens when one  of  our  beliefs  conflicts  with  another  previously  held  belief?  The  term  cognitive dissonance  is used to describe the  feeling of discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs. When there is a discrepancy between beliefs and behaviors, something must change in order to eliminate or reduce the dissonance.

(3)Need to Understand 
? Why consumers make the purchases that they make?  
? What factors influence consumer purchases?  
? The changing factors in our society.  Consumer Buying Behavior refers to the buying behavior of the ultimate consumer. A firm needs to analyze buying behavior for: 

? Buyers reactions to a firms  marketing strategy  has a great impact on the firms 
? The  marketing  concept  stresses  that  a  firm  should  create  a  Marketing  Mix (MM)  that  satisfies  (gives  utility  to)  customers,  therefore  need  to  analyze  the what, where, when and how consumers buy.  
? Marketers can better predict how consumers will respond to marketing strategies.  
(4)Dissonance in Consumer Behaviour 
In  dynamic  business  environment,  marketers  have  always  been  trying  to  not  only acquire  new  customer  base  but  also  retain  the  existing  one  by  providing  value, satisfying customers’ exchange expectations. It has been found that customer retention is  highly  associated  with  customer  satisfaction  and  customer  satisfaction  not  only retains the customer with the company but also affects revenue, earning per share and stock price (Williams and Naumann, 2011).  
Since  consumer  behaviour  and  its  extensive  study  has  been  a  backbone  of  the marketing strategy of every firm, a detailed and comprehensive study of all its aspects become  imperative  for  the  success  of  an  organisation.  And,  hence,  the  concept  of cognitive  dissonance  and  its  effect  on  the  consumer  behaviour  has  been  a  part  of various  significant  research  studies  as  well.  One  author  even  termed  it  one  of  social psychology?s greatest theories (Aronson 1969).Sweeney, Hausknecht and Soutar (2000)  noted,  „dissonance  includes  both  cognitive  aspects,  as  the  title  „cognitive dissonance? implies, as well as an emotional dimension, as many definitions, including Festinger?s original definition,imply?. The resulting dissonance motivates the individual to bring harmony to inconsistent elements  and  thereby  reduce  psychological  tension.Dissonance  is  known  to  arise mainly  in three ways –First, any  logical  inconsistency can create dissonance. Second, dissonance can be created when a person experiences an inconsistency either between his attitude and his behaviour or between two of his behaviours. Third, dissonance can occur  when  a  strongly  held  expectation  is  disconfirmed,  notes  Loudon  &  Della  Bitta (2002). Further, dissonance occurs once a decision has been made as prior to making a decision an individual had an option of adjusting to any attitude or behaviour which he deemed right as per  his choice but once a decision  is being  made, a commitment has een established  between the buyer and the consumer, where he cannot further adjust himself and is liable to stick to his decision.
The Impact on Consumer Buying Behaviour: Cognitive Dissonance 835  
1.1 How to Reduce Cognitive Dissonance 
There are three key strategies to reduce or minimize cognitive dissonance: 
? Focus on more supportive beliefs that outweigh the dissonant belief or behavior. 
? Reduce the importance of the conflicting belief. 
? Change  the  conflicting  belief  so  that  it  is  consistent  with  other  beliefs  or behaviors. 
1.2 Why is Cognitive Dissonance Important? 
Cognitive dissonance plays a role in many value judgments, decisions and evaluations. Becoming  aware  of  how  conflicting  beliefs  impact  the  decision-making  process  is  a great way to improve your ability to make faster and more accurate choices. 
1.3 Examples of Cognitive Dissonance 
Cognitive  dissonance  can  occur  in  many  areas  of  life,  but  it  is  particularly  evident  in situations  where  an  individual's  behavior  conflicts  with  beliefs  that are  integral  to  his or  her  self-identity.  For  example,  consider  a  situation  in  which  a  man  who  places  a value  on  being  environmentally  responsible  just  purchased  a  new  car  that  he  later discovers does not get great gas mileage. 
The conflict 
? It is important for the man to take care of the environment. 
? He is driving a car that is not environmentally-friendly. 
In  order  to  reduce  this  dissonance  between  belief  and  behavior,  he  has  a  few difference  choices.  He  can  sell  the  car  and  purchase  another  one  that  gets  better  gas mileage or he can reduce his emphasis on environmental-responsibility. In the case of the  second option,  his  dissonance  could  be  further  minimized  by  engaging  in  actions that  reduce  the  impact  of  driving  a  gas-guzzling  vehicle,  such  as  utilizing  public transportation more frequently or riding his bike to work on occasion. A more common example of cognitive dissonance occurs in the purchasing decisions we make on a regular basis. Most people want to hold the belief that they make good choices.  When  a  product  or  item  we  purchase  turns  out  badly,  it  conflicts  with  our previously existing belief about our decision-making abilities. 
2.  Previous Research 
Once the purchase has been made, a human mind starts assessing the pros and cons of the purchase transaction made. This activity leads to emanation of myriad of 
conflicting thoughts in the mind of the buyer. The positive aspects of a choice forgone and  the  negative  as  pects  of  the  decision  made  create  ascending  strain  in  Cognitive Dissonance  And  Its  Impact  On  Consumer  Buying  Behaviour|  the  human  mind  and make the buyer rethink about the decision made, notes Kassarjian and Cohen (1965).Dissonance  though  is  a  psychological  concept  but  has  a  great  bearing  on  the way  consumers  plan  their  purchase  and  effect  of  the  purchase  made  on  their  future alliance with the organisation.In an era of marketing, where a consumer is spoilt with a Manoj Kumar Sharma 836 plethora of choices as regarding the product to buy , it is difficult to avoid a situation of confusion which leads to dissonance among the consumers. However, consumers make their efforts in different ways to reduce the conflicting views which arise in their mind. When a purchase transaction gets completed, most of the consumers feel that their decision  has  got  hugely  effected  by  the  sales  interventions  being  made  by  the  seller and hence their cognitive consistency has been compromised to the various marketing interventions  made  by  the  seller  (Bell,1967;  and  Cummings  and  Venkatesan,1976).A consumer after making a desired decision may feel that by choosing a certain brand, he has forgone the positive traits of an alternative brand which he could have possessed if he  had  chosen  the  alternative  brand.  The  guilt  might  get  accentuated  if  bought  brand doesn?t perform as per the desired expectations of the consumers. 

2. What is Cognitive Dissonance?

2.1 Types of Consumer Buying Behavior Types of consumer buying behavior are determined by:  
? Level of Involvement in purchase decision. Importance and intensity of interest in a product in a particular situation.  
? Buyers  level  of  involvement  determines  why  he/she  is  motivated  to  seek information about a certain products and brands but virtually ignores others.  
High involvement purchases--Honda Motorbike, high priced goods, products visible to others, and the higher the risk the higher the involvement. Types of risk:  
? Personal risk  
? Social risk  
? Economic risk  
The four type of consumer buying behavior are:  
? Routine  Response/Programmed  Behavior--buying  low  involvement  frequently purchased low cost items; need very little search and decision effort; purchased 
almost automatically. Examples include soft drinks, snack foods, milk etc.  
? Limited  Decision  Making--buying  product  occasionally.  When  you  need  to obtain  information  about  unfamiliar  brand  in  a  familiar  product  category, 
perhaps. Requires a moderate amount of time for information gathering. 
Examples include Clothes--know product class but not the brand.  ? Extensive Decision Making/Complex  high  involvement, unfamiliar, expensive 
and/or infrequently bought products. High degree of economic/performance/psychological risk. Examples include cars, homes, computers,  education.  Spend  alot  of  time  seeking  information  and  deciding. 
Information from the companies MM; friends and relatives, store personnel etc. Go through all six stages of the buying process.  
? Impulse buying, no conscious planning.  
The purchase of the same product  does not always elicit the same Buying Behavior. Product can shift from one category to the next.For Example: 
Going  out  for  dinner  for  one  person  may  be  extensive  decision  making  (for someone  that  does  not  go  out  often  at  all),  but  limited  decision  making  for  someone else. The reason for the dinner, whether it is an anniversary celebration, or a meal with a couple of friends will also determine the extent of the decision making. 
The Impact on Consumer Buying Behaviour: Cognitive Dissonance 837  
2.2 Foundations of Dissonance Theory 
The  theory  of  cognitive  dissonance  is  elegantly  simple:  it  states  that  inconsistency between two cognitions creates an aversive state akin to hunger or thirst that gives rise to  a  motivation  to  reduce  the  inconsistency.  According  to  Leon  Festinger  (  1957), cognitions  are  elements  of  knowledge  that  people  have  about  their  behavior,  their attitudes,  and  their  environment.  As  such,  a  set  of  cognitions  can  be  unrelated, consonant, or dissonant with each other. Two cognitions are said to be dissonant when one follows from the obverse of the other.  The resultant motivation to reduce dissonance  is directly proportional to the magnitude and  importance of the discrepant cognitions, and inversely proportional to the magnitude and importance of the consistent cognitions. This tension is typically reduced by changing one of the cognitions, or adding new cognitions until mental `consonance' is achieved. Festinger's original formulation proved to be one of the most robust, influential, and controversial theories  in  the  history  of  social  psychology.  Although  a  number  of  challenges  and revisions  have  been  suggested,  the  basic  behavioral  observation  remains  uncontested and continues to stimulate fresh research.  Application of this theory has yielded many surprising and nonintuitive predictions.  For  example,  conventional  wisdom  suggests  that  behavior  follows  from attitudes;  dissonance  theory,  however,  identifies  conditions  under  which just  the opposite  occurs.  An  early  and  often  replicated  experiment  illustrates  the  power  and counterintuitiveness  of  the  theory.  In  what  is  now  known  as  the  induced  compliance effect,  Festinger  and  Carlsmith  (1959)  asked  individuals  to  perform  30  minutes  of  a mind-  numbingly  tedious  activity,  and  then  to  persuade  a  waiting  participant that the activity  was  in  fact  quite  interesting.  This  situation  created  cognitive  dissonance  in most  individuals––they  believed  that  the  task  was  boring,  yet  inexplicably  found themselves arguing quite the opposite.  The  theory  of  cognitive  dissonance  (Festinger  1957)  states  that  inconsistency between  beliefs  or  behaviors  creates  an  aversive  motivational  state  akin  to  hunger  or thirst. This tension  is typically reduced by changing one of the dissonant elements, or adding  new  ones,  until  mental  consonance  is  achieved.  There  have  been  three  major revisions  relevant to  modern  interpretation  of  dissonance  phenomena.  Aronson's  self-consistency model ( 1968) proposed that dissonance resulted from behaviors that were discrepant  with  one's  conception  of  oneself  as  a  decent  and  sensible  person.  Steele's self-affirmation  theory  (  1988)  proposed that  dissonance  emerged  from  threats to the overarching  self-  system,  and  that  dissonance  reduction  relied  on  re-establishing  the integrity  of  the  global  self-concept.  Cooper  and  Fazio's  `New  Look'  model  (  1984) proposed that dissonance resulted from creating unwanted aversive consequences and did  not  require  cognitive  inconsistency.  A  recent  synthesis  discussed  by  Cooper  ( 1999) and Stone ( 1999) suggests that dissonance is caused by a discrepancy between the outcome of a behavioral act and the standard to which it is compared. According to this self-standards model, contextual variables determine the comparison standard, and it  is  this  standard  that  determines  which  dissonance  process  is  most  likely  to  be operative. 

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