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Dissonant cognitions: from psychological discomfort to motivation to change

Gilles Séré de Lanauze (University of Montpellier, Montpellier Research in Management, Montpellier, France)
Béatrice Siadou-Martin (European Center for Research in Financial Economics and Business Management, IAE Metz School of Management, University of Lorraine, Nancy, France)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 12 August 2019




Many western consumers have become sensitive to the negative effects of their consumption levels in many product categories and those new attitudes are challenging their habitual consumption behaviors. How do dissonant attitudes influence the process toward behavioral change? How does external information reinforce those conflicting attitudes with new dissonant cognitions and foster intentions to modify behavior? This study aims to propose a conceptual model, based on cognitive dissonance theory, which introduces psychological discomfort as an important mediator toward behavioral change intentions.


Two studies are conducted. Using structural equation modeling under Amos, hypotheses are tested and validated in the field of meat consumption on a sample of 501 French consumers. A second study investigates the impact of the nature of the stimulus on consumers’ responses.


The results show that psychological discomfort is increased by the contact with dissonant external information and that consumers may at the same time minimize the effects of additional cognition by implementing informational strategies such as trivialization or decredibilization to defend their consumption behavior.

Research limitations/implications

Future researchers could consider the various objections to meat consumption separately and further explore the dynamics between external information, consumer cognitions and consumer consumption behavior in diverse consumption contexts.

Practical implications

The authors advise meat marketers to reduce consumer psychological discomfort by promoting the hedonic perceived value and by presenting credible counterarguments to defend the benefits of their products.

Social implications

The study may encourage advocates of lower meat consumption to provide credible information about the detrimental effects of meat consumption to influence behavioral change intentions.


As responsible consumption becomes a key trend in western societies, new attitudes, fostered by external critical information, are influencing consumption behavior in many product categories. This research contributes to a better understanding of the attitude–behavior gap in a context of emerging criticism toward highly consumed and traditional products.



Séré de Lanauze, G. and Siadou-Martin, B. (2019), "Dissonant cognitions: from psychological discomfort to motivation to change", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 36 No. 5, pp. 565-581.



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