Despite its long tradition in social psychology, we consider that Cognitive Dissonance Theory presents serious flaws concerning its methodology which question the relevance of the theory, limit breakthroughs, and hinder the evaluation of its core hypotheses. In our opinion, these issues are mainly due to operational and methodological weaknesses that have not been sufficiently addressed since the beginnings of the theory. We start by reviewing the ambiguities concerning the definition and conceptualization of the term cognitive dissonance. We then review the ways it has been operationalized and we present the shortcomings of the actual paradigms. To acquire a better understanding of the theory, we advocate a stronger focus on the nature and consequences of the cognitive dissonance state itself. Next, we emphasize the actual lack of standardization, both in the ways to induce cognitive dissonance and to assess it, which impairs the comparability of the results. Last, in addition to reviewing these limits, we suggest new ways to improve the methodology and we conclude on the importance for the field of psychology to take advantage of these important challenges to go forwards.
Vaidis, D. C., & Bran, A. (2019). Respectable challenges to respectable theory: Cognitive dissonance theory requires conceptualization clarification and operational tools. Frontiers in Psychology, 10(MAY). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01189