Speech and Hearing Sciences ETDs

Publication Date



What moves is the essence of persuasion theory. Consequently, motivation theories interest the theorist examining persuasion theory. The theory of cognitive dissonance, in particular, suggests a meaningful approach to persuasion which offers both pragmatic and theoretical insights. Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance holds that when a person has two cognitions or “knowledges” which are inconsistent with on another, a state of dissonance or psychological discomfort occurs. The existence of the discomfort motivates the person to attempt to alleviate the inconsistency in order to restore the organism to a state of equilibrium or consonance. A dissonance approach to persuasion has two benefits: First, Festinger’s theory provides a new way to think about the whole persuasion process. Second, Festinger’s theory explains specific concepts in persuasion theory. In this thesis, a definition of “persuasion” oriented to Festinger’s theory introduces a dissonance framework from which the persuasion process and relating concepts are analyzed. Fotheringham’s definition of “persuasion” is adopted and restructured in the following manner: Persuasion is resolving or avoiding dissonance by moving toward or accepting the cognitions which are relevant and instrumental to source-desired goals, brought by a process in which messages have been the major effect-determinant. In other words, the process of persuasion involves manipulating dissonance and consonance in such a way that cognitions are strengthened in the direction advocated by the persuader. With the above definition, the persuasion process occurs in two ways: First, a dissonant situation can be created and then resolved in the direction advocated by the speaker. Second, a consonant situation favorable to source-desired goals is advocated, and then manipulated. In this case, maintaining the consonance would result in dissonance. Festinger’s theory suggests four ways to focus on cognitions—namely the sources of dissonance. Logical inconsistencies, cultural mores, definitions, and past experiences are the primary means in which cognitions are energized. The four sources of dissonance are mot mutually exclusive; they are intrinsically interwoven with each other. In the logical framework, syllogisms specify the psychological implications between cognitions. Definitions or cultural mores function as major premises and/or minor premises. Past experiences operate as minor premises. A past experience, a cultural norm, and a definition may be one and the same cognition. For example, feeling guilty about stealing has elements of all three cognitions. In essence, this thesis maintains that Festinger’s theory provides a new way to think about the whole persuasion process and helps to explain specific concepts.

Degree Name

Speech-Language Pathology

Level of Degree


Department Name

Speech and Hearing Sciences

First Committee Member (Chair)

Marilyn Janet Van Graber

Second Committee Member

Dolores Smith Butt

Third Committee Member

Jim Duff Hughey



Document Type