Advertising, Cognitive Dissonance and Learning

  • Jeffrey James


Having made a choice on the basis of imperfect information conveyed by advertising, the consumer will acquire new information in the postpurchase period through use of the good. In the extreme case learning will be total and immediate in this period. But there are many reasons why this is unlikely to happen. In the first place advertising may continue to provide information which contradicts that acquired through experience with the good. Given a high degree of initial misinformation and substantial advertising in the post-purchase period, learning may be slow and perhaps even incomplete. Much depends, of course, on the extent to which use of the product conveys information about the characteristics that are embodied in it. The less effective is the learning process the more easily will advertising be able to exert a sustained influence on perception. The operation of cognitive dissonance (as described in chapter 2) is another factor which may inhibit the learning process in the post-purchase period. The extent to which it does so will depend not only on the actual form that it takes, but also on the manner of its interaction with advertising.


Welfare Loss Consumer Choice Cognitive Dissonance Indifference Curve Previous Chapter 
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Notes And References

  1. 1.
    J. W. Brehm and A. R. Cohen, Explorations in Cognitive Dissonance (Wiley, 1962 ).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 3.
    D. Erlich, J. Guttman, P. Schonbach and J. Mills, ‘Postdecision Exposure to Relevant Information’, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, vol. 54 (1957). Quoted in Irving L. Janis and Leon Mann, Decision Making (The Free Press, 1977 ) pp. 82–3.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    See for example R. Mittelstaedt, ‘A Dissonance Approach to Repeat Purchasing Behavior’, Journal of Marketing Research, vol. 6 (Nov. 1969)Google Scholar
  4. J. B. Cohen and M. E. Goldberg, ‘The Dissonance Model in Post-Decision Product Evaluation’, Journal of Marketing Research, vol. 7 (Aug. 1970)Google Scholar
  5. and L. A. LoSciuto and R. Perloff, ‘Influence of Product Preference on Dissonance Reduction’, Journal of Marketing Research, vol. 4 (August 1967).Google Scholar
  6. See also the pioneering study of J. W. Brehm, ‘Postdecision Changes in the Desirability of Alternatives’, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, vol. 52 (May 1956).Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    Following the method used by J. B. Cohen and M. J. Houston, ‘Cognitive Consequences of Brand Loyalty’, Journal of Marketing Research, vol. 9 (Feb. 1972).Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    Using the formula in P. H. Karmel and M. Polasek, Applied Statistics for Economists, 4th edition (Pitman, 1978 ).Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    L. Festinger, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (Stanford University Press, 1957) p. 134.Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    E. S. Geller and G. F. Pitz, ‘Confidence and Decision Speed in the Revision of Opinion’, Organizational Behaviour and Human Performance, vol. 3 (May 1968) p. 199.Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    E. Aronson, ‘The Theory of Cognitive Dissonance: A Current Perspective’, in L. Berkowitz (ed.) Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 4 (Academic Press, 1969 ).Google Scholar
  12. 17.
    A. C. Ehrenberg, Repeat Buying: Theory and Application (North-Holland, 1972 ).Google Scholar
  13. 19.
    E. Walster and E. Berscheid, ‘Stages in the Decision-Making Process’, in R. P. Abelson et al. (eds.) Theories of Cognitive Consistency: A Sourcebook (Rand McNally, 1968 ).Google Scholar
  14. 20.
    Following W. S. Comanor and T. A. Wilson, Advertising and Market Power (Harvard University Press, 1974 ).Google Scholar
  15. M. Fishbein and I. Ajzen, Belief, Attitude, Intention and Behaviour: An Introduction to Theory and Research (Addison-Wesley, 1975).Google Scholar
  16. 22.
    Assuming a normal distribution of the prior and a normal distribution of the actual underlying quality of good 2. See Y. Kotowitz and F. Mathewson, ‘Learning Models’, mimeo, Institute for Policy Analysis, University of Toronto, and R. Schlaifer, Probability and Statistics for Business Decisions: An Introduction to Managerial Economics Under Uncertainty (McGraw-Hill, 1959 ).Google Scholar

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© Jeffrey James 1983

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  • Jeffrey James

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