The Influence of Self-identity on Dissonance Reduction

Cecilie Elisabeth Hartvig Klindt & Freja Aabling-Thomsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis sets out to examine the influence of self-identity on cognitive dissonance reduction. Sustainable values are increasingly considered in purchase decisions; however, a significant attitude-behaviour gap is detected in relation to sustainable consumption. The collected data indicates that the attitude-behaviour gaps detected often resulted in feelings of discomfort - cognitive dissonance. This feeling of discomfort would lead to a reduction of dissonance through either change in attitudes or behaviours.
The collected data indicates that self-identity, as a construct containing both individual and collective levels, influences the entire process of dissonance from inducing it to how consumers choose to reduce it. The dissonance reduction methods identified in the collected data, and shown in the conceptual model at the end of Chapter 4, illustrates the link between self-identity and dissonance reduction. The reduction methods illustrated show a division into two directions: (1) justifications and (2) change of behaviour.
Justifications were, in the collected data, used more frequently when reducing feelings of dissonance than a change of behaviour. The ‘Economy’-justification and ‘Placement of Responsibility’ were the two most frequent justifications; then ‘Avoidance of Information’, ‘Convenience’ and the change of behaviour ‘Acquiring More Sustainable Products’ were the second most frequent methods. Lastly ‘Anti-Consumption’ was the least used method for reducing dissonance.
Two significant aspects that occurred from the findings of this thesis are: (1) that change of behaviour is a more long-term solution to dissonance reductions, and that consumers use possessions to solve self-identity conflicts; and (2) that consumers use their collective self- identities to cope with uncomfortable feelings of dissonance, which suggests that consumers have a desire to belong to a community, rather than distinguishing themselves from others.
The findings of this thesis propose that the self-identity of the individual consumer influences and explains the occurrence of attitude-behaviour gaps, as well as the methods to reduce the dissonance. The theoretical contribution, summed up in the conceptual model at the end of Chapter 4, illustrates this proposition.
The results and findings of this thesis are obtained through triangulation of methods. Observations and interviews were conducted in order to gain qualitative insight into consumer behaviour, cognitive dissonance, as well as self-identity. In order to examine the influence of self-identity on cognitive dissonance reduction, Cognitive Dissonance Theory and an overall theoretical framework of self-identity in consumer behaviour were used to gain an understanding of the identified phenomena. Thus, the findings are a theoretical contribution to these frameworks.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2017
Number of pages154
SupervisorsKai Hockerts