Cognitive Dissonance And Buyer's Remorse

Cognitive Dissonance And Buyer's Remorse

Cognitive Dissonance is the uncomfortable feeling / tension, of having conflicting beliefs and / or behaviors simultaneously. 

The theory proposes that when we have this uncomfortable feeling, we will seek ways to reduce it. 

The greater the issue, the more dissonance we feel. 

The greater the conflict, the more dissonance we feel. 


Conventional wisdom states that when we feel uncomfortable, we will change our behaviors to suit our beliefs. 

However, Cognitive Dissonance is considered groundbreaking, as it was the first theory to propose that we will change our beliefs to suit our behaviors instead. 

First described by social psychologist Leon Festinger in 1950, it proposes that people are generally biased to think of their behaviors as correct, and will change their beliefs to justify their actions. 


3 different ways people deal with cognitive dissonance

i. Justify: Reduce the importance of the conflicting beliefs 

ii. Avoid: Focus on other beliefs 

iii. Change: Reverse the conflicting behaviors

Conventional wisdom states that iii is most likely to happen. 

However, cognitive dissonance theory states that i and ii is most likely to happen instead.


An example of Cognitive Dissonance: 

Aesop's Fables: The Fox And The Grapes

One hot summer’s day, a Fox was strolling through an orchard, when he came to a bunch of Grapes just ripening on a vine over a lofty branch. 

“Just the thing to quench my thirst,” he said. Drawing back a few paces, he took a run and a jump, and just missed the bunch. Turning round again with a One, Two, Three, he jumped up, but with no greater success. 

Again and again he tried to get the tempting morsel, but at last had to give it up, and walked away with his nose in the air, saying: “I am sure they are sour.”

Moral: We sometimes despise what we cannot get. 


Case Study: Smoking Kills 

How do smokers deal with this cognitive dissonance in the 3 ways? 

i. Justify - I won't be so unlucky to die of smoking. 

ii. Avoid - People die anyway, it's more important to live a good life. 

iii. Change - Quit smoking. 


Buyer's Remorse is a type of Cognitive Dissonance. 

It's a negative feeling that a customer has when a purchase is below expectations, leading to second thoughts or doubts after the purchase. 

Possible beliefs include: 
- Purchased the wrong product 
- Purchased for a bad price 
- Purchased an old model instead of waiting for a new model
- Purchased in an ethically unsound way 
- Purchased without sufficient financial ability
- Purchased something that isn't acceptable to others 

A customer that experiences buyer's remorse could: 

i. Justify - I made the correct purchase.

ii. Avoid - The purchase isn't that important.

iii. Change - Get a refund.


Case Study: Buyer's Remorse 

Mr Tan buys a luxurious sports car. He then discovers that the seats are not comfortable on long drives. 

Dissonance exists between his thoughts that he has bought a good car, and a good car should be comfortable. 

How can he feel better about the purchase? 

i. Justify - I won't have long drives in Singapore anyway. 

ii. Avoid - Anyway, I bought it to impress my friends, and for the performance.

iii. Change - Change the seats / Sell the car.