Post Purchase Dissonance

Consumers may become dissonant over a purchase decision. Cognitive dissonance occurs as a result of a discrepancy between a consumer’s decision and the consumer’s prior evaluation. Consider the illustration of the Nikon camera buyer who encounters some problems with the brand she has purchased. This is typical leading to post purchase dissonance. Dissonance theory was derived from two basic principles (1) dissonance is uncomfortable and will motivate the person to reduce it and (2) individuals experiencing dissonance will avoid situations that produce more dissonance. Let us examine this concept more closely to see what factors lead to dissonance how the consumer deals with the conflict and what marketing implications are embodied in the concept.

Conditions Leading to Dissonance:

From a review of research findings on cognitive dissonance, it appears that dissonance is likely to occur under the following conditions.

1) Once a minimum threshold of dissonance tolerance is passed. That is, consumer may tolerate a certain level of inconsistency in their lives until this point is reached
2) The action is irrevocable. For instance, when the consumer purchases a new car, there is little likelihood that he will be able to reverse his decision and get his money back.
3) Unselected alternatives have desirable features. In our camera example, earlier, the Pentax, Canon, and Minolta (brands now selected) all had attractive features.
4) There are several desirable alternatives. Today’s car buyer, for example has an abundance of choices among similar attractive models. In fact, research indicates that those consumers who experience greater difficulty in making purchase decision, or who consider a wider range of store and brand options are more likely to experience greater magnitudes of post purchase dissonance.
5) Available alternatives are quite dissimilar in their qualities (there is little cognitive overlap). For instance, although there are many automobile models, each one may have some unique characteristics
6)The buyer is committed to his decision because it has psychological significance. A large and important living room furniture purchased is likely to have great psychological significance to the buyer because of its dramatic reflection of one’s decorating tastes, philosophy and lifestyle Ego involvement will be quite high.
7) There is no pressure applied to the consumer to make the decision. If the consumer is subjected to outside pressure, he will do what he is forced to do without letting his own viewpoint or preference really be challenged.

It is clear that dissonance is likely to be strongest for the purchase of durables, although it can exist for almost every purchase. The factors cited above and others are illustrated in the Table which presents conditions under which high or low dissonance would be expected.

Dissonance Reduction:

There are several major ways in which the consumer strives to reduce dissonance. He may (1) change his evaluation of the alternative (2) seek new information to support his choice or (3) change his attitudes.

Changing Product Evaluations:

One of the ways consumers seek to reduce dissonance is to reevaluate product alternatives. This is accomplished by the consumers enhancing the attributes of the products selected while decreasing the importance of the unselected products selected while decreasing the importance of the unselected product attributes. That is, consumers seek to polarize alternatives in order to reduce their dissonance

Another approach to reducing dissonance is for the consumer to reevaluate product alternatives to view them as being more alike than was thought at the purchase stage that is, to establish or imagine that cognitive overlap exists. As a result of viewing the alternatives as essentially the same, it makes little difference which one is chosen hence, little dissonance would be experienced.

In addition, selective retention may operate to allow the consumer to forget positive features of the unselected alternative and negative features of the chosen product while remembering negative attributes of the chosen item along with favorable features of the chosen alternative.

Source: Consumer Behavior