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Smashing Magazine have an article on Designing with Dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance involves challenging beliefs, and taking the readers (or listeners) outside of their comfort zone.   From the article:

What Is Dissonance?

To understand dissonance, knowing first what consonance is would help. Consonance is when you feel comfortable with your beliefs; a certain harmony exists in how you’re feeling right now. You feel good. Dissonance occurs when something disrupts your consonance. It challenges your beliefs and makes you feel uncomfortable. You feel bad, or you think to yourself, “What the heck is going on?”

So, why should you know about dissonance and consonance? How are they relevant to design and writing? They are relevant because they are the key ingredients in cognitive dissonance, one of my favorite theories of Leon Festinger.

Festinger’s basic hypotheses for cognitive dissonance are as follows:

  1. The presence of dissonance, of being psychologically uncomfortable, will motivate the person to try to reduce the dissonance and achieve consonance.
  2. In addition to trying to reduce dissonance when it is present, the person will actively avoid situations and information that would likely increase it.

This is a more engaging approach than just stating facts or asking rhetorical questions.  For presentations, this fits in perfectly with the idea of ‘turning points‘ – or telling the audience something that they didn’t already know.

As an example, the article suggests going from this:

Hello. My name is Tad Fry, a Web developer and designer who makes websites.

to this:

 Is your competitor’s website better than yours? Let’s work together to change that.

If the goal is to create a memorable presentation, then the opening questions and sections must challenge the listener, and encourage them to pay attention to achieve a state of consonance – with the message you want to them to hear.

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