The Effects of Social Influence and Cognitive Dissonance on Travel Purchase Decisions

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Theories of social influence (Crano 2000) and cognitive dissonance (Festinger 1957) have clear applicability to travel purchases, but have rarely been investigated in hospitality research. An experimental study of students’ travel decisions for a spring break vacation was conducted. Subjects chose between a green and nongreen resort in a 2 × 3 experimental design that manipulated social influence (majority, minority, none) and pro-environmental attitudes (high or low). Social influence was in the form of traveler reviews that were either favorable or unfavorable. Postdecision dissonance and dissonance reduction tactics were measured. Subjects were less likely to choose a green resort when a minority of reviews favored that resort. Subjects with strong pro-environmental attitudes experienced dissonance when making a nongreen choice in this situation. Consistent with dissonance theory predictions, people evaluated the chosen resort more favorably than the alternative. They sought out more favorable information about the resort when they experienced dissonance.


Social influence; Cognitive dissonance; Sustainability; Travel purchases; Minority influence

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