Congruity Theory

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Congruity TheoryDefinition Congruity Theory? Meaning.

Congruity Theory is a model of attitude change that describes some patterns of the relationship between two or more dimensions.


The principles underlying the Congruity concept are very similar to its parent theory, Heider’s Balance Theory. The Congruity Theory has been firstly advanced by Charles Osgood and Percy Tannebaum in their 1955 article “The Principle of Congruity in the Prediction of Attitude Change”, published in Psychological Review N. 62. Their earlier concept holds that when change in evaluation or attitude takes place, it always increases congruity with respect to the existing frame of reference.


At the basis of Congruity lays the concept that, when a person we like approves the same thing we are in sympathy with, there is congruity or congruence. The opposite situation, as when a person we like dislikes something we approve, leads instead to an unbalanced relationship or a Cognitive Dissonance. The latter is what influences attitude changes.


The peculiarity of Osgood and Tannenbaum’s Congruity Theory is the strong orientation to communication and persuasion. Heider’s (O) – Other Person – is here conceived as a Source (S). The Object (X) equals the Concept (C) and Heider’s Perceiver or Person (P) is the Audience (A).

A typical situation of Congruity Theory is: (S) makes a statement about a (C), that can be either positive (associative) or negative (dissociative), and (A) has attitudes toward both (S) and (C). What a Source states about a Concept is the only element that cannot vary.


The main contribution of Congruity Theory consists of a formula that allows one to calculate the amount and the direction of attitude changes. It helps to predict how much the attitudes of the audience may vary with respect to source and concept (i.e. if an audience considers a source reliable, interesting and attractive there is congruity, so there is no push to attitude change).



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Compare with: Balance Theory  |  Social Judgment Theory  |  Cognitive Dissonance  |  Impression Management  |  Employee Attitude Survey  |  Theory of Planned Behavior  |  Changing Organization Cultures  |  Appreciative Inquiry  |  Hawthorne Effect  |  Coaching  |  Mentoring

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