Denis Becker Diplom-Designer (FH)



The term of cognitive dissonance known by psychology describes the incoherency of experiences and information to personal attitudes and habits.

The basis for the theory of the cognitive dissonance founded by Leon Festinger in 1957 implies that cognitive elements can be consonant, dissonant or irrelevant to each other. Consonant Information is close to the already existing own opinion (whereas); dissonant information is far away from the own point of view. People sense consonant information as comfortable and therefore search for it actively. At the same time dissonant information is tried to be avoided. The consequence of this behavior is the selective notice of information and contents of media.

Not before the internal tension made by the dissonance exceeds the individual barrier of tolerance the individuum changes its decision to bring experiences and decisions back to consonance.

Referring to the difficulty of factory farming in society this means: The opinion that a system like factory farming and related automatisms such as keeping of animals, utilization and slaughter should be refused differs from “normal” attitudes in society and for this reason it is sensed as dissonant by a majority of people. The directed confrontation of the society with these critical information leads to a cognitive stress ratio that may bring people to change their behavior and moral attitudes. Each picture shown, each written comment, each discussion – each mentioned criticism concerning the status quo – is therefore a potential factor for the reevaluation of current circumstances and consumer habits.

Diploma Thesis

In connection with these thoughts my dissertation “Posters against factory farming” is meant to be such a dissonant factor of influence with effects on the moral social behavior of conuments. Many people notice the dissonant information of the posters as dissonant to their view of the world which leads to an automatical classification as not meaningful. But there will also be people which will change their their behavior and moral attitudes.


The function of posters is a quick placing of information often associated with a propagandistic aim. The target group of posters are not only those who are searching for these information but also those who notice a poster and its message by passing by. By now almost none event works without a poster and you can hardly think of urban surroundings without posters. Because of the wide spread the billboards as a medium is suited for national advertising campaigns. As soon as we understand posters as a general instrument of communication we find critical and uncomfortable messages to activate official discourses. We are rarely confronted with uncomfortable themes in public. Through there are clarifying mediums of information available, but only the natural critical consumer really deals with these contents. And this indeed is the essential advantage of posters: they can reach a bigger group of people and animate them to deal with these uncomfortable truths.

Advertising and reality

The targeting influence of consumers by advertising serves to arouse and reinforce the attraction of buying something. Products are placed with a special image. Characteristics and promises are transported by typical messages of advertising. Particularly conspicious is how often reality and advertising depart from each other as soon as we regard the products and their backgrounds a bit closer. The exaggerated display of absolutely unrealistic and idyllic conditions is meant to suggerate the consumer a clean image and harmless origin. Products whose image is vulnarable because of social moral discourse are often characterized by a display enormously differing from reality. Especially products that come off factory farming, e.g. ham, eggs or cheese are mostly displayed absolutely contrary to the real critical circumstances.

Milk for example: The production means artificial insemination for the cows, further more circular impregnation, separation from their calves, being milked twice a day and finally being slaughtered. Even though the advertising often shows idyllic settings with free und happy cows.

What concerns of industry successfully practice has been copied by smaller producers. There are pictures of laughing pigs that present their dead fellows with enthusiasm and satisfaction on a steaming plate. Many people don´t even realize these contradictorily messages.

Advertising and reality – a delusive phantasy.