Using cognitive dissonance to evaluate extension impact in rural communities


  • Tatevik Markosyan University of Georgia
  • Catherine Sanders University of North Carolina
  • Alexa Lamm University of Georgia, Professor



impact evaluation, cognitive dissonance, extension education, behavioral change


New approaches are needed when working in rural communities to identify and communicate holistic evaluation impacts related to community-based health promotion efforts of Cooperative Extension. Specifically, there is a lack of recorded long-term programmatic impacts of these programs, including behavior changes related to consuming nutritious and healthy food. The current study explored rural community members’ experiences with cognitive dissonance in relation to decreased adult obesity and the adoption of healthier food consumption practices related to an extension health promotion program, as cognitive dissonance can help explain several motivational components of potential behavior change. Through a qualitative research design using a thematic analysis of focus group data, the authors observed an overall positive association between community members’ experiences with cognitive dissonance, resulting in the acceptance of healthier food choices over inherited unhealthy practices, increased knowledge and awareness about nutrient-dense food, and increased physical activity. The cognitive dissonance framework revealed positive indicators of long-term programmatic impact related to food choice and consumption patterns. However, the analysis also indicated that while interventions improved access to resources, socio-economic barriers still existed that would ensure sustainability and depth of positive changes leading to long-term behavioral change in rural communities.


Download data is not yet available.




How to Cite

Markosyan, T., Sanders, C., & Lamm, A. (2024). Using cognitive dissonance to evaluate extension impact in rural communities . Journal of Agricultural Education, 65(1), 265–282.



Journal of Agricultural Education