Let’s say, your dearest friend needed a favor and you immediately promised him that you will do it. Days went by and you kept postponing it. Finally till the end you just didn’t do the job. Time comes, when you have to tell him that you are sorry. He says its ok, but you not its not. You are feeling miserable. That incident is eating you from inside. Finally to help yourself, you try to find out reasons. Certain reasons because of which you couldn’t do that job. Maybe because you had some important personal things to do. Maybe because it was not worth all the trouble. Maybe because he should learn to do his own stuff. In your mind, you know that you are being unreasonable. You know that you could have, and you should have done that job. It’s not your fault but, it is human nature to make up some comforting thoughts to ease our mental tensions. In a nutshell, this is the consistency theory.

Usually when our thoughts, attitude, beliefs all our in agreement with each other and things around us also support these thoughts then our mind is at peace and comfort. Cognitive dissonance is what can cause unrest in our minds. (see Cognitive Dissonance Theory) This is when our mental peace fails, and things seem in disorder and there is turmoil in general. This is when the consistency theory kicks in. Our human mentality tries to find a comfortable situation to the ongoing problems. We try to achieve a balanced state which gives us some mental peace. This is called the Consistency theory.

A lot of research has been carried out on this theory. People try to find out ways in which we try to achieve this mental state. These are:

1> To deny or completely ignore the happening of the incident. (I was never told about this)

2> To find a rational explanation or excuse. (That was going to happen anyway)

3> By separating the item. (for example, while defending pollution, an argument like I don’t think my single car is going to make much of a difference in this whole lot of pollution generated)

4> By being transcendent. (There are others doing it too. So it’s not just my fault. There are so many others erring too)

5> By agreeing to improve. (In the future I will do it on time)

6> To persuade our self that it never was our mistake and what we did was in fact right.

Again going back to the above example I gave, we may give any of the above reason but we do know in our mind that somewhere it was our fault. This is where the consistency theory makes way for cognitive dissonance (see cognitive dissonance) I feel, this makes these two theories pretty inter-depended.

The question arises, so where is all this related to motivation as well? This motivation is different but effective. In this type of motivation we stress upon the fact that a particular thought is inconsistent and what we want is consistent. Tell the individual that these thoughts are inconsistent with his beliefs. To show him that what we want is what is really consistent with his thoughts and values.
With this we can make motivate people very effectively as actually give them a proper thought process that is beneficial for us and prevent any cognitive dissonance or conflicting thoughts in their minds, thus increasing performance.