COGNITIVE DISSONANCE THEORY
Cognitive dissonance is aroused whenever someone holds two cognitions that are psychologically
I smoke vs. smoke is going to kill me
You need to resolve the dissonance – Either “Smoking is not bad after all” or “I’ll quit smoking”
Festinger, 1957 – How can someone continue to smoke when he knows smoking is bad?
Early exploration into Dissonance
1. When prophecy fails
A woman said that she talked to aliens and the aliens will destroy the world, but they wanted to
save a few people who were their followers. The people who joined this cult, sold everything
they have and prepared for the end of the world.
Great example of Cognitive Dissonance – you sell everything you own and preparing for the end
of the world
How to resolve: Either “They have wrong data” or “Aliens were so impress to the devotion of
these people so they did what the aliens told them. Because of these, the aliens saved the
2. Brehm, 1956- Free Choice Paradigm
Had a bunch of people, home makers, there is a toaster and a blender and asked the Ps abt their
choice. Before they were given the choice, they rated them on a bunch of dimensions.
The Rs offered them the blender and toaster thought those were not the ones being looked for.
The Ps will pick one and take it home.
People felt better after they chose the ones they don’t need. “this toaster is perfect!”
The thing they chose was rated higher while the thing they don’t choose rated lower.
Predicted that the dissonance is – everything positive and negative about what you didn’t
choose is dissonance of your choice.
Whenever you make a choice, you’ll make yourself believe that it is a good choice.
3. Festinger and Carlsmith - The free choice paradigm became force compliance paradigm
Control experiment – rated a boring experiment
Ask the Ps be the confederate, and will tell the other Ps that the experiment was interesting
though it is boring. Hence, will pay you 1 dollar or 20 dollars.
You know it’s boring like hell, so how will you tell the others it’s fun and exciting?
Resolve: “you’re going to agree with the statement more if you were rewarded by saying the
statement.” Or “if you’re paid a little money for it, you’ll agree to do it less.”
Results: 1 dol