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PSYCH253 Lecture Notes - Cognitive Dissonance, Fraternities And Sororities, Knitting

Course Code
Emiko Yoshida

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Week 4: Behaviour and Attitudes
Why Do We Care About Attitudes?
- We often want to find out other people’s attitudes
o E.g., dating relationships, becoming friends
- Why?
o We think that attitudes predict behaviour, but are we right? nope!
- Video Clip: Friends Joey
o Attitudes: affirm masculinity, “I’m a man!”
o Behaviours: knitting, flower arrangements
o Thus, Joey’s attitude do not match his behaviours
When Do Attitudes Predict Behaviour?
- When others influence on our behaviour are minimum
o E.g., social influences (bystander effect)
- When attitudes specific to behaviour are examined
o E.g., attitudes toward eating preferences versus attitudes toward drinking milk
- When people are reminded of their attitudes
o E.g., self-awareness
- When attitudes are reinforced through experience
o E.g., female graduate students’ attitudes toward child care
Self-Justification: Cognitive Dissonance
- Psychological discomfort resulting from discrepancy between cognitions or attitude-
behaviour inconsistency
- Feels uncomfortable
- Experience strong motive to reduce dissonance
- E.g., Smoking
o Behaviour: I smoke cigarettes
o Attitude: smoking leads to lung cancer
o Dissonance
o Option 1: change behaviour
Behaviour: I quit smoking
Attitude: smoking leads to lung cancer
No dissonance
o Option 2: change attitude
Behaviour: I smoke cigarettes
Attitude: smoking has been linked with cancer, but research had
methodological flaws
No dissonance
- Which method is better?
o Any method will work
o But easier method is attitude change
o It is often easier to change attitudes than behaviours
Rationalize behaviour with change of attitudes

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Insufficient Justification Cognitive Dissonance
- Small reward or threat of mild punishment
o Not enough reasons for doing things
o “Why am I cleaning my room?”
- Discomfort (dissonance)
o “I must have a specific reason for my behaviour”
- Change attitudes
o “I clean my room because I like cleaning”
- Dissonance reduction most likely with minimal external justification
- Large reward or threat of severe punishment to get you to do things
o Provide reasons for doing things
o “I clean my room because of a reward”
o “I don’t like to clean my room”
o Attitudes will not change
- Get people to do something result: they will change their attitude in order to justify the
un-rewarding action
Cognitive Dissonance
Study: Festinger & Carlsmith, 1959
- Had participants perform an incredibly boring task
- Asked to lie to another student and tell them it was fun
- They were either paid $1 or $20
- All participants then were interviewed about how enjoyable/interesting the study was
- $1 Condition;
o Participants actually enjoyed the task they changed their attitude to reduce
o Dissonance due to insufficient external justification for lying
“Why am I telling a lie just for $1?”
o To reduce dissonance:
Created internal justification by changing attitude toward the task
“I must have enjoyed the task”
o Decided boring task was really fun
- $20 Condition;
o Participants didn’t change their attitude because they didn’t feel a need to since
they got a large external reward
o Strong external justification for lying
o No dissonance aroused
o No need to create further justification for lying
o Initial attitude about boring task stayed same
Cognitive Dissonance in the Real World
- In-Class Exercise 2 Did you make the right decision to choose UW over other schools?
- We have a built in system to make us satisfied with our choices (e.g., shopping, jobs)
- Cognitive dissonance theory:
o Most people may think they did make the right decision
o Dissonance after decisions
o Choice between 2 attractive options produces dissonance
o We reduce dissonance by rationalization our choice later on
Derogate one we didn’t choose
Boast about the one we did choose
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