PSY220H1 Lecture Notes - Recognition Memory, Franz Kafka, Social Proof
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An COGNITIVE DISSONANCE
Leon Festinger (1957): A fundamental human
motivation is to maintain a state of cognitive
consistency, that is: one’s beliefs, attitudes and
beliefs do not contradict one another.
A fundamental and powerful motivation.
I am pro-choice. vs. I gave a pro-life speech.
I am on a diet. vs. I just ate a chocolate cake-
Festinger’s formal definition of “inconsistent”:
“two elements are in a dissonant relation if the
obverse of one would follow from the other.”
[obverse, n., a proposition inferred immediately
from another by denying the opposite of what the
given proposition affirms: “The obverse of "all A is
B" is "no A is not B".”]
Dissonance (according to Festinger): the
appearance of dissonant cognitions arouses an
aversive state of tension-either change
attitude or behavior
“When Doing is Believing”
Festinger & Carlsmith (1959):
1. Subject is greeted by experimenter who says that
they are interested in various measures of human
2. Experimenter gives subject a wooden board
containing 48 square pegs in square holes.
Subject is asked to turn each peg a quarter turn to
the left, then a quarter turn back to the right, then
back to the left, then back to the right. The
routine is EXTREMELY MONOTONOUS, and
it’s meant to be.
3. After 60 ENDLESS, EXCRUCIATING minutes
the experimenter returns. Says, “You were in the
control group. To test the effects of motivation
on performance, other participants are being told
that the experiment will be fun and exciting.
Would you be willing to tell the next participant
that the experiment was enjoyable?”
4. To make it more attractive, the experimenter
offers the subject money:
Either $1 or $20 (a lot of money in
1959-$80 by today’s standards!).
5. After telling the lie, subjects asked to rate how
much they liked the peg-board task.