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Intro Soc - Ch.7.pdf

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Western University
Psychology 2720A/B
Patrick Brown

Printable View of: Chapter 7 Print Save to File File: Overview Overview Have you ever thought about how often people try to persuade you of something? A friend tries to convince you that you would enjoy taking a dance class. Your boss suggests that you should add a person to your work team with whom you have not worked before. Radio and television advertisements try to convince you to use their products. Your doctor tells you that you should exercise more. Your romantic partner argues with you about the benefits and costs of having children. All of these persuasion situations, and many more, take place frequently in everyday life. Some will succeed, and some will fail. Why do particular attempts work while others do not? What are the psychological processes that underlie attitude change? Chapter 7 addresses some of these questions. The chapter describes several theories that delineate how persuasion occurs in certain situations. The theories include ones that focus on motivational processes in attitude change, especially dissonance theory, and others that focus on cognitive processes, such as the elaboration likelihood model. The chapter ends with a discussion of propaganda, including recruitment strategies used by cults, but you should not lose sight of the fact that most forms of everyday attitude change are more benign than propaganda. File: Rationalizing Our Own Behaviour: Dissonance Theory Rationalizing Our Own Behaviour: Dissonance Theory Cognitive dissonance theory is so well-known that its concepts have entered everyday language. People who have never studied social psychology may nevertheless state that they are feeling dissonant over a difficult decision, by which they mean that they are feeling regretful or doubtful about their decision. Dissonance theory has achieved a level of recognition that competes with such famous psychological models as reinforcement theory and psychodynamic approaches. Chapter 7 provides a thorough review of research by social psychologists on dissonance theory. The presentation is relatively straightforward, so our goal here is simply to review a few main points. First, the term cognitive dissonance refers to an aversive state that results from the awareness of contradictory bits of knowledge, such as I eat a lot of candy and Candy is bad for one=s health. Because dissonance is aversive, people are motivated to reduce it, usually by changing one of the contradictory bits of knowledge (e.g., deciding to reduce candy consumption, in which case the cognition I eat a lot of candy becomes I eat very little candy; or convincing oneself that candy will not influence ones own health, in which case Candy is bad for one=s health becomes Candy is not bad for my health). Second, cognitive dissonance theory has been applied to, or tested in, several domains, which are referred to as paradigms in the textbook. Three paradigms are described: the induced compliance paradigm, the effort justification paradigm, and the free choice paradigm. Let us summarize very briefly what these paradigms represent. The induced compliance paradigm (counterattitudinal behavior) involves getting people to behave in a manner that is inconsistent with their attitudes. For example, someone might be coaxed to write an essay that goes against his or her opinions (e.g., a student might be asked to write an essay supporting tuition increases). Or someone might be enticed to sign a petition for a cause that he or she does not really support (e.g., a student might be induced to sign a petition calling for higher tuition). In these cases, the source of the dissonance is the inconsistency between the internal belief and the external behavior. The effort justification paradigm capitalizes on the fact that people want to believe that their efforts have been well justified. People feel badly if they think that they have exerted a lot of effort or spent a lot of money uselessly or for poor reasons. If necessary, people rationalize their efforts by deciding that their goals were important or that they benefited in unexpected ways from theirinvestment. The free choice paradigm (postdecisional dissonance) relies on the fact that a choice between alternatives almost always arouses some dissonance, especially when it is a difficult choice between two items that are almost equally attractive. Why does making a decision typically arouse dissonance? Because the item that is finally chosen usually has some negative features (not as many as the item that was rejected, but some), and the item that is rejected usually has some positive features (not as many as the item that was chosen, but some). The negative features of the chosen item, and the positive features of the rejected item, are inconsistent with the choice and can make the individual feel badly about his or her decision. Dissonance occurs in many situations in everyday life. All of us experience dissonance quite often. The text provides some real-life examples, but for additional examples of everyday situations that arouse dissonance (as well as the possible results of the dissonance), which are organized in terms of the three paradigms, click [Here]. The textbook section Recent Research on Dissonance Theory describes a fourth paradigm that has been developed more recently: the hypocrisy paradigm. In this paradigm, people are asked to make a public statement of support for a worthwhile cause or issue and are then reminded that they themselves do not always follow their own advice. For example, someone might be asked to give a speech in front of a camera about eating healthy foods. After the speech is completed, the individual will be asked to complete a questionnaire that makes salient the fact that he or she does not always eat healthy foods. This combination of having made a public statement and realizing ones imperfections makes people feel like hypocrites, which is a form of dissonance. How do people reduce dissonance in the hypocrisy paradigm? By deciding that they will start to behave consistently with their public statement from now on! Dissonance theory is one of the most important theories in the history of social psychology. As the textbook states, the theory is
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