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Dissonance Theory.docx

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Psychology 3723F/G
Martin Kavaliers

Dissonance Theory  Leon Festinger, 1957  A theory of how we rationalize our own behaviour  Addresses the relations between pairs of different cognitions in an individual’s mind  Any two cognitions can be considered  But festinger was especially interested in causes where one cognition refers to our own behaviour and the other concerns the value of that behaviour  I did X  X is irractional, bad, useless, wrong, etc…  Two cognitions can be consonant  Consistent with one another  Support each other  Feels good – we like consonant cogntitions o It is raining today; I brought my umbrella o I eat broccoli; broccoli is nutritious o I support MSF; MSF helps those who need help the most  Two cognitions can be dissonant:  Inconsistent with one another  Logically discrepant  Feels bad – we dislike dissonance o Family life is more important than work; I am a workaholic o I am an honest person; I lied today o I went to remake of total recall; remake of total recall sucked  Dissonance creates unpleasant feelings: tension, aversive arousal, embarrassment. Therefore, we try to reduce dissonance  HOW BRO?! o Change one of the dissonant cogntitions  My important political essay is due in 2 weeks  I have not started my essay  Change cogntition to:  I am working on my essay  (change behaviour)  Chocolate cake is unhealthy  I ate three pieces of chocolate cake  Change first cognition to:  Chocolate cake is okay for my health  (change belief) o Add new consonant conditions:  Add: Smoking relaxes me  I worked hard on a political campaign  My candidate did not get elected  Add: I met some great people  Dissonance theory has been tested using several different research paradigms  Paradigm = methodology  Each paradigm involves getting participants to do something that arouses dissonance  Induced Compliance Paradigm  Ask p’s to do something that is inconsistent with their attitudes (counterattitudinal behaviour) o Induce p’s to comply with the experimenter’s request  Examples of induced compliance in studies: o Say something you know is untrue o Eat something disgusting o Write an essay that argues against your own position  In each case, the prediction from dissonance theory is: o P’s who perform a conterattitudinal behaviour will feel dissonance unless there is a strong justification for them to perform the act (a consonant cognition)  Strong justification can mean:  Paid a substantial amount of money  Given no choice but to perform the act (i.e. experimenter simply told them to do it)  “I believe X”  “I acted not-X” o high dissonance  but a strong incentive will provide a consonant cognition: o e.g. I was paid $20 for acting not-X o e.g. I was ordered to act not-X  low dissonance  under conditions of high dissonance, p’s are usually expected to change one of the dissonant cognitions – most often the one related to a belief or attitude, because it’s difficult to deny one’s behaviour: o from “I believe X” and “I acted not-X” o to “I believe not-X” and “I acted not-X”  Cohen, 1962 o P’s were yale students o P’s wrote an essay about a disturbance that had occurred on campus o The new haven police had responded aggressively to the disturbance o Almost all yale students condomned the police actions o BUT p’s were asked to write an essay entitled “why the New Haven police actions were justified” (counterattitudinal)  P’s were paid:  50 cents, $1, $5, or $10 o after writing the essay, p’s were asked to report their own attitudes toward the police o did they become more favorable toward the police in order to reduce dissonance created by writing the essay?  YA BRO  Smaller incentive (money) resulted in more attitude change (dissonance reduction)  The dissonance finding contrasts with reinforcement models, which would predict that paying someone a LOT to write an essay should motivate them to adopt that position more than less money  Finding is a “reverse incentive effect” and generated a lot of interest because it conflicted wit the dominant view in psychology  There are many everyday examples of dissonance from counterattitudinal behaviour: settings in which we do something that does not really reflect our true feelings or beliefs to be more consistent with our behaviour o We are afraid to ask someone out for a date whom we like  Decide we don’t really want to date them o We say “what a cutie!” when we don’t mean it  We may decide he is cute  Induced compliance changes attitudes most when: o Extrinsic justification or incentive (e.g. money) is minimal o Freedom of choice to perform behaviour is emphasized  Having no choice would mean that there were good reasons for action (e.g. ordered by experimenter) o There are aversive consequences of the behaviour  Absence of aversive consequences would mean the behaviour didn’t matter  Effort Justification Paradigm  Set up a situation in which p’s exert a lot of effort to get something that may not be worthwhile o “I worked hard for x” but “x is worthless”  individual will be motivated to justify the effort  the individual might change to: o “I worked hard for x” and “x is worthwhile”  examples of effort justification in studies: o read embarrassing material out loud to qualify for a group that turns out to be very boring o walk in a marathon for charity  In each case, the prediction from dissonance theory is: o The more effort p’s expend to achieve a goal, the more they will be motivated to rate the goal as important and valuable  Turner & Bennington, 1975 o P’s were people taking part in a “miles for millions” walkaton o The walkathon was 26 miles o Random samples of walkers were interviewed at various distances:  0, 8, 17, and 26 miles o p’s were asked to rate the importance of two categories of reasons for their participation:  personal (fun, friends, exercise)  charitable (hunger, children) o did they increase the importance of charitable reasons as they expended more effort?  Greater effort (longer distance) was associated with more importance of charity (dissonance reduction)  However:  Different people were interviewed at each distance point  Perhaps the people who finished the walk were those who were most motivated by charity to begin with (the importance of the goal led to greater expenditure of effort)  There are many everyday examples of dissonance from effort justification: o Settings where we make substantial investments of time, effort, embarrassment, or money, which then motivate us to see the investment as worthwhile o Expensive memberships lead to perceived value (golf clubs, fitness club) o Expensive wars lead to perceived importance of the initial goals  Free Choice Paradigm  P’s make a choice between two equally attractive alternatives o “I chose option A” but “option B is attractive”  also called postdecisional dissonance  individual will be motivated to justify the choice  postdecisional dissonance can lead to “spreading of alternatives”: o option A (chosen) becomes even more attractive and option B (rejected) becomes less attractive  factors that influence the amount of postdecisional dissonance: o importance of decision  more important = more dissonance o difficulty of decision  more difficulty = more dissonance o similarity of features of alternatives  more similar = less dissonance  Johnson & Rusbult, 1989 o Applied logic of free choice paradigm to romantic relationships o If people are highly committed to their relationship, the might experience dissonance when exposed to attractive alternatives – they have chosen a partner and are committed to him/her, so they do not want to be tempted by alternatives o Undergrads (both men and women) who were involved in a heterosexual relationship were recruited o Study was allegedly looking at possibility of a campus- based dating service o P’s rated the dating desirability of a target person of opposite sex o This target person was allegedly available o Physical attractiveness of target was either low, moderate, or high o P’s also reported their commitment to their current relationship o Median split used to classify as high or low commitment o P’s who were committed to t
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