PSY2110Articles 11, 12 and 17
• Two derivations from Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance are tested. These are:
1) If a person is induced to do or say something which is contrary to his private
opinion, there will be a tendency for him to change his opinion so as to bring it
into correspondence with what he has done or said.
2) The larger the pressure used to elicit the overt behavior (beyond the minimum
need to elicit it), the weaker will be the above-mentioned tendency.
• Alaboratory experiment was designed to test these derivations. Subjects were subjected
to a boring experience and then paid to tell someone that the experience had been
interesting and enjoyable. The amount of money paid the subject was varied. The private
opinion of the subjects concerning the experiences were then determined.
• The results strongly confirm the theory that was tested.
• Both children and monkeys demonstrated a decrease in preference for one of two equally
preferred alternatives after they had chosen against it – but not when the experimenter
had chosen against it. These results suggest that children and monkeys change their
current preferences to fit with their past decisions.
• Like adult humans tested in similar paradigms, children and monkeys seem to derogate
alternatives they have chosen against, changing their current attitudes and preferences to
more closely match the choices they made in previous decisions.
• The findings for young children challenge the idea that people’s extensive experience
with the negative consequences of their decisions teaches them to change their discordant
attitudes. Because children have relatively little experience with decision-making, it is
unlikely that the motivation to reduce cognitive dissonance can be attributed solely to
past cognitive history.
• The fact that both children and nonhuman primates derogate unchosen alternatives raises
the possibility that the drive to reduce dissonance is an aspect of human psychology that