Psychology 2720A/B Chapter Notes - Chapter 7: If You Say So, Cognitive Dissonance, Leon Festinger

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Published on 16 Apr 2013
School
Western University
Department
Psychology
Course
Psychology 2720A/B
Rationalizing Our Own Behaviour: Cognitive Dissonance Theory
Feeling Bad About Irrational Behaviour: The Arousal of Dissonance
Cognitive Dissonance Theory: a model proposed by Leon Festinger, which states
awareness of consonant cognitions makes us feel good, whereas awareness of
dissonant cognitions makes us feel bad. Further, the unpleasant feelings produced
by dissonant cognitions motivate us to do something to change our state
Consonant Cognitions: beliefs that are consistent or compatible with one another
Dissonant Cognitions: beliefs that are inconsistent or logically discrepant with one
another
Festinger hypothesized that awareness of consonant cognitions makes us feel
good, whereas awareness of dissonant cognitions makes us feel bad
Proposed that the unpleasant feelings produced by dissonant cognitions motivate
people to do something to change their state
Focused on dissonance between knowing that you behave pr have behaved in a
certain way and another piece of knowledge implying that your behaviour was
wrong or illogical or otherwise inappropriate
The importance of the cognitions influences the amount of dissonance
Dissonance between very important cognitions causes more intense negative
feelings than does dissonance between less important cognitions
Making Irrational Behaviour Rational: The Reduction of Dissonance
Dissonance reduction must involve rationalization: convincing ourselves that our
current or past behaviour made sense after all
Directly reducing dissonance may not always be possible
Changing one’s behaviour can be challenging, and many cognitions are based on
strong evidence that we cannot easily distort or deny
Another way that people can reduce dissonance is by adding consonant cognitions
Dissonance can be reduced by reducing the importance of one of the dissonant
cognitions and/or increasing importance of one of the consonant cognitions
Early Research on Dissonance Theory
Three major domains of the theory:
Induced Compliance: Dissonance from Couterattitudinal Behaviour
Counterattitudinal behavious - behaviour that is counter to, or inconsistent with,
an individual’s attitudes, values, or beliefs
Induced Compliance Paradigm: a research methodology used to test disonance
theory that arouses dissonance by getting people to engage in
counterattitudinal behaviour. In this paradigm, participants are induced to
comply with an experimenter’s request that they behave in a way that is
inconsistent with their attitudes
Effort Justification: Dissonance from Waster Effort
Dissonance theory predicts that people who suspect they have wasted effort
will be motivated to change one of the dissonant cognitions or to add consonant
cognitions
Effort Justification Paradigm: a research methodology used to test dissonance
by getting people to invest time or energy to achieve a goal that may not be
worthwhile
Free Choice: Dissonance from Making a Decision
CHAPTER 7: ATTITUDE CHANGE
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Decisions always involve a chosen option and at least one rejected option
Hypothesized that after making a decision, people almost always experience
some dissonance; this kind of dissonance has been labelled postdecisional
dissonance
Because the chosen option will usually have some negative features, and the
rejected option will usually have some positive features
Free Choice Paradigm: a research methodology used to test dissonance theory
that arouses dissonance by getting people to choose between two or more
alternatives
People will reduce this dissonance by focusing on the positive features of the
chosen alternative and the negative features of the rejected alternative
This tendency to rate the chosen item more favourably and the rejected item
less favourably after the decision has been learned spreading of the
alternatives
Alternative Interpretations of Dissonance Findings
Self-Perception Theory
An important difference between dissonance and self-perception theories: the
role of unpleasant arousal
Dissonance theorists hypothesized that aversive arousal motivated the attitude
change, whereas self-perception theorists hypothesized that there was no
arousal at all
Aversive arousal is necessary for attitude change to occur
Impression Management Theory
Impression Management Theory: an alternative to dissonance theory that
argues that participants in dissonance experiments want to appear consistent
to the experimenter and therefore lie about their attitude
Self-Affirmation Theory
Self-Affirmation Theory: an alternative to dissonance theory that argues that
people are threatened by behaviour that challenges their self-worth and can
deal with this threat by reaffirming an important value
Self-Affirmation theorists predicted that people can deal with threats to their
self-worth in ways other than changing their attitudes
Summary
Each perspective can account for some dissonance findings and has
implications for some nondissonance settings as well
Recent Research on Dissonance Theory
The Hypocrisy Paradigm
Hypocrisy Paradigm: a research methodology used to test dissonance theory
that arouses dissonance by having people publicly promote a socially desirable
behaviour and then be made aware that they have not always exhibited the
beahviour themselves in the past
This is an interesting form of dissonance because the public behaviour that
provokes it is completely proattitudinal - the individual recommends a behaviour
that he or she already supports
Predicted that dissonance aroused by hypocrisy would motivate individuals to
change their behaviour to be more consistent with what they publicly promoted
CHAPTER 7: ATTITUDE CHANGE
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Individual Differences in Preferences for Consistency
Preference for Consistency (PFC): a disposition that represents the extent to
which people desire predictability and consistency within their own responses
and within others’ responses
People who score high in PFC are presumed to want their actions and attitudes
to be consistent with one another, whereas people who score low in PFC are
presumed to be less concerned about such consistency
People who score high in PFC are more bothered than people who score low
on PFC by ambivalent attitudes
Dissonance and Explicit Vs Implicit Attitudes
Dissonance might not affect implicit attitudes because dissonance arousal and
reduction rely on conscious mental inferences
Information-Based Persuasion: Cognitive Response Theory
Examples of persuasive communications? Advertising, education, family and friends
Examples of your attempts to influence other people’s opinions
Persuasive communications rely on information to convince the recipient to adopt the
advocated position
Information-based messages consist of arguments about an issue and/or evidence
supporting a position; they try to use reason or logic to make their case
Cognitive Response Theory: a model of persuasion that assumes that the impact of a
message on attitudes depends on the thoughts evoked by the message
Strong Arguments, Strong Attitudes
When a message contains strong arguments. it usually elicits positive thoughts
about the communicator, the issue, and the message
Strong arguments tend to produce corresponding strong attitudes that are
consistent with the recommended position
Repeated exposure improved recall of the arguments, whether strong or weak
Are You Listening?
In the low-distraction condition, participants who heard a strong message were
more favourable than were participants who heard a weak message
The high-distraction condition, the impact of argument strength was greatly
reduced: the strong message was only slightly more persuasive than the weak
message
For weak arguments: the weak message was actually somewhat more persuasive
in the high-distraction condition than in the low-distraction condition
Hard Sell: an advertising strategy that relies on presenting information about the
positive features of a product
If You Say So: Heuristic Persuasion
Heuristic Persuasion: attitude change resulting from cues that indicate that the
position advocated in a message is valid
With respect to attitude change, this perspective recognizes that people do not always
exert a lot of effort to judge the validity of a persuasive message, but may instead
base their agreement or disagreement on rather superficial cues
CHAPTER 7: ATTITUDE CHANGE
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