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Chapter 7

Psychology 2720A/B Chapter Notes - Chapter 7: Cognitive Dissonance, Leon Festinger, Impression Management

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Richard Sorrentino

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Psych 2720A
Chapter 7: Attitude Change
Rationalizing Our Own Behaviour: Cognitive Dissonance Theory
Feeling Bad About Irrational Behaviour: The Arousal of Dissonance
cognitive dissonance theory: model proposed by Leon Festinger, which states that
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
ie. ʻI smokeʼ and ʻSmoking causes cancer.ʼ
Festinger viewed that people who had dissonant cognitions and were aware of it
produced unpleasant feelings. These unpleasant feelings serve as motivation for us to
change our incompatible state
dissonance can be defined as the state of feelings bad or conflicted about oneʼs own
irrational behaviour
importance of each cognition influences the amount of dissonance
Making Irrational Behaviour Rational: The Reduction of Dissonance
reducing dissonance involves making the irrational behaviour seem rational
reduction must involves rationalization: convincing ourselves that our current or
past behaviour made sense after all
cognitive dissonance theory is a motivational model focusing on self-persuasion in the
form of rationalization
one way to reduce dissonance is to change the cognitions directly
another way people can reduce dissonance is by adding consonant cognitions
dissonance between important cognitions is more intense than dissonance between
unimportant cognitions (relevance plays a key role)
Early Research on Dissonance Theory
three major domains of the theory - each of the domains have been studied using
different experimental paradigms or research methodologies.
each of the paradigms included: induced compliance, effort justification, and free
Induced Compliance: Dissonance from Counterattitudinal Behaviour
to capture dissonance, participants in a study must be presented with
counterattitudinal behaviour - behaviour that is counter to, or inconsistent with,
and individualʼs attitudes, values, or beliefs.
induced compliance paradigm: a research methodology used to test dissonance
theory that arouses dissonance by getting people to engage in counterattitudinal
participants are induced to comply with an experimenterʼs request that they
behave in a way that is inconsistent with their attitudes
the more inconsistency there is between oneʼs attitudes and behaviours, the larger
amount of dissonance is created

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Effort Justification: Dissonance from Wasted Effort
those who feel they have worked hard for something (put lots of effort into) and
have not gotten as much in return back will have dissonant thoughts
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
ie. individuals might say that they didnʼt exert too much effort after all
ie. individuals might also change the cognition about having gained nothing
effort justification paradigm: a research method used to test dissonance theory
that arouses dissonance by getting people to invest time or energy to achieve a
goal that may not be worthwhile
prediction is that participants would reduce dissonance by convincing
themselves that the goal was actually worthwhile
study done on women and a sexual discussion group - some of the women were
put through a severe screening test and some were put through a mild screening
then, all women were provided with a tape to listen to that was made purposely
prediction was that women who went through the severe screening would
produce more dissonant cognitions according to the paradigm
the women who had dissonant cognitions started to rationalize and say stuff
like: “The tape was actually somewhat interesting”
Free Choice: Dissonance from Making a Decision
Festinger proposed that after having made a decision, people almost always
experience some dissonance - postdecisional dissonance
people experience this dissonance because the chosen option has negatives and
the rejected option has positives
free choice paradigm: a research method used to test dissonance theory that
arouses dissonance by getting people to choose between two or more alternatives
people reduce this dissonance by focusing on the positive features of the
chosen alternative and the negative features of the rejected alternative
Alternative Interpretations of Dissonance Findings
Self-Perception Theory
Bem hypothesized that sometimes people infer their internal states, such as
attitudes and emotions, from their behaviour and the situation in which the
behaviour occured.
people refer to their past actions and behaviour to infer attitudes regarding an topic
self-perception occurs when the attitudes (internal states) are weak or ambiguous
dissonance theorists hypothesized that aversive arousal motivated the attitude
change, whereas self-perception theorists hypothesized that there was no arousal
at all.
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 attitudes.
this has a relation with self-presentation goals of being likeable and competent

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limitations: participants in some studies reported attitudes that were not consistent
with their counterattitudinal behaviour even though the person who took the
attitude measure was not the same person who observed the counterattitudinal
Self-Affirmation Theory
self-affirmation theory: an alternative to the dissonance theory that argues
people are threatened by behaviour that challenges their self-worth and can deal
with this threat by reaffirming an important value
people view themselves as moral and capable individuals and if something is
inconsistent with this (dissonance), they usually make up for it by doing
something good later on without changing their attitudes
Recent Research on Dissonance Theory
one issue that has received attention is whether the arousal of dissonance requires
that bad consequences result from the individualʼs actions.
some people have proposed that people donʼt feel upset from the counterattitudinal
cognitions unless something negative can happen
recent research has indicated, however, that negative consequences is not
necessary for dissonance to occur
researchers have identified a new paradigm for studying dissonance in which the
individualʼs behaviour has not aversive consequences
The Hypocrisy Paradigm
hypocrisy paradigm: a research method 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 no always exhibited the
behaviour themselves in the past
ie. students were asked to promote Canadian meat and were then asked to fill out
a questionnaire after and most students found out that they consumed American
meat - this situation was found to create dissonance
Aronson and his colleagues predicted that dissonance aroused by hypocrisy would
motivate individuals to change their behaviour to be more consistent with what they
publicly promoted (buy more Canadian meat)
Individual Differences in Preferences for Consistency
there is a scale to measure as to how sensitive people are to dissonance - labelled
the dimension preference for consistency (PFC): a disposition that represents
the extent to which people desire predictability and consistency within their own
responses and within othersʼ responses
people who score higher in PFC are more bothered by ambivalent attitudes (both
include positive and negative features)
people who score higher in PFC are more sensitive to dissonance
Dissonance and Explicit versus Implicit Attitudes
dissonance might not affect implicit attitudes since dissonance arousal relies
heavily on conscious mental inferences
awareness of the inconsistency is required to make a change
Information-Based Persuasion: Cognitive Response Theory
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