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When one of the dissonant elements is a behavior, the individual can change or eliminate the behavior. However, this mode of dissonance reduction frequently presents problems for people, as it is often difficult for people to change well-learned behavioral responses e. A person could convince themself that it is better to "live for today" than to "save for tomorrow.

In other words, he could tell himself that a short life filled with smoking and sensual pleasures is better than a long life devoid of such joys.

What Is Cognitive Dissonance?

In this way, he would be decreasing the importance of the dissonant cognition smoking is bad for one's health. Notice that dissonance theory does not state that these modes of dissonance reduction will actually work, only that individuals who are in a state of cognitive dissonance will take steps to reduce the extent of their dissonance. The theory of cognitive dissonance has been widely researched in a number of situations to develop the basic idea in more detail, and various factors that have been identified which may be important in attitude change. When someone is forced to do publicly something they privately really don't want to do, dissonance is created between their cognition I didn't want to do this and their behavior I did it.

Forced compliance occurs when an individual performs an action that is inconsistent with his or her beliefs. The behavior can't be changed, since it was already in the past, so dissonance will need to be reduced by re-evaluating their attitude to what they have done. This prediction has been tested experimentally:. In an intriguing experiment, Festinger and Carlsmith asked participants to perform a series of dull tasks such as turning pegs in a peg board for an hour.

As you can imagine, participant's attitudes toward this task were highly negative. Aim Festinger and Carlsmith investigated if making people perform a dull task would create cognitive dissonance through forced compliance behavior. Method In their laboratory experiment, they used 71 male students as participants to perform a series of dull tasks such as turning pegs in a peg board for an hour.

Almost all of the participants agreed to walk into the waiting room and persuade the confederate that the boring experiment would be fun. They could only overcome that dissonance by coming to believe that the tasks really were interesting and enjoyable. For example, suppose you had to decide whether to accept a job in an absolutely beautiful area of the country, or turn down the job so you could be near your friends and family. Either way, you would experience dissonance. If you took the job you would miss your loved ones; if you turned the job down, you would pine for the beautiful streams, mountains, and valleys.

Both alternatives have their good points and bad points. The rub is that making a decision cuts off the possibility that you can enjoy the advantages of the unchosen alternative, yet it assures you that you must accept the disadvantages of the chosen alternative. People have several ways to reduce dissonance that is aroused by making a decision Festinger, One thing they can do is to change the behavior. As noted earlier, this is often very difficult, so people frequently employ a variety of mental maneuvers. A common way to reduce dissonance is to increase the attractiveness of the chosen alternative and to decrease the attractiveness of the rejected alternative.

This is referred to as "spreading apart the alternatives. Brehm was the first to investigate the relationship between dissonance and decision-making. Method Female participants were informed they would be helping out in a study funded by several manufacturers.


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Participants were also told that they would receive one of the products at the end of the experiment to compensate for their time and effort. The products included an automatic coffee maker, an electric sandwich grill, an automatic toaster, and a portable radio. Participants in the control group were simply given one of the products. Because these participants did not make a decision, they did not have any dissonance to reduce. Individuals in the low-dissonance group chose between a desirable product and one rated 3 points lower on an 8-point scale.

Participants in the high-dissonance condition chose between a highly desirable product and one rated just 1 point lower on the 8-point scale. After reading the reports about the various products, individuals rated the products again.


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Findings Participants in the high-dissonance condition spread apart the alternatives significantly more than did the participants in the other two conditions. In other words, they were more likely than participants in the other two conditions to increase the attractiveness of the chosen alternative and to decrease the attractiveness of the unchosen alternative.

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It also seems to be the case that we value most highly those goals or items which have required considerable effort to achieve. This is probably because dissonance would be caused if we spent a great effort to achieve something and then evaluated it negatively. We could, of course, spend years of effort into achieving something which turns out to be a load of rubbish and then, in order to avoid the dissonance that produces, try to convince ourselves that we didn't really spend years of effort, or that the effort was really quite enjoyable, or that it wasn't really a lot of effort.

In fact, though, it seems we find it easier to persuade ourselves that what we have achieved is worthwhile and that's what most of us do, evaluating highly something whose achievement has cost us dear - whether other people think it's much cop or not!

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This method of reducing dissonance is known as 'effort justification. If we put effort into a task which we have chosen to carry out, and the task turns out badly, we experience dissonance. To reduce this dissonance, we are motivated to try to think that the task turned out well. A classic dissonance experiment by Aronson and Mills demonstrates the basic idea. Method Female students volunteered to take part in a discussion on the psychology of sex. In the 'mild embarrassment' condition, participants read aloud to a male experimenter a list of sex-related words like 'virgin' and 'prostitute.

In the 'severe embarrassment' condition, they had to read aloud obscene words and a very explicit sexual passage. In the control condition, they went straight into the main study. In all conditions, they then heard a very boring discussion about sex in lower animals. Strategic Interpersonal Communication. John A. Social Influence. Mark P. Paradigms of Counseling and Psychotherapy. Robert Rocco Cottone. Foundations of Social Cognition. Galen V.

Dissonance can be reduced in one of three ways:

Self-Regulation and Autonomy. Bryan W. Understanding Priming Effects in Social Psychology. Daniel C. Memory Development. Franz E. Handbook of Early Literacy Research, Volume 3. Susan B. Handbook of Theories of Social Psychology. Paul A.

Van Lange. Margret M. Social Psychology and the Unconscious. Dual-Process Theories of the Social Mind. Jeffrey W. Henry I. Unifying Psychotherapy. Jeffrey Magnavita. Beyond the Therapeutic Relationship. Frederic J Leger. Handbook of Individual Differences in Reading. Peter Afflerbach. Key Concepts in Developmental Psychology.

Professor H Rudolph Schaffer. Remaking the Concept of Aptitude. Lyn Corno. Shahida Arabi. Twenty-First Century Psychotherapies. Jay L. Interaction in Human Development. Marc H.

Cognitive Consistency Theories - Psychology - Oxford Bibliographies

Life Crises and Experiences of Loss in Adulthood. Leo Montada. Know You, Know Your Horse. Eunice Rush. Affect in Social Thinking and Behavior.