Cog Dissonance

Topics: Cognitive dissonance, When Prophecy Fails, Leon Festinger Pages: 9 (3204 words) Published: January 6, 2013
Festinger's (1957) cognitive dissonance theory suggests that we have an inner drive to hold all our attitudes and beliefs in harmony and avoid disharmony (or dissonance). Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors. This produces a feeling of discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance etc. As an other definition we can say that; People tend to seek consistency in their beliefs and perceptions. So what happens when one of our beliefs conflicts with another previously held belief? The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the feeling of discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs. When there is a discrepancy between beliefs and behaviors, something must change in order to eliminate or reduce the dissonance. Attitudes may change because of factors within the person. An important factor here is the principle of cognitive consistency, the focus of Festinger's (1957) theory of cognitive dissonance. This theory starts from the idea that we seek consistency in our beliefs and attitudes in any situation where two cognitions are inconsistent. Leon Festinger (1957) proposed cognitive dissonance theory, which states that a powerful motive to maintain cognitive consistency can give rise to irrational and sometimes maladaptive behavior.  According to Festinger, we hold many cognitions about the world and ourselves; when they clash, a discrepancy is evoked, resulting in a state of tension known as cognitive dissonance. As the experience of dissonance is unpleasant, we are motivated to reduce or eliminate it, and achieve consonance.Cognitive dissonance was first investigated by Leon Festinger, arising out of a participant observation study of a cult which believed that the earth was going to be destroyed by a flood, and what happened to its members — particularly the really committed ones who had given up their homes and jobs to work for the cult — when the flood did not happen. While fringe members were more inclined to recognize that they had made fools of themselves and to "put it down to experience", committed members were more likely to re-interpret the evidence to show that they were right all along (the earth was not destroyed because of the faithfulness of the cult members). Festinger’s blanket statement of his theory still needs further explanation. When he says, "If you change a person’s behavior, his thoughts and feelings will change to minimize the dissonance" (Groenveld, 1999), he is referring to not only selective exposure and post-decision dissonance but also to minimal justification. Minimal justification predicts that if a person’s actions can be changed, with very little compensation, then the person, needing to eliminate the dissonance of behaving against her beliefs for something infinitesimal, will change her attitude about the situation. So, Festinger, through influential psychological experiments, has successfully proven that if a small incentive is offered for a behavior change, a significant attitudinal change is made whereas if a fairly large incentive is offered, a person will do it for the reward while maintaining their pre-existing attitude. These experiments, called the $1-$20 experiments, show us we do not like to behave illogically without some explanation, and that explanation is we really did see the logic; it just took a little work to get there! In general, people do not like feeling as if their attitudes and beliefs contradict their behaviors because this means there is a "lack of balance among cognitions, or ways of knowing, beliefs, judgments, and thoughts" (West & Turner, 2006, p. 131). According to Cognitive Dissonance Theory, this is a dissonant relationship, and it causes stress and overall unpleasantness (West & Turner, 2006). To relieve this stress, people either change their behaviors or their attitudes and beliefs so there can...
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