Cognitive Dissonance

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Theory of Cognitive Dissonance

Contents
Introduction to the Theory of Cognitive Dissonance…………………………………………………………..3 Theories and Research in Cognitive Dissonance………………………………………………………………….4 Cognitive Dissonance - Driving the Escalation of Commitment…………………………………………..6 Cognitive dissonance in the workplace……………………………………………………………………………….8 WAYS TO REDUCE COGNITIVE DISSONANCE……………………………………………………………………….9 HOW CAN A MANAGER/ORGANIZATION HELP REDUCE COGNITIVE DISSONANCE…………….10

Introduction to the Theory of Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is an incompatibility between two or more attitudes or between a behavior and attitude. It is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. In a state of dissonance, people may feel surprise, dread, guilt, anger, or embarrassment. People are biased to think of their choices as correct, despite any contrary evidence. This bias gives dissonance theory its predictive power, shedding light on otherwise puzzling irrational and destructive behavior. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and actions. Dissonance is also reduced by justifying, blaming, and denying. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance Example of Cognitive Dissonance

SMOKING
Smoking is often postulated as an example of cognitive dissonance because it is widely accepted that cigarettes can cause lung cancer, yet virtually everyone wants to live a long and healthy life. In terms of the theory, the desire to live a long life is dissonant with the activity of doing something that will most likely shorten one's life. The tension produced by these contradictory ideas can be reduced by quitting smoking, denying the evidence of lung cancer, or justifying one's smoking. For example, smokers could rationalize their behavior by concluding that only a few smokers become ill, that it only happens to very heavy smokers, or that if smoking does not kill them, something else will. While chemical addiction may operate in addition to cognitive dissonance for existing smokers, new smokers may exhibit a simpler case of the latter.

The most famous case in the early study of cognitive dissonance was described by Leon Festinger and others in the book When Prophecy Fails. This book gave an inside account of the increasing belief which sometimes follows the failure of a cult's prophecy.

The believers met at a pre-determined place and time, believing they alone would survive the Earth's destruction. The appointed time came and passed without incident. They faced acute cognitive dissonance: had they been the victim of a hoax? Had they donated their worldly possessions in vain? Most members chose to believe something less dissonant: the aliens had given earth a second chance, and the group was now empowered to spread the word: earth-spoiling must stop. The group dramatically increased their proselytism despite the failed prophecy. Theory and Research

Important research generated by the theory has been concerned with the consequences of exposure to information inconsistent with a prior belief, what happens after individuals act in ways that are inconsistent with their prior attitudes, what happens after individuals make decisions, and the effects of effort expenditure. Based on the experiments Cognitive Dissonance can be classified into 4 categories:

1) Insufficient Justification - Festinger and Carlsmith (1959)

In Festinger and Carlsmith’s classic 1959 experiment, students were asked to spend an hour on boring and tedious tasks (e.g., turning pegs a quarter turn, over and over again). The tasks were designed to generate a strong, negative attitude. Once the subjects had done this, the experimenters asked some of them to do a simple favor. They were asked to talk to another subject and persuade them that the tasks were interesting and engaging. Some participants were paid $20 (inflation...
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