Brief review and explanation of Effort Justification
Effort Justification is a theory of social psychology stemming from Festinger's (1957) theory of Cognitive Dissonance. Effort justification theory states that people have tendency to attribute a greater value to an outcome they had to put effort into obtaining. Cognitive Dissonance theory attempts to explain people's change of attitudes or beliefs when they face a dissonance between contradicting cognitions. Effort Justification theory is only a subtype of dissonance theory in action where an amount of effort put into obtaining something does not match with the goodness or worthiness of the subjective reward for the effort. This dissonance is resolved by increasing or decreasing one's attitude or subjective value of the reward.
The first and most classic example of effort justification was shown by Aronson and Mills' (1959) study. A group of college women who volunteered to join a "Psychology of Sex" discussion were first asked to read aloud sex-related words in order to make sure the volunteers were not shy to talk about sex with others in the actual discussion. The mild-embarrassment condition volunteers read aloud a list of sex-related words such as "virgin" or "prostitute". The severe-embarrassment condition volunteers were asked to read aloud a list of highly sex-related words such as "fuck" and "cock". The control condition volunteers did not read any words. All volunteers then listened to a very boring recording of a discussion about "Sexual behaviors in animals" after. The volunteers then were asked to rate the discussion group. Control and mild-embarrassment groups did not differ in their rating, but the severe-embarrassment group rated the discussion group significantly higher (more interesting). The severe-embarrassment group members who had to go through initiation process which was more difficult increased their subjective value of the discussion group to resolve the dissonance.
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