Cognitive Dissonance

Topics: When Prophecy Fails, Cognitive dissonance, Psychology Pages: 2 (719 words) Published: September 29, 2013
Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors. This situation produces a feeling of discomfort or dissonance leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance etc. For example, when someone is forced to do something publicly that 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). The term was first coined by Leon Festinger in his 1956 book, When Prophecy Fails: A social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group That Predicted the Destruction of the World. This book gave an inside account of belief persistence in members of a UFO doomsday cult, and documented the increased proselytization or conversion of opinions they exhibited after the leader's "end of the world" prophecy failed to come true. The prediction of the Earth's destruction, supposedly sent by aliens to the leader of the group, became a disconfirmed expectancy (failed prophecy) that caused dissonance between the cognitions, "the world is going to end" and "the world did not end." This failed prophecy idea known as disconfirmed expectancy can and will, almost in every situation, lead to a form of cognitive dissonance. In an intriguing experiment in 1959, Festinger and Carlsmith asked participants to perform a series of dull task, for example rotating pegs on a peg board. They were then paid either $1 or $20 to agree to tell a person waiting in the next room that the experiment was fun and rather interesting. Almost all of the participants were willing to persuade the person waiting that the boring experiment would be fun. When the participants were interviewed to evaluate the experiment, the participants who were paid only $1 rated the tedious task as more fun and enjoyable than the participants who were paid $20 to lie. The results of the interviews concluded that being paid $1 was not...
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