For instance, the smaller car would get better gas mileage, but the larger car—because it is used—is cheaper. Have you made the right decision? However, the principles of dissonance predict that once you make the decision— and regardless of which car you choose —you will convince yourself that you made the right choice. Since you have chosen the larger car, you will likely begin to think more about the positive aspects of the choice that you have made what you are going to be able to do with the money you saved, rather than how much more it is going to cost to fill up the gas tank , and at the same time you will likely downplay the values of the smaller car.
Each woman was told that as a reward for having participated in the survey, she could have one of the appliances as a gift. She was given a choice between two of the products she had rated as being about equally attractive. After she made her decision, her appliance was wrapped up and given to her. Then, 20 minutes later, each woman was asked to re-rate all the products.
And the women also lowered their rating of the appliance they might have chosen but decided to reject. These results are of course consistent with the principles of cognitive dissonance—postdecisional dissonance is reduced by focusing on the positive aspects of the chosen product and the negative aspects of the rejected product. What research on cognitive dissonance suggests, then, is that people who are experiencing dissonance will generally try to reduce it. If we fail to lose the weight we wanted to lose, we decide that we look good anyway.
To escape from feeling poorly about themselves, people will engage in quite extraordinary rationalizing.
Of course, the tendency to justify our past behavior has positive outcomes for our affect. If we are able to convince ourselves that we can do no wrong, we will be happier—at least for today. But the desire to create positive self-esteem can lead to a succession of self-justifications that ultimately result in a chain of irrational actions. The irony is that to avoid thinking of ourselves as bad or immoral, we may set ourselves up for more immoral acts. Once Joachim has convinced himself that his schoolwork is not important, it may be hard to pick it up again.
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If we spend too much time thinking positively about ourselves we will not learn from our mistakes; nor will we grow or change. In order to learn from our behavior, it would be helpful to learn to tolerate dissonance long enough to examine the situation critically and dispassionately.
We then stand a chance of breaking out of the cycle of action followed by justification, followed by more action. There is still another potential negative outcome of dissonance: when we have to make choices we may feel that we have made poor ones. When we go to the store and have to pick only one out of 30 different types of chocolates, we have more opportunities for postdecisional dissonance. We have seen that the experience of cognitive dissonance can influence our thoughts and feelings about an attitude object by making us feel uncomfortable about our own behaviors.
The discrepant behavior causes our sense of self-worth to be lowered, which then causes us to change our attitudes to feel better about ourselves. Imagine that immediately after you did something dishonest, but before you had a chance to try to reduce the dissonance you were experiencing, you were able to remind yourself of the fact that you had recently done something else very positive—perhaps you had recently spent some time volunteering at a homeless shelter or gotten a really high score on an important exam.
Would the possibility of boosting your self-esteem in this other, but unrelated, domain make it unnecessary for you to engage in dissonance reduction? If we can affirm our self-worth, even on dimensions that are not related to the source of the original dissonance, the negative feelings we experience are reduced and so is the tendency to justify our attitudes Steele, Just as finding ways to affirm our self-esteem should reduce cognitive dissonance, threats to our self-esteem should increase it.
They expected that there would be less need for dissonance reduction in the Japanese than in Western students because the Japanese and other Easterners were less motivated overall to maintain a positive self-image. In their study, 71 Canadian and 71 Japanese participants were first asked to take a personality test. Another third of the sample the negative feedback condition were led to believe that they had scored more poorly on the test than average, and the final third the control condition were not given any feedback on their personality test scores.
Then all participants rated the desirability of 10 compact discs which were known to be popular in both Canada and Japan and were asked to choose between their fifth- and sixth-rated CDs as compensation for their participation.
Finally, after choosing one of the CDs, the participants were asked to again rate their liking for the CDs. The change in the ratings from before choice to after choice, which would have occurred if the participants increased their liking of the CD they had chosen or decreased their liking of the CD they had rejected, was the dependent measure in the study. However, there was no significant simple effect of feedback for the Japanese students, nor did they show a significant spread of alternatives in any feedback condition.
However, other researchers have found that individuals from collectivistic cultures do show dissonance effects when they are focused on their relationships with others. Such a result would be expected because behaviors that involve more other-oriented, collectivistic outcomes should be more important for these people. Indeed, research has found that advertisements that are framed in terms of personal benefits e.
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Although dissonance is most likely when our behavior violates our positive self-concept, attitude change can occur whenever our thoughts and behaviors are inconsistent, even if the self-concept is not involved. Harmon-Jones and his colleagues found that even though the lie could not possibly harm anyone, the act of lying nevertheless made the participants express more positive attitudes toward the drink. Salespeople make use of psychological principles, including self-perception and cognitive dissonance, to encourage people to buy their products, often in ways that seem less than completely open and ethical.
Informed consumers are aware of such techniques, including the foot-in-the-door technique, the low-ball technique, and the bait-and-switch technique. We have seen that we will be more successful if we use the right communicators and if we present the right messages under the right conditions. But it must also be kept in mind that a full understanding of the techniques used by persuaders may also be useful to help us avoid being persuaded by others.
Regardless of whether the change is due to the cognitive principles of self-perception or the more affective principles of dissonance reduction, the attitude change that follows behavior can be strong and long lasting. This fact creates some very interesting opportunities for changing attitudes.
One approach based on this idea is to get people to move slowly in the desired direction, such that they commit to a smaller act first. The idea is that it will be relatively easy to get people to engage in a small behavior after which their perceptions of this initial behavior will change their attitudes, making it more likely for them to engage in a more costly behavior later. The foot-in-the-door technique refers to a persuasion attempt in which we first get the target to accept a rather minor request, and then we ask for a larger request. You can see that the foot-in-the-door technique is a classic case of self-perception and commitment—once people label themselves as the kind of person who conforms to the requests of others in the relevant domain e.
The restaurant owner could try to reduce the problem by first getting a small commitment. The act of saying yes to a simple request creates commitment to the behavior, and not following through on the promise would be likely to create cognitive dissonance. Another approach based on the attitudes-follow-behavior idea, and which can be used by unscrupulous salespeople, is known as the low-ball technique.
After the customer has committed to purchasing the car at a low price, the salesperson then indicates that he or she cannot actually sell the car at that price. In this case, people are more likely to buy the car at the higher price than they would have been if the car had first been offered at the higher price.
Backing out on a commitment seems wrong and may threaten self-esteem, even if the commitment was obtained in an unethical way. Some participants were told that they would need to watch the dog for 30 minutes. Other participants were first asked simply to commit to watching the dog, and then only later informed that they would have to watch it for 30 minutes. The latter group had been low-balled, and they complied more often with the request.
A close alternative to low-balling is known as the bait-and-switch technique , which occurs when someone advertises a product at a very low price. When you visit the store to buy the product, however, you learn that the product you wanted at the low price has been sold out. Again, people are more likely to buy an alternative higher-priced product after they have committed themselves to the purchase than they would have been without the original information.
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Once you imagine yourself owning the car, your attitude toward the car becomes more positive, making the idea of giving it up more costly and also making it more likely that you will buy it. In this case, a charitable organization might mail you a small, unsolicited gift, followed by a request for a monetary donation. Aronson, E. The theory of cognitive dissonance: A current perspective. Berkowitz Ed. Effect of the severity of threat on the devaluation of forbidden behavior.
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Cognitive consequences of forced compliance. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 58 , — Freedman, J. Long-term behavioral effects of cognitive dissonance.