Cognitive Dissonance Theory

Last week you examined various types of interpersonal influence—strategies by which other people guide your thoughts and actions so they can meet their goals. This week you will examine intrapersonal persuasion or self-persuasion. Self-persuasion occurs when something you have done causes you to change your attitudes, beliefs, and future behavior. This type of change can be rather impactful—after all, you are doing it to yourself—and as a result, self-persuasion is a very powerful strategy for getting you to think and do new things.

To illustrate how self-persuasion operates, imagine that someone asks you to sign a petition to support higher taxes as a first step toward getting you to vote in favor of a new tax initiative. If like many people, you hold a negative attitude toward paying more taxes, you might resist the first request. However, if the person was able to get you to sign the petition, your behavior of signing the petition would be inconsistent with your attitude toward paying more taxes. The inconsistency between your pro-tax behavior and anti-tax attitude would create a state of discomfort called “cognitive dissonance.” As you see in the reading, many people reduce their discomfort in this situation by changing their attitudes and beliefs about what they have done. In this case, you would likely justify signing the petition by “softening” your attitude toward paying more taxes. The way in which you rationalize or justify your discrepant behavior leads to some very interesting and, on occasion, some rather unusual adjustments in what you subsequently think and do.

To prepare for this Assignment:

• Read all of Chapter 4 in the course text, Persuasion: Psychological Insights and Perspectives.

• Think about how you would define cognitive dissonance and reflect on the different ways in which you can reduce it. Consider what it means for a cognition to be “least resistant to change” and how that predicts how you are likely to reduce your dissonance.

• Think about how the concept of “induced compliance” relates to the tax petition example in the lead-in. Carefully consider the role of being paid for signing the petition and why being paid very little would cause the most need to adjust your attitude to favor paying more taxes and voting for the new initiative.

• Reflect on why making a decision between two alternatives is likely to create some dissonance. Think about how “spreading the alternatives”—adjusting attitudes so they are more favorable toward the chosen alternative and less favorable toward the rejected alternative—reduces dissonance. Consider what type of decision would create the greatest amount of discomfort and need to “spread the alternatives.”

• Consider why working hard to achieve a goal can cause you to experience cognitive dissonance. What do you think causes more dissonance: working hard and achieving the goal, or working hard but failing to achieve the goal? The key to answering this question is to identify the inconsistent cognitions that lead you to justify your efforts.

• Think about whether you “feel” aroused and uncomfortable when your behavior is discrepant from your beliefs. Does your experience match what the research says about the experience of dissonance?

• Consider whether aversive consequences are critical for you to experience dissonance, or whether dissonance is greatest when your behavior is inconsistent with an important self-view, such as being an intelligent or moral person. Also consider whether you know anyone that does not seem to ever experience dissonance, and what it is about the person that “insulates” him/her from feeling discomfort when behavior is inconsistent with attitudes and beliefs.

• Finally, reflect on how culture may influence the experience of dissonance and how the behavior of others can cause you to feel vicarious dissonance.

With these thoughts in mind: APA style format, No Plagiarism and must be cited with references. Assignment must be done according to course rubric. Thank you

Write 1 page brief description of a time when you experienced cognitive dissonance as a result of making a difficult decision, saying something that you did not believe, or working hard for nothing. Identify the inconsistent cognitions that were the source for your discomfort and explain how you reduced the dissonance. Using either a cultural or personality analysis, describe the type of person who might not have experienced dissonance in this situation. Finally, describe how you think you can avoid justifying a discrepant act and instead learn from your “mistake.”

Be sure to support your postings and responses with specific references to the Learning Resources.
•    Reading
Course Text: Persuasion: Psychological Insights and Perspectives
Chapter 4, “Actions and Attitudes” (pp. 63–79)

Article: Stone, J., Aronson, E., Crain, A. L., Winslow, M. P., & Fried, C. B. (1994). Inducing hypocrisy as a means of encouraging young adults to use condoms. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 20(1), 116–128. Available here

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