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Attitude Change | AQA B Psychology
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Attitude Change

Cognitive dissonance is said to exist when a person has two cognitions which contradict each other. The principle of cognitive consistency states that we seek consistency in our attitudes and behaviour or cognitions. Cognitions refer to thought, attitudes, beliefs and behaviour of which the individual is aware. Dissonance refers to an unpleasant state of tension or arousal. Dissonance suggests that individuals will try and escape this uncomfortable feeling by altering their attitude or behaviour.

People can reduce dissonance in 2 ways:

1. Changing their behaviour
2. Changing their attitude

Cognitive Dissonance Theory

Cognitive Dissonance Theory

1. DECISION MAKING: Making decision between two items

Reducing Dissonance:

  • Focusing on the positive
  • points on the item chosen

Experimentation: BREM (1956)

Aim: Investigating the attitude that makes someone feel better whilst experiencing dissonance.

Procedure:

  • Women ask to choose between two household appliances
  • Asked to pick two most attractive items
  • Then asked to pick one out of the two attractive items

Results: After when the choice was made, the chosen to be more attractive than the rejected item.

Conclusions: To reduce the dissonance, positive points were focused on the chosen, and negative points on the rejected.

2. FORCED COMPLIANCE : Do a task because you have been asked to do it.

  • Behaviour – Doing the boring task
  • Attitudes – Task is waste of time (as a result, dissonance – Uncomfortable tension occurs)

So to reduce the dissonance the individual is experiencing due to a task which is not enjoyed, they change their beliefs:

Reducing Dissonance: Change attitudes/beliefs – Not so bad after all…Interesting.

An example: There are two groups working, it is a boring task. Group one gets £20 and group two gets £5. Group 2 will experience the most dissonance; they will change their attitudes and behaviour to reduce their dissonance.

Such an experiment was carried out by Carlsmith:

Experimentation: CARLSMITH (1959)

Aim: Re-Evaluating attitude of a forced compliance behaviour.

Procedure:

  • Given a extremely boring task – turning pegs in a peg board for an hour
  • Told to tell next participant task was fun, paid $1 or $20 to do so.
  • After this, they were asked how they found the peg-board task.

Results: Those paid $1 rated as more interesting than those who were paid $20

Conclusions: $20 – the reward justified the lie they told the next participant. Little dissonance was therefore experienced, so they did not need to reduce it by changing their cognition about the interest of the task.

$1 – the money was too little to justify the deception. Participant experience dissonance between what they have said to the next participant and their experience of the task. This was reduced by modifying their view of how interesting the task was expressed in more positive ratings

3. EFFORT: Effort is put into a task, if outcome is negative – dissonance is reduced by seeing outcome more positively.

So in terms of effort, to Reduce Dissonance: If the outcome is negative, to reduce the dissonance the participant sees the outcome more positively.

Experimentation: ARONSON and MILLS (1959)

Aim: Investigate the attitude resulting from dissonance if voluntary activity goes wrong.

Procedure:

  • Female students volunteered to take part in discussion about sex
  • MILD EMBARRASSMENT: Participants read aloud to a male experimenter a list of sex-linked words like ‘virgin’ and ‘prostitute’.
  • SERVE EMBARRASSMENT: Participants read aloud obscene words and very explicit passage
  • CONTROL CONDITION: They went straight into the main study
  • All conditions then heard about sex in lower animals, they were asked to rate how interesting they found it and the people involved in it

Results: Participants in the SEVRE EMBARRASSMENT condition gave the most positive ratings

Conclusions: If a voluntary experience which has cost a lost of effort turns out badly, dissonance is reduced by redefining the experience as interesting. This justifies the effort made

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