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Tales of Cognitive Dissonance

The different "faces" of cognitive dissonance

Dr. H. C. Sinclair

on 19 September 2017

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Transcript of Tales of Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance: When Attitudes Collide
From Doomsday Cults to Chick-Fil-A
Insufficient Justification for
Attitude Inconsistencies
Ways to reduce cognitive dissonance
What to do?
Friendly Amendments to the Original Theory
"Five Faces" of Dissonance
Induced-Compliance Paradigm
Tales of Cognitive Dissonance
Anna is a strong & vocal supporter of gay rights but she also loves Chick-Fil-A sandwiches (
did you know they put a pickle in their sandwich?

and peach shakes. So when she learns that a portion of her shake and sandwich money goes to anti-gay rights organizations, she finds her actions (indirectly funding anti-gay rights movements) in conflict with her attitudes. Yet, the next day when on a work lunch, Anna finds herself in line at Chick-Fil-A.
We choose the path of least resistance!
The Self must be implicated...
Insufficient Justification for Discrepancies
Induced Hypocrisy Dissonance
Post-Decision Dissonance
Effort Justification Dissonance
Belief Disconfirmation Dissonance
(or other Attitude...or Facts)
Basic Assumptions of Dissonance Theory
1) Humans dislike cognitive inconsistency.
Anna's value of gay rights is inconsistent with her behavior
2) Cognitions that are inconsistent with our other cognitions or behaviors cause unpleasant arousal.
Anna is experiencing unpleasant arousal called "dissonance"
3) We are motivated to reduce dissonance.
Anna realizes that her behavior is inconsistent with her frequently voiced values, so she needs to do something to get rid of the unpleasant arousal...but what?
1) Change one or the other cognition
2) Make one cognition more important than the other.
3.) When cognition is discrepant with behavior, change behavior
4) When cognition is dissonant with behavior, change cognition
A) "I'm supporting anti-gay rights organizations"
"It is but fractions of a penny that I am indirectly giving, really."
B)"I am choosing to eat at Chick-Fil-A."
"I didn't really have a choice about eating here. I have so few affordable options and it was my boss' idea."
A) "They might give some money to causes I don't support,
a lot of the money goes to things I do."


B) "Sure, I could boycott
who is that really going to affect? The workers who, if the boycott is successful, would be out of a job."
Anna could get her boss' lunch then step out of line and go to another restaurant in the food court for her own lunch.
In which case, see options 1A through 2B
(or any of a number of other rationalizations...)
It's easier for Anna to change her cognitions and so she eats her lunch and then goes on a Facebook rant about feeling like she is being pressured into boycotting Chick-Fil-A and lists multiple reasons why boycotting is a worthless endeavor.
Attitude-discrepant behaviors must have aversive consequences for us or those we like.
We must take personal responsibility for attitude-discrepant behaviors.
We must experience arousal
We must attribute arousal to attitude-discrepancy
"What does this say about ME?"
Aversive Consequences --> Cognitive Dissonance
No Aversive Consequences --> No Cognitive Dissonance
Internal Attribution (Choice) --> Cognitive Dissonance
External Attribution (No Choice) --> No Cognitive Dissonance
Arousal --> Cognitive Dissonance
No Arousal --> No Cognitive Dissonance
Attribute to Discrepancy --> Cognitive Dissonance
Attribute to Something Else --> No Cognitive Dissonance
Lemons and Sour Grapes
Dissonance after making a decision
Example: “buyer’s remorse.”
Factors that increase dissonance:
Importance of decision
Difficulty of decision
Irreversibility of decision
Spreading of alternatives (aka: Choice-supportive bias)
Devalue alternatives
Increase value of choice
Reverse decision
It was totally worth it...
Attitude Change vs. Perseverance
And didn't you say something about cults?
What happens when doom forgets to keep its appointment?
Belief disconfirmation paradigms can trigger dissonance --> perseverance effects if belief too hard to change
If we think of dissonance as a psychological warning system that evolved in part to let us know when our regulation and control of behavior is breaking down . . . then the unpleasant arousal may represent a strategy for creating the warning that behavior is falling short of important prosocial standards and/or personal goals.

When impulses lead people astray, dissonance puts people into the deliberate, reflective mode (activating ACC, precuneus, and anterior insula) that could allow them to bring their behavior back into line with their short- and longer-term goals for change.
The Balancing Act:
Insufficient Justification vs. Overjustification
When does behavior change?
When people make prosocial statement about the value of a particular behavior (e.g., boycotting, not smoking) and are then made mindful of their own past failures regarding that behavior
You are off-course
Dr. Sinclair participated in an international endeavor to examine the replicability of a random selection of psychology studies published in top tier journals. Three out of five of the findings she attempted to replicate have failed. Having dedicated her life to psychological science (it is like her religion), discovering a number of studies - including one done by a friend and adviser - were not replicating runs contrary to her confidence in and love of her field. What type of dissonance is Dr. Sinclair about her field?

A. Insufficient justification dissonance
B. Hypocrisy induction dissonance
C. Post-decision dissonance
D. Belief justification dissonance

When Dr. Sinclair speaks with her former adviser about the failed replication, her adviser is quick to note that his graduate student was the lead on the paper and how he had always had doubts about his student's integrity. Why might Dr. Sinclair's adviser not experience dissonance?

A. He is feeling no arousal from the conversation
B. He feels he has sufficient justification for the results he got.
C. He does not feel the failed replication implicates him personally
D. He is just in a state of confusion that prevents him from experiencing dissonance
And share...
And share...
Activates General Performance Monitoring Neural Pathways
Full transcript