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Soc 401 (Week 10)


benjamin waddell

on 3 November 2015

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Transcript of Soc 401 (Week 10)

Physiological and motivation effects of dissonance
Aronson argues that the effects of dissonance extends to other motivational situations such as hunger, thirst and pain – in special circumstances.
A person needs to be highly committed to a situation.
They must experience high levels of dissonance.
Research evidence
Pain has a physiological and psychological component.
When people have little external justification (high-dissonance) they report less pain to shocks and had a smaller GSR response to the shocks (Zimbardo).
High-dissonance participants reported less hunger (or thirst) than low-dissonance participants. After the experiment, when all of the participants were allowed to eat (or drink) freely, those in the high-dissonance condition actually consumed less food (or water) than those in the low-dissonance condition (Brehm).
What is the research evidence on justification?

The “$1 – $20” study (Festinger & Carlsmith)
Student performed a boring tasks for an hour.
Asked to help the experimenter who was running late to lie to another student waiting to do the experiment (say it was interesting).
They all lied and were offered $1 (low external) or $20 (high external).
When asked later - the $20 said was boring - $1 said it was interesting.

The “New Haven Police” study (Cohen)
Students were asked to write a letter in support of the police department after they had behaved brutally toward student rioters.
They were paid $10, $5, $1, 50¢.
Can you predict who felt most favorably toward the police after writing?
The results followed a linear trend.

Counter-attitudinal advocacy (Leippe, & Eisenstadt)
White students who wrote essays favoring doubling the size of scholarships for African-American students had to rely on internal justification.

As you watch each video, keep track of the number of euphemisms used by each individual.

Eliot Spitzer Resignation

Bill Clinton Apology

Why are the euphemisms used by each speaker so important? How do they help mediate dissonance?
The importance of
Once a decision is final we experience dissonance and are motivated to reduce it – but there is a catch.
This relationship holds when the decision is final (irrevocable).

What happens when the decision is not final?
Gamblers were more confident that their horse would win after (decision final) placing a $2 bet than before placing the bet (Knox & Inkster).
People who were given a choice between two photographs liked their selection more if it was final versus those who were able to exchange it.
How does making a decision reversible affect self-justification?

This causes dissonance because:
a commitment in the form of a down payment was made.
anticipation is triggered by making the down payment.
dissonance is experienced if the person considers walking away.
dissonance can be reduced by person tell self not that much more $.
Computer dating study (Johnson & Rusbult)
People were shown pictures and rated their attractiveness and how much they would enjoy a date with them.
The more committed the participants were to a current relationships the less attractive they rated the women in the pictures.

Another attractiveness rating study (Simpson)
Compared people in committed relationships to those not in committed relationships.
Those in committed relationships rated potential others as less physically and sexually attractive.
Effects held only for those alternative dating partners who were available.

No threat – no dissonance – no derogation
Aronson’s suggests:
Through a greater understanding of my own defensiveness and dissonance-reducing tendencies.
Through the realization that performing stupid or immoral actions does not necessarily mean I am an irrevocably stupid or immoral person.
Through the development of enough ego strength to tolerate errors in myself.
Through increasing my ability to recognize the benefits of admitting my errors in terms of my own growth and learning as well as my ability to form close, meaningful relationships with other people (ref: Tavris & Aronson: mistakes were made).
“Man” cannot live by consonance alone
If individuals concentrate their time and effort on protecting their egos, they will never grow.
To grow, we must learn from our mistakes.
If we are intent on reducing dissonance, we will not admit to our mistakes.
Under what conditions do we grow and learn from our mistakes?
Osama bin Laden (Friedman)
Loss of dignity and seeing America, Israel, unfaithful Muslim leaders as threats to their self-concepts.
Is the attack on others by bin Laden similar to the attacks that students made in Baumeister, Bushman, & Campbell’s study on self-esteem discussed earlier in the chapter?
Dissonance reduction and culture
Most dissonance studies have been done in North America.
Sakai replicated the $1-$20 study in Japan
The results of the original study were confirmed ($1 liked the task more after lying to another about the boring task).
In addition, if an observer watched someone they know and like lie in this situation, the observer also experienced dissonance and came to believe the task was interesting to reduce it.
( Practical applications of dissonance theory – continued)
Water conservation (Dickerson, et al.)
Used a variation of the hypocrisy model.
Intercepted students had them sign a petition (commitment) and answer a survey about water conservation (mindfulness).
Timed showers of students later: only the high dissonance condition lead to shorter showers (3 ½ minutes).
Understanding cult leadership
No simple explanation
Some concepts to consider that may have contributed:
Foot-in-the-door (starts small but ever increasing commitments)
Cut off from dissenting opinion (groupthink)
High effort to be a part of the group in Jonestown, Guyana to establish colony
( Practical applications of dissonance theory – continued)
Practical applications of dissonance theory
Reducing weight by reducing dissonance (Axsom & Cooper)
Women who were a part of a weight-loss program had to exert either a large amount of effort (or small) on an unrelated intellectual task. Both groups showed little loss in the program.
However, 12 months later the group that made a large effort had lost on average 8 pounds. Why?
AIDS prevention (Aronson, et al.)
Used a version of the “saying is believing” paradigm.
Addressed students’ hypocrisy by having them confront past failures to use condoms themselves.
High dissonance (speech given on video/reminded of past failures) lead them to buy condoms on the way out and report more used when asked at a later date.
Role of discomfort (Bem)
Research in support of Aronson (Zanna & Cooper)
Participants were given a placebo but told one of three things about the pill:
It would arouse them and make them tense.
It would not affect them in any way.
It would calm and relax them.
People were then asked to write a counter-attitudinal essay.
Those who experience the most attitude change (and dissonance) were those without a good external justification for their arousal (those told the pill would relax them).
fMRI data (Westen, et al.)
Reduced activity in the reasoning areas of the brain when processing dissonant information – remember the UCLA students?
When people reduced the dissonance, activity increased in the emotional centers of the brain associated with pleasure
(Discomfort or self-perception? – continued)
Discomfort or self-perception?
Role of self-perception (Bem)
Aronson believes cognitive dissonance is a theory of motivation and the discomfort motivates us to change attitudes or behaviors.
Self-perception proposes that we can explain the same changes that dissonance theory predicts without an internal state of discomfort.
Aronson argues self-perception holds only when a person does not have a clear understanding of their belief.
Research in support of Aronson
People report being more agitated and uncomfortable when experiencing dissonance (Elliot and Devine).
People are distracted during a complex task when experiencing dissonance just like hunger or thirst (Pallak & Pittman).
Self-esteem and grades – (Cohen)
African-American children who have classroom assignments at the start of the school year that focus on personal strength and values received significantly higher grades.
Narcissistic self-esteem (Baumeister, Bushman, & Campbell)
Students who were high in narcissism and self-esteem were more likely to aggress against another student who criticized their essay than participants
They were able to blast them with a loud noise since they controlled the loudness level
How does this behavior reduce dissonance?
May not be a form of high self-esteem but instead a form of self- aggrandizing based upon feelings of insecurity (Salmivalli et al.)
How can we apply this explanation to schoolyard bullies?
(The importance of self-esteem – continued)
The importance of self-esteem
The role of self-esteem
We experience the most dissonance in situations that threaten our self-esteem.
Those with high self-esteem experience the most dissonance when they behave in ways that are inconsistent with their self concept.
Self-esteem and cheating – (Aronson & Mettee)
Students have their self-esteem temporarily raised or lowered based upon feedback from a bogus personality test.
Participants next played a card game that was rigged where they could only win by cheating.
Those with lowered self-esteem were more likely to cheat than either those with raised or unaltered (control) self-esteem.
Denying danger
When disaster is imminent – deny it and think about something else.
UCLA students living in the most unsafe residence halls minimized the expected damage and refused to think about it (Lehman & Taylor).
How were the UCLA students’ reactions different to the response of the children that ate vegetables? – Why?
Children who expected to eat more rated the vegetable not as bad.
Is dissonance reduction unconscious?
The process is more convincing if it happens below consciousness.
Cognitive dissonance and Casablanca
Whatever decision we make, we will find reasons to be happier with the alternative we chose rather than the alternative we gave up.
(The psychology of inevitability – continued)
The psychology of inevitability
Making the best of things
When unpleasant situations are inevitable (Brehm)
Children volunteered to eat a vegetable they disliked.
After eating it they were told they would eat more (or nothing in the control).
Children who expected to eat more rated the vegetable not as bad.
More unpleasant and inevitable situations (Darley & Berscheid)
Women volunteered to discuss sex with a stranger (female).
Read two files describing two women (they were going to meet one).
The files were a mix of positive and negative characteristics.
Rated the women in the files before they met their partner.
Participants rated the one they thought they were going to meet higher than the woman described in the other file (did not matter which one).
A final unpleasant and inevitable situation (Kay et al.)
When people read articles suggesting a narrow victory by either Bush or Gore they rated the candidate favored to win as more describable – regardless of their party affiliation.
What if they were able to shock back? (Berscheid)
Students gave others painful shocks.
Those who shocked derogated their victims.
However, those who were aware their victims would have an opportunity to shock them later – did not derogate their victims – Why?
Applications to war and discrimination
In war soldiers hurt civilians even if they try to avoid it.
What can they tell themselves to reduce the dissonance this causes?
Would seeing others as subhuman help? – Why?
Some people justify keeping blacks and Latinos in bad schools.
What can they tell themselves that helps them reduce the dissonance?
How does the self-fulfilling prophecy play a role here?
When misfortune befalls us: (Jones & Nisbett)
we tend to attribute the cause to something in the environment; but when we see the same misfortune befalling another person, we tend to attribute the cause to some weakness inherent in that person’s character.
(The justification of cruelty – continued)
The justification of cruelty
If we think we are decent reasonable people, how do we justify our behavior when our actions hurt others?
Examples from earlier chapters (and one new one)
Giving a speech about marijuana
Kent State University killings
Rumors after an earthquake in India
Khrushchev doing away with Beria (new)
Research evidence
Students watched others being interviews (Davis & Jones)
Instructed to tell them they were shallow, untrustworthy, dull
Found that students who were cruel to another thought the other student to be less attractive after having done so.
Another shocking tale (Glass)
Students who shocked other students later derogated their victims
The results were more pronounced for those with high self-esteem – Why?
“A shocking result” study (Gerard & Mathewson)
Conceptually similar to Aronson and Mills study
Found that people given painful electric shocks to become members of a group liked the group better than people who received mild shock
Testosterone injections (Sapolsky)
Misremembering the past to reduce dissonance (Conway & Ross)
Students went through 3 weeks of useless study skills training.
Not surprisingly – their performance did not improve in their coursework.
To reduce dissonance they misremembered that their original skill level was poorer than it really was. In this way their current skill level (although objectively no higher) was perceived to increase after completing the training.
How does this result support the prediction from dissonance theory?
(The justification of effort – continued)
The justification of effort
If a person works hard to attain a goal:
that goal will be more attractive to the individual than it will be to someone who achieves the same goal with little or no effort.
“The psychology of sex” study (Aronson & Mills)
An initiation was required for entry into a desirable discussion group.
There were two levels of initiation (severe, mild) and one control group.
Severe initiation required orally reciting obscene words, mild required simply reading the list of words.
All participants listened to the discussion – which was boring.
People who went through the severe initiation thought the discussion was more interesting and worthwhile than those in the mild or control groups.
How effective do you think the following commercials will be?

Startling Truth

San Diego Water Conservation
UCSC water conservation

Information-based persuasion


Dickerson et al “Using Cognitive Dissonance to Encourage Water Conservation
“Even a penny will help” study (Cialdini & Schroeder)
People were greeted at their door with a request for donation.
People gave twice as often, and gave higher amounts than the control condition, when administered the “penny” line.
Why would people respond in this fashion?
Why are they experiencing greater dissonance in the penny condition?
How has their self-concept been threatened?

How does this same concept work during Sunday Mass?
Dissonance and the self-concept
Aronson reformulated the theory of cognitive dissonance to put more emphasis on the concept of the self.
Dissonance would be most strong in situations where the self-concept is threatened (e.g., I have done (or said) something inconsistent with my self-concept.).

“Marijuana study” (Nel & Helmreich)
Found great attitude change when people made a counter-attitudinal speech on videotape (for a small reward) favoring marijuana use – but only if it was to be showed to an uncommitted audience on the topic.
Little change in attitude if the video was to be shown to a group that had strong attitudes about it (either for or against).

Dissonance is greatest when:
People feel personally responsible for their actions.
Their actions have serious consequences.
What is inadequate justification?
When the justification is adequate, it is enough to entice the behavior and to cause attitude change.
When the justification is abundant there is little reason to change preexisting attitudes.
So, when is justification is inadequate?
Revisiting Mills study of sixth-graders
Those who cheated to obtain a small reward (inadequate) tended to soften their attitude about cheating more than those who cheated to obtain a large reward (abundant).
Those who refrained from cheating in spite of the temptation of a large reward—a choice that would create a great deal of dissonance—hardened their attitude about cheating to a greater extent than those who refrained in the face of a small reward.

How does this alter our understanding of Bernie Madoff?
What constitutes external justification?
Punishment, reward, praise, a desire to please…. any others?

What would produce the most dissonance?
Eating a grasshopper for a friend?
Eating a grasshopper that a stranger gave you?

In which situation would you like the grasshopper most?

The psychology of inadequate justification
What is the relationship between
external justification
internal justification

“saying is believing paradigm”
When there is not adequate external justification we will start to believe our statements (e.g., lies) that run counter to our preexisting attitudes.

The smaller the external justification – the greater the internal attitude change.
A modern day Machiavelli

If you want people to form more positive attitudes toward an object, get them to commit themselves to own that object.

If you want people to soften their moral attitudes toward some misdeed, tempt them so that they perform that deed; conversely, if you want people to harden their moral attitudes toward a misdeed, tempt them—but not enough to induce them to commit the deed.
The decision to behave

Cheat on an exam (the difficult decision results in dissonance)
If cheat – reduce dissonance by softening stance on cheating
If do not cheat – harden stance against to justify made right decision

Are you more ethical than a sixth grader? (Mills)
Sixth graders put in situation where they could not win without cheating.
Ask them to indicate their views on cheating.
It was easy to cheat – so the children were tempted.
Some cheated but some did not cheat.
When asked later their views on cheating – those that cheated had softened their stance; those who did not hardened their stance.

Attitudes toward sexuality (Adams)
Males were shown erotic videos.
Those males with the most negative views of homosexuality were the most aroused (measured by penile circumference) watching the male homosexual sexual activity.
How is this situation similar to the previous examples?
What is the impact of a series of small self-justification?

foot-in-the-door technique
(Freedman & Fraser)
Those asked to sign a petition on “driver safety” a week earlier were more likely than controls (17% v. 55%) to agree the have a huge ugly sign on their front lawn saying “Drive Carefully.”

American Cancer Society (Pliner et al.)
Those asked to wear a pin publicizing a fund raising drive were twice as likely as controls (46%) to make a donation a day later.

Milgram’s obedience study
A series of self-justifications at each increase in voltage.

Education, sports, public events, war?

Historical examples and the consequences of decisions
What was done to reduce dissonance for these events?

Sighet, Hungary (1944)
Rwanda, 1994
Dissonance consequences of making a decision
After we make a decision
– we experience dissonance
Common way to reduce – focus on the positive aspects of our choice and the negative aspects of the ones we did not choose
Seek advertising information that is reassuring (Ehrlich)

Appliance study (Brehm)
Participants rated appliances and then were given the choice of two (that they previously rated as equal).
Participants were later ask to rate the items once again.
Ratings increased for the selected appliance and decreased for the appliance not chosen.

In groups, discuss the similarities/differences between the War in Iraq and the War in Vietnam.
What examples of self-justification emerge from each case?
Clips from “The Fog of War”

Robert McNamara
(Sec. of Defense during Vietnam)

Lesson 1: 2:00-13:40

Lesson 10/11: 1:29:00-1:42:00
Self-Justification in Context
Racial segregation study (Jones & Kohler)
Some participants favored segregation, some did not.
Read arguments on both sides (rational and irrational).
People tended to remember the rational ones on their side and the flawed irrational ones on the opposing side – Why?

Capital punishment study (Lord, Ross, & Lepper)
We will distort information to fit our preconceived beliefs.
Some participants favored capital punishment, some did not.
Read arguments one rational argument on each side.
Rather than moderate their attitudes, people on both sides of the issue were more steadfast in arguing their original position after reading the papers.
They believed that the opposing paper’s position was flawed.
From a dissonance-reduction perspective, why did this happen?
Dissonance reduction
rational behavior

When is it
When is prevents us from learning important facts or finding real solutions to problems.

When is it
When we can maintain a positive self-image that depicts us as good, smart, or worthwhile.
But ego-defense behaviors can lead to problems!

What happens when commitment to an attitude is high
Cigarette company executives statements and behaviors?

Hale-Bopp suicides (1997)

Princeton – Dartmouth football game (Hastorf & Cantril)

What are some of the ways one can reduce the dissonance of smoking cigarettes?
What was the response to the initial Surgeon General’s report in 1964 on the part of smokers and nonsmokers?
Why do people explain the same behavior (smoking one to two packs a day) as either heavy or moderate smoking?

When the motivation to be right and the motivation to believe we are right collide.
How did people who tried, but failed, smoking cessation programs explain their smoking? (Gibbons, et al.)
How does “cutting down” the number of cigarettes smoked help reduce the dissonance?
Cognitive dissonance theory
A state of tension that occurs whenever an individual simultaneously holds two cognitions (ideas, attitudes, beliefs, opinions) that are psychologically inconsistent.

Tension is unpleasant and we are motivated to reduce it by:
Changing one or both cognitions so that they are consistent
Adding additional cognitions to bridge the gap between original ones
Changing the preexisting attitude to be consistent with the behavior
Take several minutes to recall an instance when you were young in which you (or someone you know) committed a small lie that, overtime, grew into a substantially larger lie.

In groups, discuss why you (or your friend) did not simply confess to the initially small fib before it escalated.
What is self-justification?
The desire we have to justify our actions, beliefs and feelings.

The example of Sam being hypnotized to start this chapter
Participants in Schachter and Singer’s epinephrine study

Self-justification and rumors

Towns in India that were not damaged by an earthquake but felt the tremors experienced rumors forecasting impending doom (e.g., a flood is rushing toward them; Prasad).

Towns that experienced damage did not experience rumors forecasting doom, their rumors were more positive and encouraging (e.g., water supply would be fixed soon; Sinha).

Why did the rumors differ so dramatically between the towns?
An external cause of their fear/hope was not visible.
Chapter 5

Self-Justification in the lime light
The Ghosts of Rwanda
Clinton's Remarks in Rwanda
Gregory Stanton's Comments on Clinton/Rwanda
Spitzer's Comments on Scandal
Clinton's Remarks on Scandal
Lessons from “The Fog of War”
1) Empathize with your enemy
2) Rationality will not save us
3) There's something beyond oneself
4) Maximize efficiency
5) Proportionality should be a guideline in war
6) Get the data
7) Belief and seeing are both often wrong
8) Be prepared to reexamine your reasoning
9) In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil
10) Never say never
11) You can't change human nature.
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