COGNITIVE
DISSONANCE
THEORY
Associative Networks
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Cognitive structures (beliefs,
attitudes) exist in
associative networks.
The associations are often
unconscious or implicit.
Changes in one cognitive
element may produce a
“ripple effect” elsewhere in
the cognitive system.
Dissonance and “Buyer’s Remorse”
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People seek to maintain a
stable, positive, self-concept .
People rationalize their
choices and actions in light of
their self-concept.
Behavior that contradicts one’s
beliefs or self-concept causes
dissonance.
Making a decision produces
dissonance or “buyer’s
remorse.”
The more important the
decision, the greater the
dissonance.
People engage in selfpersuasion to justify their
decisions to themselves, and
proselytizing to justify their
decisions to others.
Cognitive dissonance in action
Angelina Jolie had her “Billy
Bob” tattoo removed after
the couple split up. The new
tattoo has the longitudes and
latitudes of her adopted
children.
Michael Jackson fans actively
protested during his trial to
demonstrate their loyalty and
commitment to the “King of
Pop.”
Dissonance in Action
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A commuter buys a large SUV. Soon
after, the price of gas soars. He
experiences dissonance every time he
stops for gas.
A voter who liked Hillary Clinton
and Barack Obama might
experience dissonance over having
to vote for one or the other.
Magnitude of Dissonance
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Free choice paradigm
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the more free choice one has
in making a decision, the more
dissonance one will suffer.
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Belief disconfirmation
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Exposure to information
contrary to strongly held
beliefs may increase
adherence to those beliefs
(e.g., stubbornness).
Induced compliance
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When a person is forced to
do something, little dissonance
is aroused.
The person can rationalize the
action by saying “I had no
choice.”
Effort justification
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The greater the effort or
sacrifice involved, the greater
the dissonance.
Ways of Reducing Dissonance
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Rationalizing is not the
same as being rational.
Selective exposure
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Paying attention only to
information that supports the
choice made.
Avoiding information that is
inconsistent with the choice
made.
Polarization of alternatives
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Exaggerating the differences
between the alternatives once
the choice is made.
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Any of the strategies for
maintaining cognitive
consistency
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Denial
Bolstering
Differentiation
Transcendence
Modifying one or more
cognitions
Communicating
Psychological Reactance
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Also known as “reverse psychology”
Backlash: A perceived threat to one’s freedom
produces a defensive reaction.
Forbidden fruit: Outlawing something may
make it even more attractive.
Examples:
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A pushy salesperson may drive customers away.
When restrictions are placed on firearms, firearm
sales increase dramatically before the ban takes
effect.
A parent who criticizes a daughter’s boyfriend may
drive the daughter into the boyfriend’s arms.
Counterattitudinal Advocacy
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Devil’s Advocate: Advocating a contrary
position shifts one’s attitudes toward the
contrary position.
No external justifications may be
present.
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The advocacy should be volitional (not
compelled).
The advocacy should be public (in writing or
out loud).
No external incentives should be provided.
The person will internalize the choice to
advocate the contrary position.
The person’s attitudes will shift
(partially) toward the contrary position.
Commitment
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Once we are committed to a course of
action, it is hard to turn back.
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Social customs are designed to increase
commitments.
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A car owner may “throw good money after
bad” making one repair after another.
Gamblers may double their bets every time
they lose.
Wedding customs
Initiation rituals
Commitments can grow legs.
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People add additional justifications for their
original decision.
Marketing inconsistency
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Cognitive Dissonance Theory