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Cognitive Dissonance and Self-Perception Theories Essay

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Updated: Jan 23rd, 2021

Cognitive dissonance theory generally produces sensational discomfort, which leads to alterations in a particular behavior, belief, or attitude. Festinger and Carlsmith (1959) conducted an intriguing experiment where they requested participants to carry out a run of dull tasks. To tell the waiting participants that the undertaken tasks were actually interesting, each participant was either paid $1 or $20. Nearly all participants decided to go in the antechamber to motivate the confederates that the dull experiment could be fun. The ultimate results showed that when each participant was requested to assess the experiment, every participant who received $1 only rated such boring tasks as more enjoyable and fun than those who got paid just $20 to lie (Aronson, Wilson & Akert, 2006).

In their findings, the dissonance theorists found that paying only $1 to a participant as a motivation for lying is not sufficient. Thus, participants who received $1 only experienced dissonance. In fact, these partakers could simply overcome the dissonance by trusting that the uninteresting tasks were very pleasurable and motivating. In contrast, reasons for turning the pegs were provided by paying some participants $20, and therefore, there was no dissonance.

According to self-perception theorists’ findings, the participants decide based on their personal feelings and attitudes. When the participants’ internal cues are confusing or very weak, they could effectively put such persons in similar positions as the external observers. Hence, as an alternate explanation for dissonance theory, self-perception theory assumes the observers’ opinions or views by concluding that participants who received $1 ought to have actually enjoyed it since the paid $1 did not justify their acts. Nevertheless, the participants who received $20 to participate in the experiment just did that to get the paid amount.

The findings of the customary cognitive dissonance theory concept postulate the actuality of a drive like an incentive, which aids in maintaining the constancy amongst relevant cognitions. In 1974, Zanna and Cooper developed an attributional context in which the probable dissonance arousal occurrence was investigated and updated. According to their study, the findings indicated that provided an individual is in an induced compliance setting, then arousal posits to occur.

The counter attitudinal performance behaviors ensuing from the presumed arousal were found to make an individual experience dissonance while attempting to reduce it, probably through attitudinal change. If the conditional cues offer reasonable alternatives upon which the person could misattribute such arousal, then the occurrence of subsequent attitude change and dissonance will not take place. A study conducted by Kiesler and Pallak in 1976 confirmed the proposition of dissonance theory that when an individual opts to perform a behavior that is attitude discrepant, it will lead to an aversive arousal state.

While the underlying posited processes by these theories vary, the prediction drawn from all materializes to be similar. For example, individuals in both observe the external environment and the questionable behavior closely. Each of these theories emphasizes the significance of different situational cues. These include the level of financial inducement and freedom of choice as the probable external justification to ensure discrepant attitude behavior is performed (Aronson, Wilson & Akert, 2006). Further, these theories possess explanatory and rare predictive power since they represent vast attitude change data.

Reference

Aronson, E., Wilson, T. D. & Akert, R. M. (2006). Social Psychology. New Jersey, USA: Prentice Hall.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Cognitive Dissonance and Self-Perception Theories." January 23, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cognitive-dissonance-and-self-perception-theories/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Cognitive Dissonance and Self-Perception Theories'. 23 January.

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