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Penn State Child Sex Abuse Scandal Report


This paper is aimed at analyzing a current event from a social psychological perspective. In particular, it is necessary to focus on the case related to the so-called Penn State child sex abuse scandal. Much attention should also be paid to the decision of Mike McQueary to testify in the court.

Overall, this situation can be analyzed with the help of the cognitive dissonance theory, which was introduced by Leon Festinger. To a great extent, this case illustrates the efforts of an individual to reconcile his beliefs and convictions with his actions by taking brave steps, even though these steps can endanger his career as well as reputation. These are the main issues that should be discussed more closely.

Description of the current event

This event is related to the scandal which broke out in Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) in 2011. It should be mentioned that Jerry Sandusky, an assistance coach employed by this university, was accused of sexual harassment. According to the criminal investigation, this person abused 48 boys who were underage at that moment (For Sports, 2014).

This scandal has also led to the criticism of the leading Penn State officials who were blamed for the complete disregard of the students’ safety (For Sports, 2014). This background information is essential for understanding the significant aspects of this particular event. In turn, this news report is related to Mike McQueary, who also worked as a football coach at this university.

At the beginning of March, this person announced that he would testify in the trial of the people who allegedly covered up the crimes of Jerry Sandusky. This person intends to give his account of the events that took place in Penn State several years ago. This testimony may have significant implications for people who previously played a key role at Penn State.

For example, one can mention the former president of this university, Graham Spanier (For Sports, 2014). This person may eventually face criminal charges. To a great extent, this case throws light on the experiences of a whistleblower, who is willing to disclose information about unethical practices within an organization. Moreover, in many cases, such a person can endanger one’s professional career as well as reputation. These are the main elements that should be identified because they help analyze this situation and the behavior of Mike McQueary.

Description of the relevant theory

The concept of cognitive dissonance was introduced by Leon Festinger, who studied the situations when people tried to provide justifications for their actions (Gilovich et al., 2013). Overall, this notion is used to describe the state of psychological discomfort experienced by a person who has to reconcile conflicting values, beliefs, or assumptions (Gilovich et al., 2013).

Additionally, these experiences are often familiar to people who postulate specific ideas or principles but do not comply with these norms. In many cases, the state of cognitive dissonance can result in psychological problems (Gilovich et al., 2013). These are some of the aspects that should be taken into account. In essence, the theory of cognitive dissonance is useful for showing how an individual can seek internal consistency. According to this theory, people attempt to find reasons that can help them explain their behavior.

This is one of the approaches that can be taken. Moreover, they tend to avoid situations that can increase their dissonance (Aronson & Aronson, 2013). In many cases, they prefer not to think about a particular moral problem or a question. Apart from that, in some cases, people can alter their actions and attitudes in various ways, trying to diminish the state of cognitive dissonance.

On the whole, this theory is based on the notion that human beings strive for consistency between reality and their expectations. This goal can be achieved by with the help of different strategies. For instance, one can mention behavior change (Gilovich et al., 2013). Moreover, they try to look at the same situation from a different perspective (Gilovich et al., 2013). Apart from that, in some cases, they can even reject one of the conflicting beliefs.

These are the main elements of the cognitive dissonance theory. It should be mentioned that the concept of cognitive dissonance is often applied to ethical dilemmas that individuals have to confront. Similarly, this approach has been useful for people’s decision-making in those circumstances when every option has advantages and disadvantages. These are the main peculiarities of this theoretical model, which is still adopted by psychologists to explain various phenomena.

Application of the theory

This theory can be applied to examine the peculiarities of this event. Much attention should be paid to the behavior of Mike McQueary, especially his decision to testify in the court. To a great extent, in this way, Mike McQueary attempts to reduce his cognitive dissonance. On the whole, one can say that this person is affected by two conflicting motives. On the one hand, this person understands the abhorrence of covering up a person who committed sexual abuse. Furthermore, according to Mike McQueary’s allegations, he was also a victim of molestation during childhood (For Sports, 2014).

This is one of the reasons why an individual cannot turn a blind eye to such crimes. Apart from that, it is impermissible for him to defend people who could be involved in this. However, at the same time, this person understands that by getting involved in such scandals, he realizes that his reputation and career can be ruined in the long term. These are the main conflicting motives that should be taken into consideration. Thus, one can conjecture that Mike McQueary struggles with cognitive dissonance, and this state produces destructive effects on him. These are some of the assumptions that can be made.

According to the theory of cognitive dissonance, individuals may adopt different strategies to cope with this experience. One of the possible is to change one’s behavior and take actions that help a person reconcile one’s moral principles with one’s efforts. By deciding to testify in the court, Mike McQueary strives to overcome the sense of cognitive dissonance. This action may help this person to reconcile his behavior with his moral convictions.

Therefore, Leon Festinger’s model can be suitable for analyzing Mike McQueary’s actions. These are the main details that can be distinguished. Admittedly, this analysis is not complete because the credibility of Mike McQueary’s testimony can eventually be questioned by attorneys. Moreover, his true motives can be entirely ascertained only in the course of the trial. These are some of the limitations that should not be overlooked.

Reference List

Aronson, A. & Aronson, M. (2012). Readings About The Social Animal. New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

Fox Sports. (2014). Report: Penn St. whistleblower McQueary told players he was abused. Web.

Gilovich, T., Keltner, D., Chen, S., & Nisbett, R.E. (2013). Social psychology. New York, NY:W.W. Norton & Co.

This Report on Penn State Child Sex Abuse Scandal was written and submitted by user Allyson Donovan to help you with your own studies. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.

Allyson Donovan studied at the University of California, Berkeley, USA, with average GPA 3.31 out of 4.0.

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Donovan, A. (2020, March 24). Penn State Child Sex Abuse Scandal [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Work Cited

Donovan, Allyson. "Penn State Child Sex Abuse Scandal." IvyPanda, 24 Mar. 2020,

1. Allyson Donovan. "Penn State Child Sex Abuse Scandal." IvyPanda (blog), March 24, 2020.


Donovan, Allyson. "Penn State Child Sex Abuse Scandal." IvyPanda (blog), March 24, 2020.


Donovan, Allyson. 2020. "Penn State Child Sex Abuse Scandal." IvyPanda (blog), March 24, 2020.


Donovan, A. (2020) 'Penn State Child Sex Abuse Scandal'. IvyPanda, 24 March.

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