Cognitive Dissonance

8 PAGES
2056 WORDS

Cognitive Dissonance


Cognitive Dissonance
How do human beings make decisions? What triggers a person to take action at any
given point? These are allquestions that I will attempt to answer with my theoretical
research into Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance, as well as many of the
other related theories. We often do not realize the psychological events that take place in
our everyday lives. It is important to take notice of theories, such as the balance theory,
the congruency theory and the cognitive dissonance theory so that one’s self-persuasion
occurs knowingly. As psychologist and theorist gain a better understanding of
Festinger’s cognitive dissonance theory manipulation could occur more easily than it
already does in today’s society. Leon Festinger’s cognitive dissonance theory is very
closely related to many of the consistency theories. The first of the major consistency
theories, the balance theory, was proposed by Fritz Heider (1946, 1958) and was later
revised by Theodore Newcomb (1953) (Larson, 1995). Heider and Newcomb’s theory
was mostly looking at the interaction between two people (interpersonally) and the
conflicts that arose between them. When two people have conflicting opinions or tension
is felt between another person, it is more likely persuasion will occur. Because if no
tension was felt between the two parties, or there were no conflicting opinions there
would be no need to persuade each other. If you think about it persuasion occurs only
because there is tension between two facts, ideas or people. Charles Larson writes in his
book, Persuasion, Reception and Responsibility, “another approach to the consistency
theory is congruency theory, by Charles Osgood and Percy Tennenbaum (1955)” (p.82).
This theory suggest that we want to have balance in our lives and there is a systematic
way to numerically figure it out. When two attitudes collide we must strive to strike a
balance between the two attitudes. The balance varies depending on the intensity we feel
about each attitude and our pre-disposed positions concerning the attitude. We either
have a favorable , neutral or unfavorable opinion concerning ideas. When two attitudes
collide we will attempt to downgrade the favorable position and upgrade the unfavorable
position so that we feel a balance. For example, suppose someone thought of Mel Gibson
as a good role model. Later on they come to find out Mel Gibson does not like football. If
the person was to like both football and Mel Gibson one of three things would happen: 1)
The individual would downgrade their opinion of Mel Gibson, or 2)downgrade football,
or 3) downgrade both. The action taken would create psychological consistency in one’s
mind. These theories are very interesting and have been quite researched, but none more
so than Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitivedissonance. Leon Festinger’s theory, unlike
the others I have described, deal with quantitative aspects, as well as qualitative. That’s
what is so different and revolutionary about Festinger’s theory. Robert Wicklund and
Jack Brehm (1976), in their book Perspectives on Cognitive Dissonance, write,“ Most
notably, the original statement of dissonance theory include: propositions about the
resistance-to-change of cognitions and about the proportion of cognitions that are
dissonant, both of which allowed powerful and innovative analyses of psychological
situations (p.1). The term “dissonance” refers to the relation between two elements.
When two elements do not fit together they are considered dissonant. Cognitive
dissonance can be broken down into a number of elements. As Brehm and Cohen (1962)
write, “A dissonant relationship exist between two cognitive elements when a person
possesses one which follows the obverse of another that he possesses. A person
experiences dissonance, that is, a motivational tension, when he (or she) has cognitions
among which there are one or more dissonant relationships” (p.4).Cognitive dissonance
can occur intrapersonally as well as betweentwo or more people. With individual
cognitive dissonance the individual longs for consistency within their own mind. Second,
there exist dissonance between two or more people. This occurs when two people have
differing opinions about a particular issue.This phenomenon may have something to do
with varying degrees of knowledge about the issue or different belief systems being
enacted. An example of this can be seen by taking a look at the cultures of the West
versus cultures of the East. Cultures of the East value loyalty and honor. Cultures of the
West have different value systems that often collide with those of the East. Between two
parties, dissonance may arise from: (1) logical inconsistency; (2) because of cultural
mores: (3) because of a specific opinion; and (4) because of past experience. To reduce
cognitive dissonance a person

Read the full essay 2056 words