The Relationship between Cognitive Dissonance and the Big-5 Factors Model of the Personality and the Academic Achievement in a Sample of Female Students at the University of Umm Al Qura

Article excerpt


The cognitive dissonance received researchers' interest for many years. This interest diminished until it returned once again more strongly in the late years of the second millennium. The cognitive dissonance theory assumes that the dissonance occurs between the individual ideas and behaviors when he recognizes a new cognition that is not consonant with his exisiting beliefs and opinions. This makes the individual feels uncomfortable or psychologically anxious due to the presence of these dissonant conditions, which motivates the individual to mitigate and reduce it in one way or another (Bums, 2006).

Festinger is regarded the founder of this theory, which is one of a set of theories of cybernetics, known as "theories of consonance", which hold that people are looking for balance/equilibrium. The cognitive system is a key instrument to achieve such balance. Mind is a system that takes input from the environment in the form of information and processes them and then behavioral outputs emerged (Littlejohn & Foss, 2005).

According to Festinger (1957), dissonance is a psychological tension with motivative characteristics. The theory of cognitive dissonance addresses the conditions which motivate individual's dissonance in methods aiming to reduce such dissonance. This theory consists of cognitive elements and the relationships between these elements. The cognitive elements may relate to the individual himself or to the environment surrounding the individual, and to know the individual's feelings, behaviour, and opinions as well as knowledge about things in focus, and how to access them, and what are the beliefs of others, etc. (Brehm & Cohen, 1962 ). Dissonance is an emotional state arises when a person has cognitive elements require that one or more element is against the other resulting in a situation of tension that motivates the individual to try to reduce the number or the importance of the dissonant cognitions with the elements that are more resistant to change (Wicklund & Brehm, 1976; 10).

Existence of dissonance increases pressures to reduce or eliminate the dissonance. The force of pressure to reduce the amount of dissonance is a function of the dissonance magnitude. Generally, when dissonance occurs between two elements, this dissonance can be removed by changing one of them, such as follows (Festinger, 1957; 18-22):

First: Change the individual behavioral cognitive element. There are many people who stop staying awake at night when they discover that it is harmful to health.

Second: Change the environmental cognitive component, which is more difficult than changing individual behavior, because the individual must have a sufficient degree of control over his environment - and is relatively rarely. The environment most likely to change, in order to reduce dissonance, is the social environment. An individual who loves drawing may take the same people who appreciate art.

Third: Ading new cognitive elements, e.g. alcohol abusers may find the risk of alcohol taking is far less than the risk of driving a car, and thus reduces his dissonance. The overall dissonance is reduced by reducing the importance of the present dissonance.

It is not easy to reduce or remove the occuring dissonance as change may cause pain and discomfort, especially if it includes some losses. The higher the feeling of pain, the greater the force of resistance to change, and pain or loss incurred by the individual identifies the size of the resistance to change. Also, when the exisiting behavior is convincing to the individual, it is difficult to change it, as the resistance to change is a function of satisfaction derived from this satisfying behavior (Festinger, 1957).

Individuals, for whom dissonance is painful, try to avoid occurance of dissonance by avoiding those situations leading to dissonance, and develop some mechanisms to reduce it. …