Experiments with People: Revelations from Social Psychology

By Robert P. Abelson; Kurt P. Frey et al. | Go to book overview

7
Baptism of Fire:
When Suffering
Leads to Liking

“Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim. ”

—George Santayana (1863–1952), Spanish—American philosopher


BACKGROUND

Chapter 6 showed that, when we are led, with minimal inducement, to behave in a manner inconsistent with our attitudes, our attitudes often shift to become more consistent with our behavior (Festinger & Carlsmith, 1959). This is one way of reducing the unpleasant cognitive dissonance that comes from knowing we have willingly done something embarrassing or immoral. Because the deed cannot be denied, nor responsibility for it evaded, we preserve our dignity or integrity by adopting an attitude that justifies the deed, and by believing that we held that attitude all along.

However, cognitive dissonance can also arise, and be resolved, by other means. Consider the identical twins, Jess and Tess. Normally inseparable, the pair happened to attend different showings of the same movie. Whereas Jess paid an extravagant $ 20 for an advance screening, Tess paid a paltry $ 5 for a bargain matinee. Unfortunately the movie they watched turned out to be rather disappointing—at least, that was the subsequent consensus of movie—goers and critics alike. Some days later Jess and Tess got around to discussing their respective cinematic experiences. Although they usually agreed about everything, they found that they disagreed about the merits of the movie. Whereas Tess echoed the misgivings of the majority, Jess was fulsome in her praise.

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