Comparing Canadian and United States High School Students on Cognitive Dissonance Test Scores

By Chow, Peter; Wood, Wendy | Journal of Instructional Psychology, September 2001 | Go to article overview

Comparing Canadian and United States High School Students on Cognitive Dissonance Test Scores


Chow, Peter, Wood, Wendy, Journal of Instructional Psychology


Comparisons on scores for the Cognitive Dissonance Test were made between 243 Canadian and 1275 United States high school students. Some gender differences were found for the two groups and in general, the United States male high school students showed greater cognitive dissonance than did the females. The Canadian students were shown to have both significantly lower dissonance scores and lie scores than their United States counterparts. The structure of the two societies might have contributed to the difference.

The present study sought to make comparisons on scores for The Cognitive Dissonance Test (DISS) (Cassel et al., 2000) between Canadian and United States high school students. DISS seeks to assess the nature and degree of cognitive dissonance (feeling of discomfort) present, which is often hidden deep in the unconscious, and sometimes causes serious health problems. These feelings tend to interfere with effective learning and human productivity. When people are made aware of the presence and nature of cognitive dissonance, they can take action to eliminate it.

Groups Involved

There were 243 students from three high schools in rural Northern Ontario, Canada, ranging in age from 13 to 27 years of age, with a mean age of 16.58, and with a standard deviation of 1.49 years. There were 146 females and 97 males. The United States high school group was from several urban high schools and had 1275 members ranging in age form 14 to 20, with a mean age of 16.18, and with a standard deviation of 1.37 years. There were 651 females and 624 males.

Gender Differences

A t-statistic was computed between the DISS mean scores for both the Canadian and United States students in relation to gender. For the Canadian high school students, there was no significant difference in scores for the different ages, and only two of the eight part scores showed a statistical difference for gender: (1) the Personal Adjustment score with a statistical significance of 0.034, with females showing the greater cognitive dissonance; and (2) the School and Learning score with a significance of 0.041, with males showing the greater cognitive dissonance. For the United States high school students the following scores showed statistically significant differences for gender as follows: the Home and Family score was significantly different at the 0.003 level, with greater cognitive dissonance for females; the School and Learning score was significant at the 0.038 level, with the greater cognitive dissonance for males; Social and Affiliation showed a difference at the 0.016 level, with the greater cognitive dissonance for males; and Survival and Power showed a difference at the 0.001 level, with the greater cognitive dissonance for males. As a group, the United States male high school students showed greater cognitive dissonance than did the females.

Differences Between the Two High Schools

A t-statistic was computed between the DISS mean scores for the Canadian and United States high schools as depicted in Table 1 below. Every one of the DISS scores showed a statistically significant difference at the 0.001 level with lower scores for the Canadian students. The Canadian students were 1.44 years older than the United States students, which may account in part for the lower cognitive dissonance mean scores. Except for Home and Family, all Canadian standard deviations were larger than comparable deviation scores for the United States students. Many of the Canadian students had low cognitive dissonance on the eight DISS part scores, but none of the United States students had such low cognitive dissonance scores. The LIE scores were significantly lower for the Canadian students showing greater understanding than their American counterparts. In spite of the referenced lower LIE score, 90 Canadian students failed to indicate either their age or their gender, and were dropped from the study.

Table 1
A t-Statistic Between DISS Means for Two High School Groups
(Canada=243 & US=1275)

                               United
DISS                Canadian   States     Diffe-      t-       Proba-
Scores              Students   Students   rence    Statistic   bility

Home &
Family-HOM:
  M                   26. … 

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