Perspectives on Cognitive Dissonance

By Robert A. Wicklund; Jack W. Brehm | Go to book overview

5 Evidence on Fundamental Propositions

The paradigms discussed by Festinger ( 1957) were for the most part simple variations in the proportion of dissonant cognitive elements. The well known free-decision and forced-compliance models are the prime examples. The present chapter focuses specifically on these research models, and deals with research that varies, in a straightforward manner, the proportion of cognitive elements dissonant with a specified behavioral commitment. The chapter is divided into a fourfold classification, made possible because the research herein has varied the proportion of dissonant elements in one of the following ways: (a) number of positive attributes of the chosen alternative, (b) number of negative attributes of the chosen alternative, (c) number of positive attributes of the rejected alternative, and (d) number of negative attributes of the rejected alternative. The reader will find that many classical dissonance experiments are included here, and further, that the research reported in the present chapter does not bear directly upon the special issues for which other chapters have been written.


POSITIVE ATTRIBUTES OF THE CHOSEN ALTERNATIVE

Monetary Inducement

From the formula for dissonance arousal given in Chapter 1, it should be evident that monetary inducement associated with the chosen course of action will reduce the total magnitude of dissonance. This is because monetary inducement, being consonant with the chosen behavior, operates to lower the proportion of dissonant cognitions relative to the consonant elements.

The paradigm implied by the above reasoning was begun by Festinger and Carlsmith ( 1959). They asked college students to perform a boring and tedious task and then asked each to tell the "next subject" that the task was interesting and enjoyable. The positive attribute attached to making this false statement was

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