Perspectives on Cognitive Dissonance

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

Selective exposure to information is a form of dissonance reduction and/or avoidance qualitatively distinct from other measures reported throughout this book. There appear to be unique problems associated with this measure, and historically, dissonance research involving selective exposure has been treated as a distinct entity ( Festinger, 1957; Freedman & Sears, 1965; Katz, 1968; Mills, 1968; Sears, 1968). For these reasons this chapter will delve into some problems oriented around the measure of selective exposure, rather than focusing on independent variables as has been the custom in other chapters.


Experimenters who have investigated selective exposure have for some reason been extremely interested in dissonance created by commitment to smoking. Accordingly, an example to introduce this chapter might best begin with a person's commitment to smoking and his subsequent desire to see or hear antismoking information. This hypothetical study has just two conditions. A sample of smokers is obtained, as well as a sample of nonsmokers who are in all other respects similar to the smokers. These two groups define the two conditions. Just to make the idea of behavioral commitment a salient feature, we might assume that the subjects are teenagers who have recently decided to become smokers or nonsmokers. Further, to be clear about the relative resistance to change of the cognitive elements, we might assume that these youthful smokers have committed themselves knowingly to a lifetime of addiction to tobacco--particularly cigarettes. So far the experiment resembles the simplest possible experiment of Chapter 2. We have only a variation in commitment.

What are the sources of dissonance for these two groups of subjects? For the smoker, dissonance should be created by the price of cigarettes, relevant medical


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Perspectives on Cognitive Dissonance


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