Perspectives on Cognitive Dissonance

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

15 Related Theoretical Developments

Several attempts have been made to improve upon or extend dissonance theory since its inception. These modifications, qualifications, or additions have not been conceived primarily as replacements for the theory, and they were not inspired by a desire to interpret dissonance phenomena in totally different language. Each of them focuses on some particular feature of the theory, such as commitment or the role of the self, and elaborates that feature into a qualification of the theory, or even into a distinct but compatible theoretical formulation. The first of these we will discuss is an elaboration of the idea of "commitment," by Kiesler.


COMMITMENT

Our use of "commitment" thus far has treated the concept as equivalent to behavior. Implicit in our discussion has been an assumption that some behaviors are more resistant to change than others, meaning that the person can be committed to his behaviors in varying degrees, but we have not generally invoked the idea of variations in commitment. This is because the research has not called for the concept of "degrees of commitment." Experimental subjects either decide or they do not, at least in the preponderance of the investigations. Kiesler ( 1971) has seized on the concept of commitment to turn it into a psychological reality. Although he is hesitant to label his considerations as "theory," we will take the liberty of treating his notion as a theory that is different from dissonance theory, but which builds upon and extends the basic tenets of dissonance theory.

Kiesler does not view commitment as a source of dynamic psychological processes, but instead, as an inert entity with the property of freezing a person to particular acts. To be committed is to be rigid in the face of forces that call

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