An Examination of Cognitive Dissonance and Computer Attitudes

Article excerpt

Leon Festinger originally introduced the concept of "cognitive dissonance" in 1957. Basically, this term refers to when individuals take a position on some issue, be it through what they say or what they do. Either way, a personal commitment is made, and that commitment is thought to shape these individuals' future attitudes and/or actions regarding the issue or thing in question. Well, where computers are concerned, what actions can occur that can demonstrate individuals' endorsement of them and/or favorable position toward them? Some things that seem to fit into this domain are (1) voluntary choice to use them, and/or (2) ownership of them. With these potential indicants of cognitive dissonance in mind, the present study will seek to determine if those individuals who voluntarily use computers demonstrate more favorable attitudes toward computers than their nonvoluntary counterparts, and/or if those individuals who own or have owned a computer demonstrate more favorable attitudes than their non-owner counterparts.

Besides these cognitive dissonance-related factors, students' attitudes toward computers will also be examined as a function of their gender and/or age.


A total of 164 undergraduate students (i.e., 71 females and 93 males), enrolled in a computer literacy class at a large Midwestern university, voluntarily participated in the present study. These students completed the Computer Attitude Scale (CAS; developed by Loyd and Gessard, 1984). This scale consists of 30 items that are intended to assess the respondents' attitudes toward computers and computer usage. The CAS contains three subscales (i.e., the "anxiety," "confidence," and "liking" subscales). The Likert-type alternatives for each item ranged from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree." In addition to these subscale scores, students were also surveyed regarding the number of hours per week that they voluntarily use a computer, whether or not they own or have owned a computer, their gender, and their age.


A series of analyses of covariance were used to examine the data. Each analysis considered a different subscale as the dependent variable, while all of the analyses considered all the independent variables, i.e., hours per week of voluntary use, whether or not they own or have owned a computer, their gender, and their age.

Computer Anxiety

While age (F[1/127] = 0.04, p [greater than] 0.05) and gender (F[1/127] = 3.64, p [greater than] 0.05) were not found to have any significant effect, the main effects of voluntary use (F[1/127] = 8.52, p [less than] 0.005) and ownership (F[1/127] = 9.48, p [less than] 0.005) were highly significant. Thus, those who had voluntarily used a computer were significantly less likely to experience computer anxiety than those who had not voluntarily used a computer, and those who owned or had owned a computer were also less likely to experience anxiety than those who had not owned a computer. …


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