Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Forced Compliance, Misattribution and Trivialization

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Forced Compliance, Misattribution and Trivialization

Article excerpt

According to Festinger (1957), the perception of an inconsistency among an individual's cognitions produces a negative intrapersonal state labeled cognitive dissonance. This negative condition motivates the individual to reduce or to alleviate this aversive state. For instance, dissonance occurs when a person realizes a problematic behavior in high choice condition (forced compliance). In order to reduce dissonance, he/she can change his/her attitude in the direction of the problematic behavior (attitude change: Festinger & Carlsmith, 1959) or trivialize. Simon, Greenberg, and Brehm (1995) carried out the first experimental work on trivialization, a new mode of dissonance reduction. These authors showed that in induced compliance situations, participants could reduce dissonance by granting minimal importance to their compliant behavior or private attitude. Simon et al. examined attitude change and trivialization as two alternate modes for reducing dissonance. They manipulated the presentation order of the dependent variables (attitude first vs. trivialization first) and choice (high choice vs. low choice). The results showed that the high-choice participants used the first reduction mode made available. When trivialization was measured before attitude, participants trivialized but did not change their attitude. The inverse was also true: participants who reduced dissonance using the attitude-change mode no longer needed to trivialize. These results support exclusive switch model of alternate modes of dissonance reduction (e.g., Beauvois, Joule, & Brunetti, 1993; Gotz-Marchand, Gotz, & Irle, 1974).

From the beginning of his theory, Festinger (1957) posited that cognitive dissonance is an arousal state (see Elliot & Devine, 1994; Fazio & Cooper, 1983; Pallak & Pittman, 1972). Utilizing the attribution approach of Schachter and Singer (1962), Zanna and Cooper (1974) hypothesized that if dissonance was an arousal state and attitude change reduced it, then attitude change should not be observed after the attribution of arousal to a plausible external source. Zanna and Cooper (1974) showed that in dissonance condition participants who had ingested a pill said to induce tension changed attitude less compared with participants who had ingested a pill said to have a relaxing effect. This result has been replicated with another external source of misattribution and further attested that dissonance is an arousal state (Fazio & Cooper, 1983). It is worth mentioning that Fointiat (1998) showed that if participants in a misattribution situation did not change their attitude, they were found to use another mode of dissonance reduction, namely act rationalization (Beauvois & Joule, 1996, 1999; Beauvois, Joule, & Brunetti, 1993; Joule, 1996). Moreover, in misattribution situations attitude change can occur if counterattitudinal behavior is reintegrated (Higgins, Rhodewalt, & Zanna, 1979), or if participants come to question the appropriateness of the misattribution's source (Wright, Rule, Ferguson, McGuire, & Wells, 1992). In sum, participants in misattribution situations experience cognitive dissonance. The aim of this study was to test trivialization in a misattribution situation. This testing has never been done before. It is hypothesized that another mode of dissonance reduction might be used in misattribution situations. More specifically, the present study was aimed at finding out whether the lack of an attitude change in a misattribution situation could be accompanied by trivialization of counterattitudinal behavior.

METHOD

Using a 2 x 2 design, participants were asked to write down arguments "in favor of selective admission to the university" (1). All participants were free to agree or refuse to do so. The misattribution source was manipulated by making the participants believe that ultrasound waves were (ultrasound condition) or were not (no-ultrasound condition) being emitted in the experimentation room. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.