Computational Modeling and Simulation of Attitude Change Part 1: Connectionist Models and Simulations of Cognitive Dissonance. an Overview

Article excerpt


Cognitive Dissonance Theory is considered part of the cognitive consistency theories in Social Psychology. They uncover a class of conceptual models which describe the attitude change as a cognitive consistency-seeking issue. As these conceptual models requested more complex operational expression, algebraic, mathematical and, lately, computational modeling approaches of cognitive consistency have been developed. Part 1 of this work provides an overview of the connectionist modeling of cognitive dissonance. At their time, these modeling approaches have revealed that a Computational Social Psychology project would acquire the community recognition as a new scientific discipline. This work provides an overview of the first computational models developed for the Cognitive Dissonance Theory. They are connectionist models based eitheron on the constraint satisfaction paradigm or on the attributional theory.Three models are described: Consonance Model (Shultz and Lepper, 1996), Adaptive Connectionist Model for Cognitive Dissonance (Van Owervalle and Joders, 2002), and the Recurrent Neural Network Model for long-term attitude change resulting from cognitive dissonance reduction (Read and Monroe, 2007). These models, and some others, proved from the very beginning the considerable potential for the development of cognitive modeling of the theories of cognitive dissonance. Revisiting the Cognitive Dissonance Theory once again only proves that this potential is even larger than expected.

Keywords: connectionist model, cognitive dissonance, cognitive consistency

1. Introduction

Cognitive Dissonance has been considered one of the most relevant theories in Social Psychology. Since 1957, when it has been formulated by Leon Festiger, the theory has provided the background for attitude change research. Its history and concept have been presented in many articles, books, handbooks, sourcebooks and encyclopedic works: Abelson et al. 1968; Aronson, 1969; 1992; 1997; Cooper and Fazio, 1984; Eagley and Chaiken, 1993; Cooper, 2007, to name but a few, emphasizing its huge potential for further development and application as both conceptual and computational models in cognitive, social and political sciences on issues going from self-affirmation to cultural diversity and social value change.

In its more than half-century history, research interest in Cognitive Dissonance Theory has been renewed several times, inducing conceptual and modeling advances. Its research domain grows and varies sometimes unexpectedly. A good example is the current renewed interest in cognitive dissonance research in the scientific and academic (online) media from Eastern Europe, Middle East, African, and Extreme-Orient countries1. Therefore, synthetic works on its history and concept are helpful in providing a comprehensive perspective over its beginnings, development and advances. Moreover, a thorough approach of the past usually helps in better appreciate the present and the future. This works for the Cognitive Dissonance Theory and not only.

2. History and Concept

Attitude is a central concept in Social Psychology. When analyzing social behavior, the issue of attitude change is fundamental for predicting the behavior of both individuals and collectivities. Attitude change is considered the source of behavioral expression and variability.

As it has been defined by Festinger (Festinger, 1957), the cognitive dissonance is an attitude change mechanism: it denotes a cognitive state of imbalance called "dissonance" and concerns the cognitive tensions which emerge from inconsistencies between beliefs and actions. Such imbalance states act as adriving forces towards attitude change either by modifying the attitude or by increasing the consistency of beliefs.

Deeply influenced by the Gestalt theory at its beginnings, conceptual and formal models of attitude change have been mainly concerned with experimental psychology (Eagly and Chaiken, 1993). …


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