The Dynamics of Persuasion: Communication and Attitudes in the 21st Century

By Richard M. Perloff | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
Cognitive Dissonance
Theory
Edward Yourdon was nothing if not prepared. Fully expecting computers, cash machines, and VCRs to fail on January 1, 2000, the 55-year-old computer programmer took elaborate precautions. He relied on a backup computer to log onto the Internet. He stocked tuna fish and rice in a New Mexico home he built partly due to Y2K concerns, dividing his time between Taos and an apartment in New York. When the muchballyhooed electronic problems failed to materialize on New Year's Day, few would have been surprised if Mr. Yourdon expressed shame or embarrassment. Instead, the bulky computer programmer stuck by his predictions. “There is going to be another opportunity for bugs (on January 3), ” he insisted. “It is possible that bugs will manifest themselves in coming days and weeks, ” he said, apparently undaunted by reports that Y2K had arrived without serious incident. (Brooke, 2000)
When Litesa Wallace packed her bags for college at Western Illinois University some years back, she never harbored any doubt that she would pledge a sorority. The initiation rites for Delta Sigma Theta turned out to be a tad more severe than Litesa expected: doing 3,000 sit-ups, drinking hot sauce and vinegar, and swallowing her own vomit. While some might have quit at this point, Litesa endured the hardship. “She wanted to be in the sorority very badly. It's very prestigious, and she believed that it would be beneficial to her life, ” her attorney explained. Attorney? That's right: Ms. Wallace sued the sorority for hazing after she was hospitalized for injuries sustained during the initiation period. Yet even as she awaited the outcome of her suit, Litesa remained a Delta, apparently feeling considerable loyalty to the sorority. (Pharnor, 1999)
The following conversation, from the 1982 movie The Big Chill, sheds light on a phenomenon with which we are all familiar:

Sam: Why is it what you just said strikes me as a mass of rationalizations? Michael: Don't knock rationalizations. Where would we be without it? I don't know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They're more important than sex.

-223-

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