Examining the "Cognitive Dissonance" of Students at Pleasantville High School by Grade and by Gender

By Reiger, Robert C. | Education, Fall 2000 | Go to article overview

Examining the "Cognitive Dissonance" of Students at Pleasantville High School by Grade and by Gender


Reiger, Robert C., Education


The Cognitive Dissonance Test (DISS) is designed to assess the nature and degree of "hurts" of individuals that often lie deep in the unconscious, so that they are able to deal with such hurts in a conscious and cognitive manner. A study reported in the New York Times in December 1949 found that knowledge of Cognitive Dissonance is the greatest contribution to society for the first half of the 20th century- from the Victorian to the Atomic Age (Commager, 1949). The DISS test is designed to provide students such knowledge of where and how much it hurts in the unconscious. It is comprised of 200 true/false type items that are designed to discover the nature and degree of cognitive dissonance present, but not the often "gory" and personal details of why it hurts. It is comprised of eight part scores with 25 items in each:

Part I -- Internal and Personal:

1. Home & Family --        HOM
2. Internal Development -- INN
3. Personal Development -- PER
4. Health & Well-Being --  HEA

Part I Total -- IPTOT Part II -- External & Impersonal:

5. School & Learning -    SCH
6. Social & Affiliation - SOC
7. Survival & Power -     SUR
8. Life Pursuits -        LIF

Part II Total -- EITOT

DISS Total Score -- DISTOT

Discern Score -- LIE

Group Involved

The group is comprised of 140 students presently attending Pleasantville High School ranging in age from 14 to 20 years, with a mean age of 16.56, and with a standard deviation of 1.23 years. There were 84 females and 56 males. It included 48 freshman, 11 sophomores, 47 juniors, and 34 seniors.

Change in Cognitive Dissonance During High School

The data contained in Table 2 below displays an analysis of variance of the mean DISS scores over the four years of high school. Everyone of the DISS mean scores, except for PER (Personal Adjustment), was higher in the senior year than it was for entering freshman-an increase in hurts during the high school years. While only the HOM score was significantly higher, based on the Sign Test clearly there was significantly higher cognitive dissonance across the board for all areas during the high school years. The positive correlations between the DISS scores, and especially the total score, in Table 1 show precisely the same story as the analysis of variance of scores in Table 2. For HOM the correlation of 0.229 is statistically significant at the 01 level of confidence. The HEA and other scores are significant at the 05 level (r = 0.175), IPTOT (r = 0.167), SCH (r = 0.180, SUR (r = 0.170), and the DISTOT score were all included (r = 0.176). A multiple linear regression with a constant was accomplished using all possible DISS scores in concert Only two of the combinations gave significant positive results showing an increase in dissonance during the four high school years: GRADE and DISTOT R=0.038, and HOM+INN+PER+HEA & GRADE R=017. No significant dissonance was increased for scores in the IPTOT area, and where social and interaction with people was involved.

Table 1 Pearson Correlations of DISS Scores (N=1401

Scores      (1)      (2)    (3)     (4)      (5)      (6)     (7)

1. AGE      1000
2. GENDER   -014     1000
3. GRADE    876(*)   -124   1000
4. HOM      185      -030   229(*)  1000
5. INN      125      -021   132     524(*)   1000
6. PFR      -054     049    -017    289(*)   543(*)   1000
7. HEA      150      -040   175     518(*)   560(*)   654(*)  1000
8. IPTOT    132      -015   167     738(*)   819(*)   770(*)  863(*)
9. SCH      143      001    180     463(*)   424(*)   333(*)  517(*)
10. SOC     063      052    131     379(*)   552(*)   517(*)  492(*)
11.SUR      137      035    170     399(*)   555(*)   643(*)  696(*)
12. LIF     075      -013   142     456(*)   564(*)   444(*)  578(*)
13. EITOT   093      051    154     461(*)   607(*)   586(*)  665(*)
14. DISTOT  164      -003   176     646(*)   725(*)   652(*)  787(*)
15. … 

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