Until this point our comments on cognitive dissonance research have been based almost entirely on experimental investigations, but it should be obvious that the nature of the theory in no way implies only experimental tests. Preexperimental, more or less permanent differences between individuals provide an entire arena of research possibilities, and the purpose of this chapter is to explicate the role of individual differences in dissonance arousal and reduction processes. The material of this chapter could easily have been interspersed among discussions at various other points in this book, but we have found a number of special considerations in the area of individual differences that warrant a separate treatment. Some of these considerations will be mentioned now, at the outset, and they will become more manifest as the details of the relevant research are explored.
Why study individual differences within the present theoretical context? Most apparent is that certain variables having something to do with dissonance arousal are by nature individual differences. It may be more dissonance arousing for a man to walk into the ladies' restroom than for a woman to enter the same restroom. The dissonance created by a choice between toys may be greater for children than for adults, and it is also easy to imagine cultural differences as a source of differential dissonance. The use of individual difference variables is not a necessity for testing the rigor of the theory, but if an investigator happens to be interested in some specific variable such as sex or age and its relationship to dissonance arousal, there is no completely experimental approach to be taken. Perhaps the reason that such variables have not yet surfaced in this volume is that interest in the theory has been focused primarily on theoretical tests. For such tests the investigator can typically deal with experimental variables exclu-