Perspectives on Cognitive Dissonance

By Robert A. Wicklund; Jack W. Brehm | Go to book overview

18 Perspectives

The preceding chapters have shown that there is abundant evidence in support of Festinger's ( 1957) original statement of dissonance theory. Having cognitions that are inconsistent tends to create dissonance in a person, and as dissonance arousal increases there are increased attempts to reduce or eliminate it. The magnitude of dissonance is a direct function of the importance of the inconsistent cognitions, and in regard to any one cognition, the magnitude of dissonance is a direct function of the ratio of dissonant to consonant cognitions. In general, dissonance can be reduced by eliminating dissonant relationships between cognitions, and where more than one relationship is concerned, by reducing the ratio of dissonant to consonant cognitions. Further, because cognitions differ in their resistance to change, a person will attempt to reduce dissonance by changing those cognitions that are least resistant.

This conceptual outline led Festinger ( 1957) to suggest three general implications: (1) When a person chooses between attractive alternatives he experiences dissonance that can be reduced by magnifying the attractiveness of the chosen alternative and by reducing the attractiveness of the rejected alternative; (2) When a person is "forced" to engage in behavior that he would normally avoid, he experiences dissonance that can be reduced by coming to favor the behavior in which he has engaged; and (3) When a person is experiencing dissonance with regard to some issue, he will tend to seek dissonance-reducing information, and correspondingly, he will tend to avoid dissonance-increasing information. As we have seen, most of the research on dissonance theory is related to one or another of these general implications.

In some of the relatively early work on dissonance theory, Brehm and Cohen ( 1962) raised questions about what conditions are necessary and sufficient for the arousal of dissonance. They suggested that only cognitive inconsistencies occurring as a consequence of a volitional act would arouse dissonance. However, as we saw in Chapter 4, not all cognitive inconsistencies resulting from volitional acts arouse dissonance. Indeed, the research on this question has shown that what determines whether a cognitive inconsistency arouses disso-

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Perspectives on Cognitive Dissonance
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • COMPLEX HUMAN BEHAVIOR ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword ix
  • A Special Dedication xi
  • Preface xiii
  • 1 - Introduction to the Theory 1
  • 2 - Commitment 11
  • 3 - Choice 25
  • 4 - Foreseeability and Responsibility 51
  • 5 - Evidence on Fundamental Propositions 72
  • 6 - Energizing Effects of Cognitive Dissonance 86
  • 7 - Awareness of Inconsistent Cognitions 98
  • 8 - Regret and Other Sequential Processes 106
  • 9 - Modes of Response to Dissonance 124
  • 10 - Motivational Effects of Dissonance 140
  • 11 - Resistance to Extinction and Related Effects 160
  • 12 - Selective Exposure 170
  • 13 - Interpersonal Processes 191
  • 14 - Individual Differences 220
  • 15 - Related Theoretical Developments 239
  • 16 - Alternative Explanations of Dissonance Phenomena 260
  • 17 - Applications 288
  • 18 - Perspectives 314
  • References 323
  • Author Index 341
  • Subject Index 347
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