Explorations in Cognitive Dissonance

By Jack W. Brehm; Arthur R. Cohen | Go to book overview

3 Positive alternatives

In this and the following chapter we shall review the existing research relevant to a wide range of derivations from disssonance theory. It will be elm that the bulk of this research concerns the consequences of dissonance for attitude change most broadly conceived; but in addition, the effects of dissonance upon exposure to information and upon behavior have also been explored.

The experiments discussed represent three general kinds of investigations: (1) those that can be viewed as "free-choice" situations, (2) those that involve situations of "forced compliance," and (3) those that involve "exposure" to information.

The "free-choice" situations generally involve a choice between attractive or potentially attractive alternatives which differ along the dimension of attractiveness or some other dimension. The subject in these experiments presumably wants to make a choice because of the benefits or potential benefits accruing to the choice, and little or no external pressure is needed to produce the choice. Dissonance in these studies is usually conceived of as a function of the relative number of cognitions favoring the unchosen alternative.

The "forced-compliance" experiments usually involve a choice between engaging in a discrepant act (i.e., an act that one would not

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