The discussion of exposure studies in Chapter 4 raises the general question of the value of experiments in the area of communication and opinion change as tests of dissonance theory. Experiments in this area are frequently highly ambiguous because just as they can easily be interpreted in dissonance terms, they can also easily be interpreted in terms of, for example, judgmental processes. Thus we have to contend with the plausibility of other theoretical views.
As we said in Chapter 1, while it is reasonable to speak of dissonance as aroused by any discrepancy between cognitions, the conditions that result once commitment to some discrepant position has occurred provide the most valid tests of the theory, give it its nonobvious flavor, and permit a specification of modes of dissonance reduction. When both judgmental processes and dissonance processes can compete in explaining phenomena, as is the case where commitment is absent, dissonance theory enters a shadowy area insofar as its ease of confirmation is concerned.
It is pertinent here to specify exactly what we mean when we speak of "judgmental processes." Most generally, we refer to the notion of