Explorations in Cognitive Dissonance

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

Speculations about dissonance arousal 11

Our review of the literature has shown the variety of research and empirical generalizations to which dissonance theory has led. It has also shown, however, that there are ambiguities concerning various aspects of the theory. In this chapter we shall point out some difficulties concerning the specification of conditions under which dissonance occurs and suggest some theoretical solutions for these difficulties.

As already noted, the defining statement for a dissonant relationship is that one cognition follows from the obverse of another. The magnitude of dissonance associated with any given cognitive element can then be ascertained by comparing the number and importance of dissonant elements with the number and importance of consonant elements. In addition, the magnitude of dissonance is directly proportional to the importance of the relevant elements, other things held constant.

Although these statements seem rather abstract, they can be operationalized sufficiently well to provide empirical tests, as is shown in our review of the evidence. In particular, the studies involving "forced compliance" and those involving "free choice" seem to be particularly clear and successful in their demonstrations of dissonance. What is

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