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UTC / Psychology / PSY 3310 / What is Cognitive Dissonance?

What is Cognitive Dissonance?

What is Cognitive Dissonance?

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School: University of Tennessee - Chattanooga
Department: Psychology
Course: Social Psychology
Professor: David ross
Term: Fall 2016
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Cost: 50
Name: Exam 2 Study Guide
Description: This document is a filled out study guide of what Professor Ross sent to us.
Uploaded: 11/04/2016
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Social Psychology


What is Cognitive Dissonance?



Study Guide

Exam 2

1. Compare and contrast cognitive-dissonance and self-perception theory. How  are the two theories similar? How are they different?

∙ Similarities 

o They are both balance theories that elaborate on human tendency to  seek consistencies in cognition.

o Both assume that behavior influences our attitudes, and are  attempting to answer why we have specific attitudes about things. ∙ Differences 

o CD is about how our attitudes change. SPT is about how our attitudes  are formed.

o CD requires a strong initial attitude (a standard of behavior). SPT does not require a strong attitude, but rather a weak or non-existent  one (as in the person has no strong feelings about the subject).

o In CD our already strong attitude is adjusted to fit with our behaviors  in order to remain consistent. In SPT our behavior decides/forms our  attitude, since we do not have a strong initial attitude to begin with.  


What is Self-Perception Theory?



o CD focuses on the justification attempts after the action has taken  place. If a behavior can be justified with their beliefs, the person will  have no physical discomfort with acting that way, but if the behavior  cannot be justified with their beliefs they will change their beliefs. If you want to learn more check out when was the Rise of U.S. as a global power?

▪ Example: Kids are mildly told not to play with a specific toy,  while other kids are punished for playing with the toy. The kids  who were mildly told not to play with it will justify their  

behavior of not playing with the toy by thinking that they don’t  really want to play with the toy anyways. The kids who were  

punished will still want to play with the toy because their  Don't forget about the age old question of How do the stars move in the night sky?
We also discuss several other topics like when was the proclamation of amnesty and reconstruction?

behavior of not playing with it was only caused by severe  

punishment.  

o SPT on the other hand looks at behavior to form attitudes. If a person  has a hobby initially, and then they begin to be paid for doing their  hobby, that money reward will be viewed as the reason they are  doing their hobby instead of the enjoyment of it. The person has


What is Cognitive Dissonance theory?



looked at the behavior, and now believes that since they are getting  money for it they cannot possibly enjoy their hobby anymore.  Rewards for hobbies lead people to enjoy them less.

2. What exactly does cognitive-dissonance and self-perception theory say?

∙ Cognitive Dissonance: This is the stress and anxiety people feel when their  beliefs do not match up with their behavior. To fix this, people will adjust  their attitudes to be in line with their behavior. Nobody wants to feel  hypocritical or like they are liars, so we persuade and convince ourselves  that we are not through a number of personally valid excuses. This creates  balance and comfort in a person’s life, to act the way they think they are. (Ex: You believe that people should vote, but you did not vote this year. To  create balance you tell yourself that you were too sick to have gone to the  polling place.) There are four things that have to happen for this to occur in  an individual: If you want to learn more check out what is Dollar Shave Club Video?

o The inconsistency has to cause negative consequences. (I should  have voted because I believe people should vote)

o The individual has to take responsibility for their actions. (I know that  I should have voted and did not)

o There has to be physiological arousal which is generally physical  discomfort. (Not voting bothered you)

o The arousal has to be associated with the action that had negative  consequences. (I am bothered by not voting) We also discuss several other topics like what is frost action?
If you want to learn more check out Why is the smoking rate high in the south and east part of US?

∙ Self-Perception Theory: Attitudes can be formed by observing our own  behavior. This theory explains how our attitudes are formed, or how our  weak and inconsistent attitudes are altered because of our behavior. This  shift in attitude has a lot to do with our motivation to appear in a certain  way around others. If an attitude is on a shaky foundation, others can easily  influence change. Example: If people are asked to smile while watching  something, they will like it more than if they had not smiled. Their behavior  formed an attitude about it.

3. What implications do cognitive-dissonance and self-perception theory have  for child rearing?

∙ According to Cognitive Dissonance theory, severe punishment results in  the child still wanting to do whatever they were punished for doing. This is  because they associate the reason for not doing the activity with being

punished, instead of not liking the activity. Mild measures are much more  efficient to get a child to not perform the specific activity, because when  they are not doing it they start to believe that they did not really like the  activity in the first place.  

∙ According to Self-Perception Theory, rewarding participation in an  intrinsically pleasing activity (a hobby) will make the person or child not  enjoy the activity as much as they did before the reward. This does not  work if the reward is for competence, but only if the reward is for simply  performing the task. For example, if you enjoy running and enter a race and  get first place that does not mean you will enjoy running less. But if you  were running with others and got the same reward at the end as everybody  else, you might begin to not like running anymore because you associate  the behavior of running with getting a reward instead of enjoyment.  

4. Describe in detail and explain an experiment that was presented in class that  supported each cognitive dissonance theory and self-perception theory. Be  detailed in your description-- state what was done, the measures, and what was  found in each experiment. For example, describe and explain the famous  Festinger & Carlsmith study on cognitive dissonance.

∙ Cognitive Dissonance Experiment: Festinger and Carlsmith (1959)  Participants were given either $20 or $1 to perform an unarguably boring  task. Then they were asked to lie to the participants next in line to perform  the task that the task was really fun. Those who received $20 admitted that  the task was boring afterwards. Those who received $1 claimed that the  task was enjoyable afterwards, and not boring. The reason this happened  is because people do not want inconsistencies in their behavior and beliefs.  People with $20 justified lying by getting paid. The people with $1 did not  receive enough money to justify the lie, so they in turn tried to make  themselves believe that the boring task was a fun one.  

∙ Self-Perception Theory Experiment: College men were hooked up to  electrodes and told that the researchers were just measuring their heart  rates, but really the researchers were controlling their heart rates. The  researchers showed the men pictures, and during the showing of a  randomly selected image, the researchers would speed up his heart rate. At  the end the men were asked to choose to take home one of the images.  The men took home the image when their heart rate increased. They

thought they liked the image the most because their behavior changed for  that image.  

∙ Another Self-Perception Experiment: Participants were chosen who had  either strong pro-environment attitudes or weak pro-environmental  attitudes. They were then asked questions that were phrased in either pro  or anti-environmental formats. An example of a pro-environmental  question would be “I recycle every opportunity I get”. Those who had weak  attitudes initially were more pro-environmentalist afterwards because they  were asked questions that were pro-environment. Those who had strong  attitudes were not changed. Their behavior of answering the questions  formed their attitude about the topic.  

∙ Another Self-Perception Experiment: The marshmallow experiment: kids  were in a room with a marshmallow and they were told to either eat it now  and get no more or wait to eat it and get another one for waiting. They  were hungry and wanted to eat it but they also wanted the reward at the  end.

5. Compare and contrast social facilitation and social loafing. How are they  similar? How are they different?

∙ Social Facilitation: This is when an individual performs a task better in front  of an audience than they do alone. This is only true some of the time. If the  person is proficient and confident in the task, they are much more likely to  perform well with an audience. But if the person is not experienced or  confident in the task, an audience could cause them to perform worse than  normal. 

∙ Social Loafing: This is when individuals working in a group slack off and  perform worse than they would if they were working individually. Both kids  and adults do this. It is more prevalent in individualistic cultures like the  USA than collectivist culture like China. Same goes with men. Men tend to  social loaf more than females do. It is more common when individual effort  is not measured. Social loafing goes down if the members are actually  interested in the project. Reward is another important motivator to not  social loaf. 

∙ Similarities: Both ideas involve performing tasks in the presence of others.

∙ Differences:  

o Facilitation focuses on the individual performing alone in front of  others. Loafing occurs when the individual is in a group, and their  individual contribution is not being assessed.  

o In facilitation, others enhance the performance of an easy task. In  loafing, others decrease performance on a group task due to  

anonymity. 

6. Explain exactly how social facilitation and social loafing take place. What does  Zajonc say about how social facilitation works?

∙ Zajonc came up with the idea of physiological arousal due to others being  present causing a dominant response in the individual performing the task.  The dominant response can go two ways. One: the person could be  experienced and confident in the task and perform better, or two: the  person could be less experienced and perform poorly in front of  others. Performing better is social facilitation, performing poorly is social  inhibition. 

∙ Social facilitation and social loafing both take place by being in the presence  of other people. Other people cause an arousal in the individual performing  the task.  

7. What impact does the presence of other people have on human  performance? How were the conflicting findings on this question resolved?

∙ Mere presence is just the fact that other people are observing you. An experiment showed that even cockroaches and other insects such as  ants perform better in front of other cockroaches or others of the same  species, than alone. The presence of others causes arousal that can either  improve your performance, or worsen it depending on how practiced you  are at the task. 

∙ Evaluation Apprehension: Performance can be heightened or hindered  based on the audience. The example for this is sports players choking at a  critical moment in the game due to an unsupportive audience.

∙ Distraction conflict theory: this refers to the conflict of attention the  person performing the task undergoes. If the task is simple, people  watching can improve your ability. But if the task is difficult, people  watching can make you perform worse. An example is parallel parking with  a passenger in car. Do you do better or worse when being watched? 

8. Under what conditions does social loafing occur?

∙ Social Loafing occurs when individual effort is not measured at the end. If  the group is simply working for a goal of completion, members of the group  will slack off expecting someone else to do it.  

∙ Social loafing is more likely to occur if the activity is not intrinsically  pleasing. If it is easy or boring and there is no cognitive challenge. ∙ Social loafing occurs when there is no great motivational reward for the  task.  

∙ Social loafing occurs when group members observe other members not  doing anything either.  

9. What exactly is deindividuation? How does it take place?

∙ This is when people let go of self-awareness and go with the ideas of a  group, generally a very large group. They lose their identity, their sense of  self, their inhibitions. This leads to negative or violent outcomes. 

∙ Zimbardo: he came up with 3 conditions associated with deindividuation.  Arousal (an example would be sports fans after a win), then anonymity (the crowd is big enough where no one can pick you out), and reduced feelings of responsibility (everyone is doing it).  

10. What empirical evidence is there for deindividuation? Name and describe  several studies that provide support for deindividuation.

∙ Zimbardo tested two groups of females in NY University. One group wore  hoods, the other did not. They were asked how much of an electric shock  subjects should receive and the hooded girls said twice as much as the non hoods. This is due to being anonymous.

∙ Diener, Fraser, and Kelem: kids who wear Halloween costumes in groups  without being known steal more candy than kids who were by themselves  or had their names known at the beginning.

∙ Watson (1973): He studied warfare patterns in over 200 cultures. Cultures  where the warriors deindividuated themselves by wearing masks and paint  were more likely to torture their captives than the cultures that did not  deindividuate their warriors. The masks were a form of anonymity.

∙ In 1981 Leon Mann conducted studies on suicide baiting. This is where  someone is about to commit suicide, for example jump off a building, and a  crowd forms and baiting occurs. It happens more frequently at night.

11. What real life examples are there that deindividuation takes place?

∙ In 1997, the Heaven’s Gate cult committed a group suicide to attain a  higher spiritual self. 

∙ Soldiers in boot camp are deindividualized to become a group. ∙ Sports fans at sporting events can easily get pulled into the mob mentality. 

∙ Executioners have two people flip the switch to electrocute in order to  remain anonymous. Firing squads fire blanks except one to remain  anonymous. 

12. Describe the findings of past research on the attitude-behavior consistency  issue? Have the findings always shown there to be a relationship between  attitudes and behavior?

∙ Absolutely not! In 1934 LaPiere conducted a study that found attitude and  behavior to not have a relationship. This was obviously WRONG! ∙ Later studies proved this wrong by find a relationship between attitude and  behaviors (1974 Kelly and Mirer). The two theories of cognitive dissonance  and self-perception theory came out in the 1960s which attempt to explain  how behavior affects attitude.

13. What is an attitude? Which part of an attitude has the most impact on  behavior?

∙ An attitude is a consistent viewing towards an idea or person or thing. It  contains 3 parts:

o Cognition: What do I think about said person, idea or thing? What do  I know about it?

o Affective (emotions): How do I feel about it? This is harder to change  and has the most impact on behavior.  

o Behavioral: Response towards it.

14. When do attitudes influence behavior? Give an example of a research study  to support your answer.

∙ When our attitude about something is strong. Such as I feel strongly about  the subject divorce. It is something that I have a set mindset on and would  be difficult to dissuade.  

∙ When our attitude is relevant and salient to our current behaviors. This  means that the attitude reflects concepts that are currently prominent in  our lives.

o In 1976 Synder and Swann asked some mock jurors to think about  their attitudes towards sexual discrimination and then did not ask  the other mock jurors to think about it. After the trial, those who  were asked to reflect first showed greater consistency in their  verdicts and attitudes than those who did not reflect. This shows that  the prominence of the attitude in the minds of the jurors allowed for  their attitudes to be consistent with their behavior.  

∙ The consistency of the attitude: How often do you change it or remain true  to it?

∙ Social pressures and influences from society. If everyone is doing it, it will  be more difficult to remain consistent with your individual attitude.  

15. What is the overjustification effect? Given an example to support your  answer

∙ Overjustification effect: People who have interest in tasks (intrinsic  motivation) will have less interest when they get rewarded monetarily. This  is only relevant when the task is completion and not level of competence.

This occurs because people associate their hobby with a reward, instead of  associating their hobby with the joy of it.  

∙ 1987 study: College students who had a hobby of writing were paid for  their hobby. The people lost interest in writing as a hobby when they got  paid. 

16. Describe the famous Reagan Fazio study done on students at Cornell who  experienced a housing shortage that examined the impact of personal  experience on the consistency between attitudes- behavior.

∙ A study was conducted at Cornell University when they were experiencing a  housing shortage for freshman. The freshman were forced to spend a few  weeks in temporary uncomfortable housing until other arrangements could  be made. Some freshman had to stay in temporary, but other freshman got  to go ahead and go to permanent housing. All the freshman, whether in  temporary housing or not, had a negative attitude towards the housing  situation. But only those in temporary housing were motivated to fix the  problem (write a letter to people in charge verses just signing a petition). This study shows that an attitude can have more weight with personal  experience than by just standing alone.  

17. Why study obedience? Give several examples of real world obedience and  why it is important to study it?

∙ To understand how the Nazi soldiers in WWII could have obeyed one man  so strongly.  

∙ To understand how Jim Jones could have convinced 912 people to commit  suicide with him.

∙ To understand how the US soldiers in Vietnam could massacre the entire  My Lai village of men, women, and children so effortlessly.  

∙ To understand how male and female US soldiers in 2003 could justify  torturing prisoners so cruelly.

18. Describe in detail, the famous Milgram experiment on obedience. What did  Milgram do? What procedures were used? What was found in this experiment?

∙ Participants were told that the researchers were studying effects of  punishment on learning and memory.

∙ Only males were recruited and they were found from an ad in the  newspaper.  

∙ The participants were called teachers and asked to give a verbal test to  "students" in another room, and when they answered incorrectly the  participants were required to administer an electric shock to the students.  The participant/teacher was initially shocked to understand what they were  doing to the students. The participant did not know that the students were  really a research confederate in on the experiment.  

∙ The experiment's mission was to discover just how far people would go  when listening to an authority figure. The shock ranged from 15 volts to  450 volts.  

∙ 65% of the participants went all the way to 450 volts, which is well passed  severe pain for those getting shocked. Those who went all the way  definitely showed signs of a moral dilemma with giving the shocks. But  because a man in a white lab coat who was viewed as an authority told  them to keep going, so they did. 

∙ Milgram did these experiments because of his curiosity on why the Nazis  did what they did in the Holocaust. The war trials were released from the  Nazi soldiers and the soldiers kept claiming they were just doing what they  were told to do. 

∙ Before Milgram conducted the experiment, he surveyed a bunch of  psychiatrists to see how many predicted the participants would go all the  way in voltage. They answered no one. They were very wrong. 

19. What studies were done by Milgram to explain his basic findings on  obedience? That is, how did Milgram examine the impact of feeling sorry for the  student and making the experimenter less powerful impact obedience?

∙ The characteristics of the participant (rich poor etc.) did not change the  obedience level. 

∙ Removing the screen between the teacher and student, the teacher  physically touching the students hand and putting it on the shock plate, and  extremely loud screaming of pain coming from the student did not lower  obedience levels from the teacher. Feeling sorry for the student did not  lower obedience from the teacher.

∙ The only thing that got rid of the obedience was undermining the  credibility of the person in authority. This was done by having the  experimenter on the phone and not in the room, or when multiple experiments started to fight of the morality of the experiment. Having one  

other person stand up for justice caused the teachers to not complete the  experiment. 

20. According to lecture, why did so many people give full shock?

∙ The participants were paid and felt like they had an obligation to finish the  experiment. 

∙ We are taught to be obedient early in life. How often do you stop at red lights? 

∙ They felt like the person in charge held the responsibility, meaning they  were not held responsible. 

∙ The authority figure was a credible expert. 

21. What were the implications of the Milgram shock experiments? How did it  change the way that psychologists do research?

∙ The findings of the Milgram experiment provided an explanation as to why  people obey in circumstances to the extreme, such as the Holocaust or the  Jim Jones mass suicide.

∙ The methods of the experiment also caused ethics committees to rise up to  not let experiments like this take place again.

22. What was found in the new replication of Milgram’s famous shock  experiments? Describe the methodology and the results.

∙ They stopped people at 150 volts because they believed that those who  went to 450 volts in Milgram's experiment would go all the way once they  got to 150. It was the cut off. If they went to 150, they would go to 450.  

∙ One of the male participants blamed the student because “if he was in  serious pain he could just rip off the electrodes.” He blamed the victim. "I  was just doing my job." The teacher/participant kept looking back at the  experimenter to make sure it was okay. He even laughed.  

∙ The typical response for the participants was to turn around and look at the  authority to make sure it was okay.

∙ 2/3 of the men, same percentage as Milgram's, went all the way to 150  volts. They tested women too. 73% of the women went all the way, which  was more than the men. 

23. Summarize the major points addressed by Zimbardo in the video on the  Psychology of Evil.

∙ The Psychology of Evil video was given by Zimbardo for TED. He covered  famous cases of blind obedience such as the Jim Jones mass suicide, the  prison experiment where normal people were put into roles as either  prison guards or prisoners, the torture given by US troops in a prison facility in 2003, the black man who jumped onto the subway tracks to save a white  man, and the Holocaust.

∙ Zimbardo himself was involved in the trials of the prison torture committed  by US troops. He was an expert witness which gave him access to all the  documents pertaining to the case.

∙ He married a hero. The woman who stood up for the participants in the prison/prison guard study which was conducted by Philip Zimbardo himself! ∙ He taught that any one among us can become “evil” due to authority  influence, social pressures, anonymity, or deindividualization.  ∙ At the end he spoke of the true heroes being ordinary people who are able  to not be impassive onlookers, who can stand up for justice when no one  else will.

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