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Attitudes- Balance and DIssonance

by: Julia Caine

Attitudes- Balance and DIssonance Soc 201

Marketplace > New York University > Sociology > Soc 201 > Attitudes Balance and DIssonance
Julia Caine
GPA 3.5

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About this Document

These notes cover what an attitude is, and theories as to how our attitudes are formed
Social Psychology
Blaine Robbins
Class Notes
attitude, Psychology, sociology
25 ?




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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Julia Caine on Thursday October 13, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to Soc 201 at New York University taught by Blaine Robbins in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 9 views. For similar materials see Social Psychology in Sociology at New York University.


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Date Created: 10/13/16
Attitudes- Balance and Dissonance  What are they? o Preferences  Purposeful or intentional actions based on a hierarchy of preferences guide individual behavior  Preferences lead to intentions which lead to actions o Actions can influence preferences o Similarities and differences  Attitudes= likes and dislikes  “I like vanilla ice cream”  Preferences=wants and desires  “I want vanilla ice cream”  Wants and likes don’t always coincide  Both attitudes and preferences are comparative and subjective evaluations of an object or thought o Comparative evaluation suggests that two or more related objects are appraised to determine their value or worth for a particular person  “I want a blue hours (versus other color houses) o The evaluation of objects or thoughts underscore how concrete objects, abstract ideas, or unrealistic ideas can fall under the purview of attitudes/ preferences o Values and ideologies  Values are regarded as abstract ideals that function as important guiding principles  Deals with ideas of what we “ought” and “should” do  Ideologies are systems of attitudes and values that are organized around an abstract theme o Attitudes are thought to come from three common sources  Biology  Culture  Personal experiences  How Do They Change? o Cognitive Dissonance Theory (Festinger 1957)  Holding apparently incompatible or logically inconsistent thoughts or beliefs about ourselves, others, or the world around us which generates cognitive dissonance  CDT assumes that humans have a tendency towards cognitive consistency  To achieve consistency, the mind seeks to reject or change one or more of the inconsistent cognitions  Examples  If you know smoking causes cancer but you smoke anyway you may experience cognitive dissonance  If you want to be financially stable but spend money recklessly  “When Prophecy Fails”  Book by Festinger in 1956  Written about a doomsday cult that predicted the end of the world, but believed they would be saved by aliens because of their devotion o When the date came and the world didn’t end, the leader of the cult declared that because this group was so devout, God had decided to spare the world- they added a new cognition to settle a large dissonance o Festinger asked members why they stayed in the group even when the world didn’t end  “I have to believe the flood is coming because I quit my job”  “I have to believe because I’ve cut every social tie I have”  People stayed devoted because that is often all they had left o Arson and Mills (1959)  Hypothesized that having a severe initiation into a group would increase the positive reaction to the group  Women were asked if they wanted to join a discussion group of girls that discussed sex  Condition One: Women were immediately accepted into the group  Condition Two: Women were asked to read a series of mildly sexual words for the experimenter, such as “virgin” “prostitute”  Condition Three: Women were asked to read a series of vulgar sexual words for the experimenter, such as “fuck”, “cock”  Told that reading the words was an embarrassment test to make sure the women could handle talking freely about sex  After women were initiated, they were told the group discussed through microphones in separate rooms to decrease embarrassment, and joined the group “mid-discussion”  Group was discussing a book the subject hadn’t read so they were told just to listen o Did this because the “discussion” was actually a recording to ensure every subject got the same experience  Discussion was purposefully made to be very boring and unintelligent o Asked women to rate their experience of the group after listening to the discussion  Results  As predicted, the women in condition three with the harsh initiation rated the discussion more highly than the women in conditions one and two o Since they had to undergo a more severe initiation, they settled the dissonance of the embarrassment by convincing themselves the discussion was better than it was o Festinger and Carlsmith (1959)  Participants asked to complete a very boring and repetitive task  Condition One: Participants were then asked to rate their experience of the task  Condition Two: Participants told that the experiment was that some of the other subjects had someone persuade them beforehand that the tasks were fun and interesting. They were then told that the regular person couldn’t make it, and were asked if they could fill in and talk to the next subject, and they would be paid $1. Then they were asked to rate their experience of the task  Condition Three: Same as condition two, except the participants were offered $20.  Results  Condition two- the people paid $1 to convince a subject- rated the task as more interesting than condition one or three o The experienced a great amount of dissonance between doing a boring activity and lying about it for a relatively small amount of money, so to settle this dissonance they convinced themselves the task wasn’t as boring as they thought o These studies imply that behavior can precede thought o Self-Perception Theory  Sometimes preferences and attitudes are not directly accessible or unambiguous  Instead, when we observe our own behavior there are times when we don’t experience dissonance but still use our behavior as a cue for our attitude o How can we use CDT and SPT to our advantage?  Actions precede attitudes  Can use this to improve your life o Don’t think like the person you want to be, act like the person you want to be and you’ll become that person  Conclusion o Instead of wanting to be someone or like something, do it first; your cognition, attitudes, beliefs, etc. should follow o But sometimes, we should not reduce dissonance and instead be more tolerant of complexities and ambiguities  Those with “high tolerance for ambiguity” make better leaders, are less neurotic, are more creative


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