Actions Caused by Cognitive Dissonance

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“If I chose to do it or say it, I must believe in it.” asserts the psychologist Leon Festinger (as cited in Psychology: Eighth Edition in Modules, 2007, p.731). When we become aware that our actions contradict our attitudes, we tend to revise our attitudes. This statement fits Festinger’s cognitive dissonance theory that asserts that we act to reduce discomfort or dissonance, an unpleasant tension, we experience when two of our thoughts or cognitions are inconsistent. Mkimmie, et al. (2003) investigated the impact of social support on cognitive dissonance arousal in their experiment, “I’m a Hypocrite, but So Is Everyone Else: Group Support and the Reduction of Cognitive Dissonance.” The psychologists aimed to test the impact of social support on dissonance by testing two hypotheses. While the results that were attained in the study are not more adequate to use than previous experiments, the hypothesis of Mkimmie et al. (2003) offers new insight into the cognitive dissonance theory. In addition, the theory highlights the importance of group-derived cognitions, a topic that has been often overlooked in subsequent research.

To conduct the experiment, the researchers first looked at previous theories and then extrapolated evidence from their results to develop a new theory about cognitive dissonance in a social context. The researchers assigned undergraduates between the ages of 17 and 23 to one of six controlled social conditions. All instructions and questions were presented to the participants in the form of a questionnaire. Within each social condition, the researchers attempted to manipulate group salience, hypocrisy, and behavioral support in stages so that attitude change and identification could be measured. After the exper...

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...s novel theory acknowledges that group support or lack there of, may affect cognitive dissonance. Furthermore, the experiment lays the groundwork from which other studies can explore the way that dissonance operates within social contexts. With a larger, more representative sample and a more direct way to obtain evidence of dissonance, future research may be able to prove or disprove the theory.

After analyzing, critiquing, and reflecting on the make-up of the “Group Support and the reduction of Cognitive Dissonance” theory, it is evident that the theory is not more adequate to use than the previous experiments on cognitive dissonance although it is useful for future research. On the other hand, the hypothesis offers new insight into how a group can affect cognitive dissonance. The study provides a foundation for future studies to test the often-overlooked topic.
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