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Thoughts Out of Tune

Festinger, L. & Carlsmith, J.M. (1959)

Leon Festinger

research psychologist Highly influential in his field Proposed famous theory of cognitive dissonance

What is Cognitive Dissonance?


you simultaneously hold two or more cognitions which are psychologically inconsistent This in turn creates discomfort and stress which motivates you to change your attitude since behavior cannot be changed

This Opinion Shift is Due to:


rehearsing the speech The process of trying to think of arguments in favor of the forced position


studies were conducted that offered momentary awards to subjects for giving convincing speeches contrary to their own views It was found that larger the rewards produced less attitude change than smaller rewards

Festingers Growing Theory


Indias 1934 earthquake, rumors spread that areas outside danger zone would be hit with additional and greater proportions (these rumors had no scientific foundation). The rumors were not anxiety-increasing, but anxiety-justifying.

The Result:

cognition of fear was out of tune with lack of any scientific basis for their fear (cognitive dissonance!) They made their world fit with what they were feeling and how they were behaving.


male, lower division, psychology students participated thinking it was for measures of performance (done for bias responses) Task is scheduled for 2 hours Interview afterwards about their experiences


Task: They were given 12 spools in a tray. Empty it onto the table. Refill. Empty again with one hand at for own pace for 30 minutes. 2nd Task: They were given a board with 48 squares. They were asked to turn each peg a quarter of a turn clockwise and repeat for 30 minutes


were randomly assigned to 3 conditions Control group(20 people): After tasks were completed, were taken into another room to be interviewed] Other 2 groups were paid to lie about the tasks

Experiment Continued...

subjects that offered to join in the experiment were to describe the experiment as enjoyable, a lot of fun, intriguing... Some subjects were paid $1 while others were paid $20 and called into the room to wait for the incoming subject


subjects who were paid $1 for lying about the tasks were the ones who later reported liking the tasks more, compared with both paid $20 to lie and those who did not lie.

Average Ratings on Interview Questions

1. How enjoyable tasks were (-5 to +5) 2. How much learned (0 to 10) 3. Scientific importance (0 to 10) 4. Participate in similar experiences (-5 to +5)

Control group

$1 group

$20 group

3.08 5.60

2.80 6.45

3.15 5.18




Festingers Explanation

that engage in attitudediscrepant behavior (the lie), but have strong justification for doing so ($20), will experience only small dissonance , and therefore, not feel partially motivated to make change in their opinion Insufficient justification ($1)> greater dissonance

Theory of Cognitive Dissonance

Attitudediscrepant behavior Sufficient justification for behavior Insufficient justification for behavior Dissonance small Attitude change small

Attitudediscrepant behavior

Dissonance large

Attitude change large

Questions and Criticisms


strong opponents Researchers such as Cooper and Fazio and refined Festingers Theory of Cognitive Dissonance

Cooper and Fazios Four Steps for Cognitive Dissonance

1. Attitudediscrepant behavior must produce unwanted negative consequences. 2. Personal responsibility must be taken for the negative consequences

3. Physiological arousal must be present 4. The person must be aware that the arousal experienced is being caused by the attitudediscrepant behavior


messages failure explanation Vicarious dissonance