Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Motivating Effect of Cognitive Dissonance

The article The Motivating Effect of Cognitive Dissonance by Leon Festinger defines dissonance, and gives examples of authentic experimental situations. This article uses three experiments to show different examples of cognitive dissonance. The first experiment is based off of circumstances where the effects are not easily explainable due to the basis of other existing theories. (Festinger) The second experiment was and example showing the reduction of dissonance. This experiment involved a group of people predicting a date that a catastrophic flood would occur. The third experiment was focused on the idea of dissonance by scamming the people to say what the experimenters want the people to say. This experiment relates to dissonance because the relationship between what the person said, and what he believes.

The definition of dissonance as Festinger mentions is a relationship between two things, even if they do not belong, or fit together. He also states “in general, two cognitions are dissonant with each other.” An example of two cognitions being dissonant would be a person who knows they are intelligent and highly capable person, but has moments of failure. The cognitions in this situation are dissonant because intelligence and failure do not fit together. Festinger finally explains that in order to allow the cognition to not be dissonant, the person must attempt to change part of the situation so one of them fit together, which reduces or eliminates the dissonance.

The first experiment mentioned is based on the motivating aspects of dissonance. In the experiment, the dissonance was reduced in a different direction. This particular case involved a patient who thought he was dead. After a discussion with the psychiatrist, the patient was able to agree that dead people do not bleed. Following the agreement, the psychiatrist cut the patients arm and the blood poured out. When the patient saw the blood he responded with “well, what do you know, dead men do bleed.” This is an example of dissonance being reduced in another direction because it explains nothing that was already understood. The idea is not easily demonstrated because it is based on other existing theories. (Festinger)

The second study was done on the reduction of dissonance. A Group was instructed to predict the date they thought a flood would devastate the world. The dissonance affected the people when the flood never occurred. The group had received signs from the gods, telling them they would be saved and this made them confident the flood was coming. When the flood never happened the dissonance allowed the researchers to observe their reactions to the fact that the flood never occurred. People reacted intently by waiting around for more signs and proof from their gods that they would be saved before the flood. After waiting for hours to be saved, god sent a last message that god had stopped the flood. People showed dissonance in this study because they were told something from the gods, and they had their own beliefs.

The third study that was done was called the experimental investigation. This experiment was done in order to create dissonance by getting the people participating to say what they experimenter wanted them to say about the study. This is an example of dissonance because the person believes one thing, but is being told to say something else which creates the dissonance. In this experiment the participants were instructed to tell the other participants how they were told to feel. The students telling the other participants how they felt were demonstrating a student putting a thought out reaction in ones mind. By putting the idea in the other students mind, the student will possibly feel what they have been told, which will cause that person to go against their belief and how they feel.

In conclusion this article was difficult to understand what the author was trying to convey. The summary of this article seems to be the idea that there are different ways to test dissonance. Dissonance can be tested reduced, and eliminated as well as just ordinary dissonance. In order to show the reduced or eliminated dissonance, the person must attempt to change part of the situation so one of them fit together. Finally to demonstrate dissonance you need a relationship between two things, even if they do not belong, or fit together. The example earlier stated, the intelligent person, who was a failure. This is dissonance because intelligent people are not failures.

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