Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is a great study in the context of religious belief. The larger the disparity the harder one has to internalize the conflict between belief and doubt. The outcome of the experiment below is profound. The response of those with the greatest disparity will externalize a positive presentation about their deeply suspected belief. Being an former minister with loads of doubt I totally related. I have expressed it that I had to FORCE myself to believe. The alternative was hell of course. I felt I was carrying around a facade or even multiple facades.

Understanding this post will be beneficial for tomorrow's post.

Boring task experiment

In Festinger and Carlsmith's classic 1959 experiment, students were asked to spend an hour on boring and tedious tasks (e.g. turning pegs a quarter turn, over and over again). The tasks were designed to generate a strong, negative attitude. Once the subjects had done this, the experimenters asked some of them to do a simple favour. They were asked to talk to another subject (actually an actor) and persuade them that the tasks were interesting and engaging.
Some participants were paid $20 (inflation adjusted to 2009, this equates to $148.40) for this favor, another group was paid $1 (or $7.42 in '2009 dollars'), and a control group was not asked to perform the favour.

When asked to rate the boring tasks at the conclusion of the study (not in the presence of the other "subject"), those in the $1 group rated them more positively than those in the $20 and control groups. This was explained by Festinger and Carlsmith as evidence for cognitive dissonance. The researchers theorized that people experienced dissonance between the conflicting cognitions, "I told someone that the task was interesting", and "I actually found it boring." When paid only $1, students were forced to internalize the attitude they were induced to express, because they had no other justification. Those in the $20 condition, however, had an obvious external justification for their behaviour, and thus experienced less dissonance.

In subsequent experiments, an alternative method of "inducing dissonance" has become common. In this research, experimenters use counter-attitudinal essay-writing, in which people are paid varying amounts of money (e.g. one or ten dollars) for writing essays expressing opinions contrary to their own. People paid only a small amount of money have less justification for their inconsistency and tend to experience more dissonance.

Source and more information found here Wiki Cognitive Dissonance

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