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Cognitive Dissonance Theory

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  • 1. Communication Theory | Semester One Theory Paper Cognitive-Dissonance Theory Rohit Rohan | 134-B | PGP-19 | MICA
  • 2. There were five of us friends hanging out at my house. During the conversations that we were having – about life, television, movies, Facebook etc – a question just popped into my mind. “What will you do if your doctor tells you that you have only six weeks to live?” I asked them. They all paused for a moment, gave it a minute’s thought and replied back with almost similar replies. “I would like to travel as much as I can..” “I would take my parents abroad..” “I’d like to give a shot to singing.. I have always wanted to do that..” “I’ll try and talk to all the people and friends that I know.. you know.. for that final time.. Of course I won’t tell them so.. but I guess it will be good to do that.. probably straighten out a few knots and tiffs..” I sat there looking at them with a smile. Then when I did not say anything for a while, all of them demanded an answer from me. “Hey wait! What was the point of that question?” “Yeah.. why did you ask us that?” “What would you do? Is there a right answer? Was that a trick-question?” I looked at all of them, “It was interesting how none of you would go to another doctor for a second opinion..”
  • 3. Introduction
  • 4. Cognitive dissonance is a term used to describe the discomfort felt by a person who has multiple conflicting cognitions simultaneously. It says that people have an urge to reduce their dissonance by either altering existing beliefs, adding new ones to create a consistent belief system, or alternatively by reducing the importance of any one of the conflicting elements. ARTWORK ON COGNITIVE DISSONANCE BY NANCY POCHIS BANK Leon Festinger coined the term Cognitive Dissonance in his book When Prophecy Fails. It said that their reality clashed with their belief in an impending apocalypse. The book revolved around the followers of a UFO cult at crossroads. Later Festinger wrote another book called "A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance" that was based exclusively on the subject. Cognitive dissonance has become one of the most influential and extensively studied theories in social psychology in today’s world.
  • 5. Key Ideas
  • 6. Cognitions or beliefs are said to be of three main types. Cognitions are said to be either consonant, dissonant or irrelevant. Two cognitions are consonant if one fits with or logically follows from the other. Cognitions are said to be dissonant if one of them follows from the opposite of another. They are irrelevant when they are unrelated to each other. If dissonance is experienced as an unpleasant discomfort, the individual is motivated to reduce it. Now that the factors that affect the strength of this discomfort have been identified, it should be possible to predict the ways to reduce it:  Changing Cognitions If two beliefs are conflicting, we can simply change one to make it consistent with the other. Or we can change each cognition to follow the direction of the other.  Adding Cognitions If two cognitions cause a certain magnitude of dissonance, that magnitude can be reduced by adding one or more consonant cognitions to it.  Altering importance Since the conflicting and reinforcing cognitions must be weighed by importance, it may be advantageous to alter the importance of the various cognitions. This bias gives the theory its predictive power, shedding light on otherwise puzzling, irrational, and even destructive character.
  • 7. Instances of Cognitive Dissonance
  • 8.  Wanting to smoke and knowing that smoking is unhealthy; a person may try to change their feelings about the odds that they will actually suffer the consequences, or they might add the consonant ideas that the short term benefits of smoking outnumber the long term adverse effects.  In the story, of the fox and the grapes, a fox sees some high-hanging grapes and wishes to eat them. When the fox is unable to think of a way to reach the grapes, he arrives at a decision for himself that the grapes are probably not worth eating, with the justification the grapes probably are not ripe or that they are sour (hence "sour grapes").  After a disaster in a community, irrational rumors spread in nearby communities not involved in the disaster because of the need of those who are not threatened to justify their anxieties  Bettors at a racetrack are more confident in their chosen horse just after placing the bet because they cannot change their bet.
  • 9. Criticism of the theory
  • 10. Attitude change, opinion change, seeking and recall of consonant information, avoidance of dissonant information, perceptual distortion, and behavioral change are some of the common modes of dissonance reduction. The cognitive dissonance theory does not specify the mode of dissonance reduction but indicates that there are many possible ways to reduce dissonance. In experiments and studies conducted, when the subjects responded to the experimental manipulation in the manner predicted by dissonance theory, the dissonance researcher took the results as evidence for the support of the theory. However, some psychologists have suggested that many of the findings are the results of built-in biases or can be explained by other competing theories, and that the affirmative result is not necessarily unequivocal evidence for the theory. Equivocal Evidence for Post-decision Dissonance ________________________ The experimental evidence frequently quoted to support the existence of post-purchase dissonance was reported by Ehrlich. They also found, however, that both recent and not-recent purchasers noticed and read more advertisements of considered-but-rejected makes of automobiles than those of not-considered makes. This evidence cast doubt on the hypothesis that purchasers experienced dissonance. Another experiment by Berkowitz and Cottingham supports the view that people tend to be interested in the topics which are relevant to themselves. They found that safety-belt users were more interested in communication on safety-belts than were nonusers because the topic was relevant to them. Problems in Experimental Design ________________________ One of the problems with the findings of the theory could root from the way in which the experiments were conducted. It is very possible that the design of the experiment was not totally neutral. Analysis of the designs of such experiments over the years have shown that the experiment was set up in such a way as to make it easier for high-dissonance subjects to show divergent changes and for low-conflicting subjects to show convergent changes in their responses. Although dissonance theory indicates that cognitive dissonance produces the above pattern of changes, an alternative explanation is that the observed pattern of changes is the result of the experimental design.
  • 11. Evaluation of the theory and the areas of application
  • 12. Evaluation of the theory with respect to advertising ______________________ Many results concerning exposure to discrepant information and post-decision dissonance arousal have been shown to be equivocal. In the forced compliance experiments, the artificial conditions under which compliance was obtained and some subjects' refusal to comply have reduced the usefulness of the experimental findings to the analysis of consumer behavior. It was shown, however, that if the subjects did comply, they attempted to reduce dissonance in a predicted pattern. However, consumers are unlikely to experience strong conflicting dissonances since they will unknowingly commit themselves to undesirable or inferior products in a natural environment. Role of Advertising as Dissonance Reducer____________________________ Dissonance theory sheds new light on the role of advertising of increasing the repurchase probability of the advertised product. A seller's product advertisement reassures the consumer as to the wisdom of the purchase by emphasizing its desirable features and therefore helps to reduce post-purchase dissonance. Dissonance reduction, in turn, reinforces his purchase. It may increase the probability of his purchasing the same brand. Examples Kalahari.com commercial : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkH95yTRzUg TVS Wego commercial : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2T-AIoW_uHE Dissonance reduction may not really operate as a strong influencer in the case of frequentlypurchased products. The more frequently the product is purchased, the less important becomes the question of which brand is purchased at any one time and the less the postpurchase dissonance. The consumer who has purchased a convenience good usually would not experience strong dissonance because he knows that he is not irrevocably bound to that particular choice, but can easily switch brands. Since his dissonance is not strong, advertising's role in reinforcing the purchase is diminished. On the other hand, the consumer who has just purchased an expensive specialty product is likely to experience strong dissonance if his purchase is irrevocable and if it is important in some psychological sense. Examples Rin v/s Tide commercial : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msczklmNj6E
  • 13. References_______________  Wikipedia.org  Paper by S. Oshikawa : ‘Can Cognitive Dissonance be used to study Consumer Behaviour?’  DebatePolicy.com  Paper by L. Festinger  Resource of the North Georgia University  Resource of South Carolina University

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