The Validity of Cognitive Dissonance Theory Essay

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Description of Theory
The term dissonance refers to when one cognitive element is inconsistent with another cognitive element according to the lecture notes of Professor Soreno. Cognitive elements can be categorized in four groups called beliefs, attitudes, values, and perceptions of behavior. Beliefs can be defined as a perception that something exists or not. This perception can range from a central or peripheral type of belief. The more central a belief is, the harder it is to change that belief. An attitude describes the positive or negative feelings we have toward people, things, or ideas. Values are beliefs that are so important to a person, that they practically guide a person’s life. There are two types of values, instrumental and
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Thus attitude change is often consistent with the behavioral commitment and may justify it” (Harmon-Jones, 2008). In other words, they are illustrating how in order to reduce cognitive dissonance, one needs to change their behaviors, and the cognitive element that relates most to behavioral change is attitude. Throughout the rest of the book, the authors discuss experiments and tests used to revise the theory and look at the theory through other methods.
For the theory to be accepted though, the assumption that dissonance is psychologically uncomfortable must be agreed upon. Another assumption is that people prefer consonance to dissonance. People are pleased when there are no conflicts between their cognitive elements, because it creates harmony within the person. From here, Festinger proposed the major theoretic proposition of the theory that the higher the dissonance, the higher the drive to reduce it. The problem with any assumption is that the criterion has to be filled in order for the theory to work. If there is a person who does not feel psychologically uncomfortable with cognitive dissonance, the theory will not apply. These people do not fit into society and lead to many problems such as serial killers or random shooters.
Yet the Cognitive Dissonance theory is not solely affected by assumptions but also by the number of dissonant cognitions and the significance of the dissonance. For
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