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Cognitive Dissonance Theory – Attitudes (PSY)

by Tarry Ahuja, MD
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    00:02 Now, let’s get into something called the Cognitive Dissonance Theory.

    00:05 And this is a unique scenario of when you’re suddenly conflicted and this the mental stressor discomfort experienced by an individual who holds contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time.

    00:18 Let’s say for example I really don’t believe in eating meat but you’re put in a scenario where you’re having to eat meat.

    00:29 Let’s say you are a vegetarian and you’re going away on vacation, your plane crashes and you end up on an island and you’re having to survive and the only way you can survive is to eat some of the local meat.

    00:44 You have to hunt and find a boar and hunting -- To live and to survive you’re now having to eat meat and that’s contradictory to your beliefs of -- well, I’m a vegetarian.

    00:53 So as humans we strive for what we say internal consistency.

    00:58 Otherwise, we become psychologically uncomfortable.

    01:00 So this, you’re now going against what your -- your behaviors are going against what you believe, what your attitudes are.

    01:07 Now if dissonance is achieved, motivations to change attitudes and/or behaviors are reduced.

    01:12 So, if you really are at contention here, it’s really difficult and you don’t know what to do and so it’s harder for you to actually change your attitudes.

    01:22 Now when you’re in this type of dissonance, individuals will also avoid situations and novel information that would increase dissonance.

    01:31 Now if you are in this scenario of being landed on this island, an individual will say, “Well, listen, you really should eat meat and eating meat is a good thing,” and you’re in a debate where people are showing the strengths of eating meat and you’re really a vegetarian.

    01:47 You don’t want to be in that situation and you’re going to try and withdraw yourself in that experience, that conversation because that’s going at odds with what you believe.

    01:55 And so we don’t like that internal struggle.

    01:58 We like internal consistency, we don’t want to have that struggle to debate and decide what we want to do.

    02:05 Now here’s a story that’s been thrown around that highlights some of the different phases of dissonance and here is a simple story of the fox and the grapes.

    02:14 And after I tell you the end of the story, you’ll realize that you’ve heard portions of this before.

    02:19 So here’s our good friend the fox and the fox is walking around and he sees some juicy, delicious grapes.

    02:25 He really wants the grapes.

    02:27 So he desires something.

    02:29 But then he realizes that they’re up kind of high and he can’t climb that high, so they’re kind of unattainable for him, he can’t reach the grapes.

    02:36 And so what does he do? He says, “Those grapes are terrible, they’re sour.

    02:40 Why would I want those sour grapes?” And so he criticizes the actual item that he originally wanted and that allows him to accommodate for the fact that he couldn’t what he wanted so he has resolved his internal struggle by criticizing the exact thing that he wanted.

    03:00 Now you may have heard of that saying “Oh sour grapes.” Or you know, when you don’t get what you want don’t be sour about it.

    03:07 This is the story they’re actually referring to.

    03:09 So what this person has done, in this case the fox, is they’ve adapted their preference, so we call that adaptive preference formation, and they’ve now adapted their attitude towards what something that they originally wanted, which was the grapes, into being that I don’t really want that anymore.

    03:26 So another scenario might be let’s say for example you want to go to medical school, that’s all you ever wanted as a child.

    03:32 You drew pictures of being a doctor, you have a little medical kit and you played with that, then you go and write the MCAT and you try and apply to medical school and you realize you can’t get in anywhere.

    03:44 This is not going to happen to you but this could happen to somebody else, and now you don’t get in to medical school and what do you say? You say, “Well, you know what? I never really wanted to be a doctor anyways. Who wants that? You have no life, you’re always around blood and crazy hours --.” And now what you’ve done is you actually realigned your original attitudes toward being a doctor to align with your reality, and so your behavior changed according to that.

    04:11 So as you can see, all of these different things are related in shaping your attitudes, the ABCs, the affect, behavior, and cognition, and at the end of the day, the attitudes that you have can be influenced by any of those three.


    About the Lecture

    The lecture Cognitive Dissonance Theory – Attitudes (PSY) by Tarry Ahuja, MD is from the course Individual Influences on Behavior.


    Included Quiz Questions

    1. Mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who hold contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time.
    2. Processes that initiate, direct, and sustain behavior.
    3. A physiological need shifting an individual away from homeostasis.
    4. A higher level driver which motivates an individual beyond the usual factors.
    5. A state of alertness with mental and physical activation.

    Author of lecture Cognitive Dissonance Theory – Attitudes (PSY)

     Tarry Ahuja, MD

    Tarry Ahuja, MD


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