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Chapter 6: Cognitive Dissonance. Irrationality in decision making: sunk costs.

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Presentation on theme: "Chapter 6: Cognitive Dissonance. Irrationality in decision making: sunk costs."— Presentation transcript:

1 Chapter 6: Cognitive Dissonance

2 Irrationality in decision making: sunk costs

3 The tennis elbow problem Imagine you enjoy playing tennis. One day, on the court you develop tennis elbow. It is extremely painful to play. Your doctor tells you that the pain will continue for about a year. Estimate the number of times you will play tennis in the next 6 months. Imagine you have paid $400 (nonrefundable) to join a tennis club for 6 months. During the first week of your membership, you develop tennis elbow. It is extremely painful to play. Your doctor tells you that the pain will continue for about a year. Estimate the number of times you will play tennis in the next 6 months.

4 Previous results from a large-scale study (N = 287) Paid $400 fee no fee Difference significant at p <.001

5 Other potential examples of sunk costs Waiting for the elevator, trains, etc Tickets and blizzards Wars, other armed conflicts? (e.g. Vietnam, Iraq) – These latter two cases—not as clear-cut

6 Traditional (normative) models of decision making: Choices should be driven by future consequences, not past expenditures All previous examples, which are “sunk cost” problems, appear to violate that principle. Definition of “sunk cost” problems: choices appear to be driven by past, irrecoverable expenditures Traditional models of human motivation and decision making cannot easily explain such decisions.

7 You and a companion plan to go skiing at a resort. You each have paid 100 dollars for lift tickets and rental. When you arrive, the conditions are horrible—it’s cold, icy, and even the best lifts are not operating because of the wind. In addition, you both feel lousy physically and out of sorts psychologically. Your companion turns to you and says, “It’s too bad that the money is not refundable, we’d have a much better time back home, relaxing in front of the fire. But I can’t afford to waste 100 dollars.” You agree. But you also both agree that it’s unlikely that you will have a better time struggling with the bad conditions on the slopes, compared to being inside. What do you do? Stay and ski, or go home?

8 Paid 100 dollars for tickets and equipment (decrease in net assets by $100) Decision? Stay and ski Lousy day skiing (minus 100 dollars) Better day at home (minus 100 dollars) Give up and go home Staying at home feels aversive, because of the sense that you have “wasted” the 100 dollars. However, the past expenditure is irrelevant to your decision, because it is a constant in both cases.

9 Paid 50 cents for tickets and equipment (decrease in net assets by 50 cents) Decision? Stay and ski Lousy day skiing (minus 50 cents) Better day at home (minus 50 cents) Give up and go home

10 Paid 100 dollars for very expensive meal (and waiter brings you three times as much food as you would normally eat) (decrease in net assets by $100) Decision? Eat the entire portion Decrease dining pleasure, and now you feel fat (minus 100 dollars) Increased dining pleasure (and no need to go on a diet) (minus 100 dollars) Eat the amount you usually do

11 Cognitive Dissonance: Theoretical background

12 Models of human motivation: Classical conditioning Instrumental conditioning Homeostasis models

13 Metabolic Imbalance Aversive state of arousal (hunger) Efforts to reduce arousal Regain consistency Homeostasis Psychological Imbalance Aversive state of arousal (dissonance)

14 Dissonance theory can potentially explain sunk costs pre-existing cognitioncontemplated behavior Paid great deal of money to ski Don’t ski? Waited 2 minutes for elevator Take stairs instead? Spent X billion in Iraq already Pull out troops? (Red arrows represent behavior that could potentially trigger dissonance.)

15 Initiation rites: Aronson & Mills (1959) Three screening conditions – Control (e.g. chair, table, sad, book) – Mild (e.g. prostitute, virgin) – Extreme (obscene words--sorry, I can’t put these up!) All participants then listen to sample tape of discussion group Discussion is horribly boring! (pre-tested) Dependent variable: expressed liking for the discussion group and desire to join

16 Initiation (cost) None (0) High (---) Initial evaluation of group (-) Join Don’t join Initial evaluation of group (-) Join Don’t join STRONG dissonance +

17 Alternate explanations of Aronson & Mills (1959)? Gerard & Mathewson (1966 )

18 UCS (shock)UCR (pain) CS (group)

19 Festinger & Carlsmith (1957) Control group Two additional conditions Participants paid $1.00, or $20.00 to tell lie to incoming participant DV: all participants express OWN enjoyment of task

20 Dependent variable: liking for task control$20 $1.00

21 Initial attitude: “I didn’t enjoy task” Subsequent behavior: “told other participant that I liked task” Sufficient justification ($20) low dissonance Minimal attitude change Insufficient justification ($1) higher dissonance Attitude change

22 Practical applications of dissonance theory: (e.g. The condom study: Aronson, Fried, & Stone, 1991) Participants compose set of arguments about safe-sex in private vs. public Complete survey indicating past difficulty in using condoms (control: no questionnaire) Contexts of arguments: Private public survey: yes no Greatest short and long term condom use *

23 Necessary conditions for dissonance to arise: Behavior must be: be perceived as freely chosen have foreseeable, negative consequences viewed by others Also: must assume that people think of themselves as good decision makers.

24 Post-decisional dissonance Suppose you are having a tough time choosing between two alternatives. – Choice X (x+, x+, x+, x-, x-, x-) – Choice Y (y+, y+ y+, y-, y-, y-) Suppose you choose x – All positive elements of y, and all negative elements of x, can produce dissonance Brehm (1956)

25 evidence that arousal is directly mediating attitude change? Direct self report measures: Devine, 1998; Eliot & Devine, 1994 Physiological data—Croyle & Cooper (1983)--GSR –galvanic skin response Misattribution studies….

26 Misattribution paradigm (e.g. Zanna & Cooper (1974) Pill expectations – arouse – none – relax counter-attitudinal essay DV: attitude change Degree of attitude change arouse none relax Expectations about pill

27 On the Larger Influence of Dissonance Theory Two core assumptions throughout all of psychology: – need for consistency – People are careful and accurate monitors of their own internal states Homeostasis model dominant force – lingering influence of Freud intra-personal processes emphasized

28 Interesting phenomena associated with dissonance effects The disgusting grasshopper study (Zimbardo et al. 1965) – Ss are asked to eat a grasshopper by a friend or an enemy Which group reported greater liking for this tasty morsel? The Ben Franklin effect – Want to get someone to like you? – Have them do a favor for you! Hating our victims because they are victims

29 “On the Nature of Scientific Revolutions” (Thomas Kuhn) bedrock assumptions of an established theory or “world views ”challenged Nicolai Copernicus Sigmund FreudCharles Darwin

30 Social psychology experiences its own paradigm shift: By early 1970’s some bedrock assumptions in social psychology are challenged: – Homeostasis model incorrect? – Maybe human being aren’t motivated by consistency after all. – Maybe we aren’t so good at knowing our own feelings. – Emergence of an “information processing” view

31 Self perception theory (again)

32 “Inconsistency, [dissonance theorists] try to tell us, motivates behavior and attitude change. But I don’t believe it. At least not very much. My own suspicion is that inconsistency is our most enduring cognitive commonplace. That is, I suspect for most people most of the time…inconsistency just sits there.” Bem (1970)

33 People good at assessing own internal states through introspection? Assumptions about relation between attitudes (A) and behavior (B) Drive for consistency? Basic view of people as …. Dissonance theory YES A  B YES Tension reducers Self-perception theory NO B  A NO Information processors

34 Reinterpretation of classic studies in dissonance paradigm Small vs. large incentives for writing counter-attitudinal essays – Outside observers and self in similar position, says Bem Festinger and Carlsmith (1957)

35 Resolution of Debate: Fazio, Zanna, & Cooper (1977) Both theories are correct, but apply under different “boundary” conditions Dissonance theory: – Initial attitude is strong, and person acts in ways clearly inconsistent with it – “hot” processes mediate (tension reduction) Self-perception – Initial attitude is weak, OR person acts in ways not radically inconsistent with attitude – “cold” processes mediate (logical inference)

36 Fazio, Zanna, & Cooper, 1977

37 0% tuition hike 20% tuition hike Latitude of rejection Latitude of acceptance Initial attitude Essays written in these latitudes trigger dissonance But self perception processes apply here

38 Fazio et al. 1977: Methodology Initial assessment of attitude Assigned to write essay in latitude of acceptance vs. rejection (all under high choice) Participants’ expectations about room: “tense” vs. no expectations DV: attitude change after writing essay

39 “Tense” No expectations Degree of attitude change Latitude of acceptance Latitude of rejection DISSONANCESELF PERCEPTION

40 Summary Two processes – Dissonance Attitude change; “hot”; homeostasis – Self perception Attitude formation; “cold”; information processing


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