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Cognitive consistency theories Humans as cognitive creatures.

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Presentation on theme: "Cognitive consistency theories Humans as cognitive creatures."— Presentation transcript:

1 Cognitive consistency theories Humans as cognitive creatures

2 Cognitions form “associative networks” associative networks include beliefs, attitudes, and other cognitions the associations are often unconscious, implicit changes in one belief or attitude may produce a “ripple effect” elsewhere in one’s cognitive system

3 Three basic assumptions of consistency theories People expect, prefer consistency  Individuals strive to maintain psychological harmony among their beliefs, attitudes, behaviors Inconsistency causes psychological discomfort, tension  “Dissonance” is uncomfortable, may even be accompanied by physiological symptoms Individuals are motivated to restore cognitive consistency  “Drive-reduction” model  a form of face-saving, identity management Angelina Joile replaced her “Billy Bob” tattoo

4 Example of an empirical study on consistency Sherman & Gorkin (1980) females who scored high on a feminism scale tried to solve a “sex-role” problem (which they were set up to fail). A control group with similar scores on the feminism scale completed a different task. The failure of the treatment group to solve the problem induced a state of psychological inconsistency in the feminists. Both groups then read a transcript about a sex discrimination case. Their task was to decide who was wrong in the case and make an award. What do you think happened?

5 Results of Sherman & Gorkin’s (1980) study: The feminists who experienced dissonance were more likely to find that sex discrimination had occurred and gave much larger awards compared to the control group. Why? Their decision helped to restore their self- concept as feminists. Threats to one’s self image lead to attempts to bolster, reinforce, or reestablish the threatened attitudes.

6 Revisions to cognitive consistency theories More recently, consistency has also been viewed as socially motivated the appearance of consistency matters to us Individuals can tolerate a certain amount of inconsistency especially if core beliefs, attitudes aren’t involved examples: Log Cabin Republicans, driving an SUV but being pro-environment, being a vegetarian, but wearing leather shoes In some cases, individuals may even strive to create inconsistency example: dysfunctional relationships

7 Fritz Heider’s “Balance theory” (1958) The “granddaddy” of all consistency theories The most basic, simple model Involves three cognitive elements, P,O,X: P : Person (perceiver, self) O : Other person X : Attitude object (thing, event, action)

8 Example of Heider’s P-O-X triad A child admires Popeye The child doesn’t like to eat spinach Popeye is positively associated with Spinach This is a cognitively imbalanced state, which should motivate the child to change one of the associations. Popeye + - +

9 Consistency theory in advertising A female consumer is thinking of buying a new car She has a negative attitude toward high gas prices The Toyota Prius is advertised as a high mileage vehicle She forms a favorable impression of the Toyota Prius female consumer hybrid car high gas prices +- -

10 Balanced versus imbalanced psychological states balanced (consistent) psychological states imbalanced (inconsistent) psychological states

11 Limitations of Balance theory Model is incapable of handling more than one triad at a time (not complex psychological relationships) Only one element of the triad is assumed to change (not several elements) No provision for the degree or strength of the attitudes No clear indication of how balance will be restored (which element will change). Heider states “the least effortful means” will be employed.

12 Congruity Theory (Osgood, Tannenbaum, & Suci, 1957) Congruity theory also presumes that people strive to maintain consistency among their cognitions The theory is based upon the “semantic differential” scale Congruity exists when a person holds identical attitudes toward a source and a topic or issue. When incongruity exists, there is a tendency to change cognitions so as to achieve psychological equilibrium When two or more attitudes are linked by an assertion there is a tendency for both attitudes to change

13 Improvements over Balance theory Allows for more than one attitude to change Allows for degrees of attitude change An accompanying formula allows for precise predictions regarding the extent and direction of attitude change When incongruity exists, more extreme attitudes are less susceptible to change Congruity theory makes a number of interesting, counterintuitive predictions

14 Example of Congruity theory Assume a person likes both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama The person perceives that Barack made a disparaging remark about Hillary A dissociative assertion between two positive attitude objects results in the decreased evaluation of both attitude objects Hillary Barack “mudslinging” hurts both sources’ credibility

15 Limitations of congruity theory Model and formula only accounts for one triad at a time. Counterintuitive predictions aren’t always fulfilled in practice The importance and relevance of the attitude(s) to the person is ignored There are other ways to achieve congruity besides changing evaluations of the sources or objects

16 Applications of consistency theory Image-based advertising the feelings and images associated with a brand are powerful purchase influencers brands are associated with favorable images and idealized lifestyles Public information/awareness campaigns D.A.R.E. program Seat belts save lives Don’t drink and drive Social movements P.E.T.A. (animal rights) Operation Rescue (pro-life)

17 maintaining and restoring psychological consistency denial bolstering differentiation transcendence attitude modification communication favorable attitude favorable attitude ?

18 marketing consistency: have your cake and eat it too! consumer guilt and environmentally, socially conscious products Green stock funds Fair trade coffee Sweatshop free goods cause marketing Partnering with a high profile cause or a non-profit organization with whom the public sympathizes healthy labels organic anti-oxidants hypo-allergenic

19 marketing inconsistency: fostering brand-switching sloganeering “Think different” (MacIntosh) Mac versus PC “Think outside the bun” (Taco Bell) “It’s waaaay better than fast food” (Wendy’s) “Not your father’s Oldsmobile” (Oldsmobile) “I could have had a V8” (V8 juice)

20 Creating psychological inconsistency Smoking prevention programs try to undo “glamorous” associations with smoking

21 Creating psychological inconsistency Cognitive Dissonance Theory explains what happens when an individual’s beliefs, attitudes, and/or behaviors are incompatible The amount of dissonance created depends upon: How volitional the decision is The importance or consequences of the decision The time, effort, or sacrifice involved in making the decision A guilt appeal on the bus bench is designed to induce cognitive dissonance in patrons of this nudie-bar

22 cognitive dissonance theory-- continued counter-attitudinal advocacy (CAA) advocating a position that is contrary to one’s own beliefs tends to shift one’s attitudes toward the contrary position commitment and cognitive dissonance public commitments fraternity initiations marriage rituals “true love waits” program commitments can “grow legs” Marine “blood- pinning” ritual

23 Four dissonance paradigms Free choice paradigm : volitional behavior is more likely to produce dissonance the more free choice one has in making a decision, the more dissonance one will experience. Belief disconfirmation : dissonance is aroused when a person encounters information contrary to his or her beliefs. people engage in selective exposure to avoid dissonant information Induced compliance paradigm : external inducements, rewards reduce dissonance When a person is compelled to do something, little dissonance is aroused because the person can rationalize the action by saying “I had no choice.” Effort justification : we appreciate things more when we work for them The greater the effort or sacrifice, the greater the dissonance

24 Psychological commitment Once people become psychologically committed to an idea their commitment may “grow legs.” Michael Jackson fans: "This is a very widespread phenomenon where fans take a celebrity into their hearts…and that celebrity becomes almost bulletproof to the fan,“ (Paul Levinson, professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University in New York)

25 Psychological commitment Campaign 08 and P.U.M.A.s (aka Party Unity My Ass) Some Hillary Clinton fans refused to support Obama after he won the the democratic nomination

26 Psychological commitment Kimmy Cash founded the “punx4dean” Website Her 35 th tattoo read “Dean Hope Truth 04” After Howard Dean dropped out of the presidential race, she declared on her Website: “we have been through entirely too much in this campaign to quit now. Punks don’t give up…Do not let this discourage you” A tattoo honoring a presidential drop-out


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