Dissonance is a situation where there is a contradiction between individuals’ beliefs and behavior. Cognitive dissonance is used to describe unpleasant emotions that come up as a result of holding two contradictory beliefs at the same time. For instance, if one believes that he or she is a kind and generous person and then refuses to help out a relative in need, then the unpleasant emotion they feel is a result of cognitive dissonance. The different factors affecting dissonanceinclude the importance of the subject at hand, one’s ability to think clearly and explain the conflicting thoughts, and the degree to which the behavior and one’s beliefs conflict. Human beings try to be consistent in their perceptions, beliefs, and behaviors. They all strive to avoid the disharmony resulting from inconsistent beliefs (Eiser 32)
Cognitive dissonance plays a significant role in people’s daily decisions, judgments, and evaluations. To make quicker and more accurate choices, it is imperative to be aware of how the differing beliefs impact one’s ability to make decisions. According to Leon Festinger, the man who came up with the cognitive dissonance theory, everyone holds different perceptions about themselves, their co-workers, family, friends, and the world around them. When one sees his or her friends or colleagues behave differently to the beliefs they hold of them, they feel dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is a very powerful motivational tool that can be used to change people’s attitude. By just creating cognitive dissonance in someone’s mind, one can motivate that person to change his or her attitude. For example, if one’s colleague has a negative attitude towards his manager, one can inform him that the managerin question is a real person in order create conflicting emotions (Eiser 34)
In life, people encounter many decisions,and most of them lead to dissonance. A person may end up making the wrong decisions while trying to reconcile conflicting beliefs. For example, smokers always refuse to accept the fact that the habit is not good for their health. Also, investors sometimes refuse to believe that they have already made an irrational investment decision. They try to justify themselves to avoid the unpleasant emotions associated with the poor decision (like buying overpriced shares). Instead of correcting the poor decisions, they made end up making worse decisions leading to more regrets. When experiencing unpleasant emotions, it is important to stop and find out the cause of the inner conflict. If the conflict is due to an individual, it is best to decide not to associate with them anymore.
CommonMethods of Measuring a Person’s Attitude
Over the years, different methods of measuring attitude have been formulated. The methods focus on behavioral, cognitive, and affective elements. However, none of these methods has been found to becompletely accurate. The questionnaire method is where the subject is required to decide on the degree of agreement towards each question or statement. These can include verbal reactions to different situations and self-reports. An observation method is where the participants are observed to see their actions or reactions to various stimuli. Their physiological responses are also noted. For example, dilated pupils are associated with positive attitudes. Indeed, the slight changes in the size of pupils send out different meanings about the attitude of the respondent. Sweating can also indicate something about the behavior and attitude of the person under focus.
The non-structured method of measuring attitudes is where there is no formal procedure or structure for questioning. This method can either be disguised or non-disguised. In a disguisedmethod, the respondent does not have a clue about the objective of the activity or interview. It includes sentence completion exercises and pictorial techniques (Thematic Apperception Test and cartoon tests). The way respondents perform will reveal their conscious and unconscious attitudes. The non-disguised methods include in-depth interviews conducted by experienced psychologists. The detailed response of the interviewee is what is used to assess his or her attitude towards a given subject. Self-rating scales are also used to objectively measure attitudes where the participants put themselves in categories depending on their degree of like or dislike of a situation (Pennington, Gillen and Hill 77)
Ways in Which Attitudes Can Be Changed
The same influences that contribute to theformation of attitudes can also lead to a position change. The different ways of changing people’s attitudes include choosing the right company and looking for a role model with the kind of outlook on life that they admire. It is also important to identify and understand what needs to be changed. Other ways include getting rid of negative people, situations, and activities. Building healthy relationships with one’s support group will also help in changing attitudes.
The dissonance theory of attitude change suggests that conflicting beliefs about a topic often lead to a change in attitude. A person will change his attitude so as to reduce the unpleasant emotions caused by contradictory beliefs. According to the learning theory of attitude change, classical conditioning may help to create a positive attitude towards a person by associating positive feelings with that person. An individual can also decide to change his attitude after observing how others are behaving. The elaboration likelihood theory suggests that people change their attitudes when they listen to thought-provoking messages that appeal to their logic (Vogel, and Wänke 133)
Tri-Component Model of Attitudes
The major components of the tri-component attitude model are the knowledge (cognitive) component, the emotional (affect) component, and the action (behavioral) component. The knowledge component is made of cognitive processes that help in the formation of attitudes. It is an individual’s mental representation of a given object. An example is the knowledge a buyer has about a particular product which shapes their beliefs and opinions thereby giving rise to an attitude. The knowledge component then leads to the emotional component which can either be negative, positive, or neutral. The emotional aspect is now how a buyer feels about a product or service. The action or behavioral component represents the outcome of the attitudes formed. It is the final decision of whether to purchase a product or not.
Halo Effect and Horn Effect
The halo effect refers to the tendency to rate the people one admires more favorably that those they do not. It is a cognitive bias that distorts people’s thinking due to overgeneralizations arising from a positive first impression. Just because a person has a likable personality does not mean he is intelligent or kind. While appraising others, these misleading feelings usually overcome cognitions. For example, when an interviewee makes a positive statement during the first few minutes of an interview, the interviewer will tend to ignore the negative traits of the person. On the other hand, the horn effect is a type of cognitive bias that allows a negative first impression to overshadow other positive characteristics of a person. If an interviewee gives a negative statement at the start of the interview, the interviewer will likely overlook the positivecomponent and reject the candidate.
Eiser, J R. Attitudes and Decisions. New York: Psychology Press, 1988.
Vogel, Tobias, and Michaela Wänke.Attitudes and Attitude Change.New York:
Pennington, Donald C, Kate Gillen, and Pam Hill.Social Psychology.1999.