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Attitudes Essay

569 words - 3 pages

Attitude Theories
Patricia Saylor
Strayer University Online

Prof. Robin Oatis-Ballew
May 6, 2012

Cognitive dissonance was fist examined by Leon Festinger, this arose from the observations he made of a cult whom believed that the earth would soon be destroyed by a flood. Members that had been faithful to the cult had to give up their homes and jobs to come and work for the cult. This came about after the fact the earth was not destroyed by the flood. The faithful members of the cult were ashamed and felt like they had made fools of themselves for believing that something like this was about to happen. According to cognitive dissonance theory, there is a tendency for individuals to seek consistency among their cognitions (beliefs, opinions). When there is an inconsistency between attitudes or behaviors (dissonance), something must change to eliminate the dissonance.
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There are three ways to eliminate dissonance: reduce the importance of the dissonant beliefs, add more consonant beliefs that outweigh the dissonant beliefs, or change the dissonant beliefs so that they are no longer inconsistent. There are also individual differences in whether or not people act as this theory predicts. Highly anxious people are more likely to do so. Many people seem able to cope with considerable dissonance and not experience the tensions the theory predicts. Cognitive dissonance approaches have not gone unchallenged.
An alternative approach, known as self-perception theory, suggests that all individuals analyze their own behavior much as an outside observer might and, as a result of these observations, make judgments about why they are motivated to do what they do. Self-perception theory addresses the question of how one comes to know their attitudes and feelings. This theory challenges cognitive dissonance theory by suggesting we observe our own behavior and make judgments about our motivations for these behaviors. This process leads to our 'feeling'; in other words, actions create feelings. The obvious empirical difference between common sense and self-perception theory is in what each would predict if we induced someone to act as if they felt something. Common sense would anticipate no effect of actions on feelings, whereas self-perception theory predicts that acting would lead to feeling. Indeed, if the actions did not produce corresponding feelings, self-perception theory would clearly be wrong.
Self-perception theory, it is suggested, accurately characterizes attitude change phenomena in the context of attitude-congruent behavior and dissonance theory attitude change in the context of attitude-discrepant behavior. Attitude-congruent is defined as any position within an individual's latitude of acceptance; attitude-discrepant as any position in the latitude of rejection. A great example of the self-perception theory would know that smoking causes cancer amongst other health issues but you continue the habit. Some may decide to quit.


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