A Goal Systemic Analysis of Cognitive Dissonance Phenomena
Kruglanski, Arie W
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Cognitive dissonance phenomena were examined from a perspective of goal systems theory (Kruglanski, Shah, Fishbach, Friedman, Chun, & Sleeth-Keppler, 2002). The goal-systemic analysis challenges revisions to Festinger's (1957) original formulation that narrow the scope of dissonance theory by asserting the necessity of cognitive contents specifically related to the self-concept (Aronson, 1992; Cooper & Fazio, 1984; Steele, 1988) for dissonance arousal. The goal-systemic analysis, however, attempts to go beyond the original formulation (Festinger, 1957) in identifying the critical inconsistency in dissonance arousal as occurring between a goal representation and any information that conveys frustration of the goal. Hence, goal activation patterns are assumed to play a critical role in dissonance phenomena. To the extent that one is actively committed to a goal, hindrances arouse dissonance while inhibition of that goal decreases the degree of dissonance arousal. Two experiments were conducted to put these notions to an empirical test. Experiment 1 examined the role of goal activation patterns in cognitive dissonance phenomena through the employment of a priming procedure. In a study conducted within the induced compliance paradigm participants generated counterattitudinal arguments. This experiment demonstrated that priming participants with the goal of honesty increased dissonance induced attitude change, while dissonance effects were attenuated by priming a competing goal (i.e. compliance). Direct evidence was not found, however, that this effect was mediated by the degree of active commitment to the honesty goal. Experiment 2 tested the assumption that the implication of the self-concept and free choice are necessary for dissonance phenomena to occur. In the free choice paradigm dissonance effects were obtained, as evidenced by the spreading of alternatives effect, in the absence of choice when participants were primed with a goal not related to the self-concept. This effect, however, was primarily driven by the upgrading of the received alternative without evidence of the downgrading of the not received alternative. Further implications for cognitive dissonance theory are briefly discussed.