.. earch paper. Either myself and/or my friends would be active participants in the persuasion process. The basic premise of the cognitive-dissonance theory is that when two pieces of information do not follow each other we will experience some form of psychological tension, which we will attempt to reduce in some way. Often times, according to Leon Festinger, people attempt to reduce cognitive dissonance whenever possible (Gleitman, 1983, p.12).
I noticed many times that my friends were very interested in the topic of quitting their habit, and some at times took the issue personally. When people are personally involved with an issue, much like the use of tobacco, they are much more attentive to the issue (Petty & Cacioppo, 1981, p. 847). For example, on 3/31/96 I told my three friends th t I was concerned about how much they had been smoking recently. On the average they are smoking 20 cigarettes a day. One of the girls immediately retaliated with the statement that her grandmother smoked for nearly all of her life and she is in good health.
In this particular instance we can see the basicpremise of the consistency theories at work. The girl who said this statement likes me. She also enjoys smoking. When I made the statement that I was concerned with the levels of tobacco consumption she disregarded my opinion by using past experiences as evidence to back her point. She is a friend so I assume she somewhat values my opinion, but she upgraded her opinion of smoking and downgraded my opinion. She experienced some form of dissonance when I stated my opinion.
She reduced her dissonance and thus was in balance. This is where Festingers theory of cognitive dissonance attempts to rationalize her behavior. The other consistency theories do not recognize the degree to which the dissonance exist. If you were to not use Festingers model, most likely you would have assumed that my opinion would have changed her attitude and actions. After all, I did have a contradictory opinion that did not follow hers, and dissonance was felt.
Thats what is missing from the balance theory and the congruency theory: latitudes of attitude. This theory, unlike many others, must factor in the human psyche as a variable. The persuasion process did not occur in this case because my friends attitude towards not smoking was so anti-quitting, that it might be impossible to change. You cannot think of this theory in regards to machines you must look at it from the human perspective. Another example of observable cognitive-dissonance occurred on 4/7/96.
The same three friends and myself were watching television. An anti-smoking campaign sponsored by the American Red Cross came on the television. Various facts about the amount of people that die every year from smoking and statistics about the amount of Americans with lung cancer were shared. I asked the girls what they thought about the information. They all agreed that it could happen to them, but they hoped it did not.
In this case, I believe dissonance was created by exposure to information. The girls did not like the information and downplayed its validity. Not one of the girls stood up and said, I am going to quit smoking today, I am really at risk of getting lung cancer! Once again personal involvement was a given, and once again no action was taken. The girls feel to strong about smoking and refuse to quit. We must ask ourselves what a solution to this problem could be? Why is it that smokers, in the face of grave danger, refuse to reduce dissonance by acting out their urge to quit smoking? The cognitive-dissonance theory is a part of our everyday lives, whether we realize it or not.
When we are presented with view points or opinions that differ from our own often times we feel dissonance. We, as human beings, are always striving to keep our lives in balance. Often a balance in our psyche requires that we not heed the warnings of things to come. As I have shown, cognitive-dissonance is utilized to avoid taking action. As many theorist have stated cognitive dissonance does create an internal conflict that causes someone to take action.
In the case of smokers, I must regrettably report that smoking is vary rarely avoided, even with dissonance in full effect. Smokers, when presented with hard core data showing a decline in health due to smoking, refuse to head warning. This is evident with all of the guaranteed products to help people stop smoking. First there was The Patch and now the consumers are intrigued with products, such as Niccorrest Gum. Apparently no matter how much dissonance is felt and to what degree it is felt does not matter.
Therefore, it may not be possible to get rid of dissonance or even to reduce it materially by changing ones behavior or feeling. The research I have conducted supports my claim that it is nearly impossible to change the actions of smokers even though massive amounts of cognitive dissonance are felt. I believe that many of the people being observed reduced th overall magnitude of dissonance by adding new cognitive elements. No matter how much dissonance is felt, the smoker will always find elements that are consonant (agreeable) with the fact of smoking. The will power of individuals feeling as though they have to have smoking in their everyday lives is, often times, far to powerful for dissonance to overcome Perhaps research such as mine can be useful to further research into the area of dissonance and the use of tobacco. Much work still needs to be done in this area. We see so many people dying from lung cancer.
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