This essay sample on Cognitive Dissonance Essay provides all necessary basic information on this matter, including the most common “for and against” arguments. Below are the introduction, body and conclusion parts of this essay.

Cognitive dissonance theory was first proposed by Festinger in 1957 in which he suggested that there is a tendency for individuals to seek consistency among their cognitions (i. e. beliefs/opinions). When there is an inconsistency between attitudes or behaviours then something must happen to eliminate this inconsistency and the discomfort this causes.

Festinger proposed that in the case of a discrepancy between attitude and behaviour it is likely to be that the attitude will alter to accommodate the behaviour.

This theory was investigated in a study undertaken by Festinger and Carlsmith in 1959. Subjects were asked to undertake two very dull repetitive tasks. At the end some of the subjects were given one dollar and told to tell the next subject that the task was interesting.

Another group of subjects were given twenty dollars and told to tell the next subject that the task was interesting. The final group was sent away once the task was complete without talking to anybody. The groups were subsequently interviewed and questioned on how interesting the task had been.

The one dollar group reported that the task was interesting, the twenty dollar group reported the task was boring and the control group reported the same. The conclusion was that the one dollar group was not sufficiently rewarded for lying and therefore cognitive dissonance occurred.

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They convinced themselves the task was interesting in order to remove the cognitive dissonance. The twenty dollar group were sufficiently rewarded for lying so felt no cognitive dissonance. Dissonance theory and the motorist. When trying to change the attitudes and behaviour of motorists we need to explore Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive Dissonance Paper

For example, when a motorist takes a “rat run” in order to avoid a queue of traffic he may not in effect get to his destination any quicker, neither may he recognise the risks associated with his action. If he does recognise this then dissonance will occur. In addition to this he may also live on a residential road and feel aggrieved when motorists use “his” road to short cut, subsequently cognitive dissonance occurs. In attempt to alleviate this dissonance he may try and justify his actions by altering his attitude in saying that if rat running was a problem on the route he uses then the council would introduce a method of preventing it.

He may also convince himself that other people are doing it and one more car won’t make a difference. How do we as road safety professionals bring about a change in attitude? Other methods such as physical engineering works can be used to enforce behaviour change however this will only have a short term effect and will be related only to that locality. A long term attitude will have a beneficial effect upon behaviour at all similar situations. One of the biggest successes in road safety during recent times has been the “drink drive” challenge. In the 1960s and early 1970s it was seen as socially acceptable to drink drive.

Your friends did it so you did it with little thought for the consequences. It is fair to say that increased enforcement of this issue has had some affect on reducing the numbers of motorists drink driving but the biggest success has been with attitude change following years of awareness raising and education campaigns. This has brought about a sea change in attitude whereby nowadays it is completely socially unacceptable to drink and drive and it is likely that friends would even prevent each other from doing so. Therefore it can be seen that with sustained targeted and appropriate education attitudes can be changed.

It should therefore follow that if we invest the same resources in tackling the issues of inappropriate speed then we can bring about a sustained change in attitude regarding this. We therefore need to challenge the dissonance felt by speeding motorists. In West Sussex we run a road safety campaign aimed at challenging this dissonance. Called ” Make the Commitment” the campaign encourages motorists to sign up to a pledge to say that they will not speed in residential areas. The campaign is adopted by whole communities and not only are the pledges signed but roadside posters are erected to tell motorists that they are in a speed pledge area.

This campaign has been successful in challenging the behaviour of those motorists who speed in other areas but would not dream of doing so in their own area. Also included in the campaign has been a number of radio advertisements. This have been hugely successful in reaching the target audience at the time of the behaviour you are challenging thus creating cognitive dissonance in attempt to alter their behaviour at that time. The campaign has been successful in raising the awareness of inappropriate speed and its’ affects on communities.

As mentioned earlier education is also key in bringing about a long term change in attitude and behaviour. The UK’s Road Traffic Law Review (1988) recommended that: “A pilot study of one day retraining in basic driving skills as a disposal should be undertaken to determine whether such retraining produces a lasting improvement in the driving skills of the offender undertaking it. ” The recommendation was prompted following the identification that a large number of motor vehicle collisions are caused by driver skills deficit. Furthermore, it was felt that this approach could also benefit drivers who persistently commit traffic violations.

It was felt that these drivers’ attitudes towards committing offences could be modified, with a consequent reduction in their offending behaviour. The National Driver Improvement Scheme (NDIS) attempts to re-educate motorists who have committed offences such as speeding or non-conformity. Attendance is offered on a referral basis as an alternative to the motorist having a fine or penalty points imposed on them. It is likely that these reasons motivate most motorists to attend rather than a desire to change as they will probably believe that they are a safe driver who was unlucky to be caught on that occasion.

Therefore, we may assume that the majority of these individuals consider that they made an active, unforced and positive choice in attending the course. Dissonance theory (Festinger, 1957) suggests that NDIS clients will justify their physical, financial and psychological investment by changing their attitudes in such a way that they become consistent with those endorsed during the course. During the course attitudes and behaviour is examined and the consequences of inappropriate speeding is highlighted to the participants.

Anecdotal evidence has shown that attitudes of even the most sceptical participants are affected by the course and whilst there is still much research to be undertaken to ascertain the long term affects of such programmes the initial research has shown that very few of the participants re-offend within the first two years after attending a course. It is also likely, though as far as I am aware not proven, that participants on the course will go on to re-educate others within their social circle as to the consequences of speeding. The course may therefore be having a greater impact than on just the referred participants.

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Cognitive Dissonance Essay
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