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Attitude and Cognitive Dissonance

Attitude and Cognitive Dissonance

Introduction to Psychology

Attitude and Cognitive Dissonance

Dr. Ting, a lecturer in the Northside Christian College, Australia, provides a detailed description of the concept of attitude and cognitive dissonance through his YouTube channel. He vividly describes the explicit and implicit attitudes and provides his view and prediction on how the discrepancies between behaviors and attitude can always lead to cognitive dissonance. At the onset of his video, he gives an example of attitude by referring to people’s smoking perceptions. He explains that it is logical that most people who smoke always have a more positive attitude towards smoking, while those who do not smoke are more likely to have negative attitudes towards smoking. However, this notion may always be complex since some people have contradicting behaviors and attitudes. Dr. Ting defines attitude as the learned, stable, and comparatively enduring evaluations of people, events, objects, or ideas that significantly affect individuals' behaviors. He further defines cognitive dissonance as an unpleasant psychological tension and feeling experienced whenever people perceive their attitudes to be inconsistent with their behaviors. He explains that people might always undergo considerable efforts to justify their behavior to reduce their tension.

As a way of demonstrating how attitude and cognitive dissonance work, Dr. Ting gives an example Leon Festinger’s narrative regarding a failed prophesy. In this narrative, a cult had revealed to the people that the earth was going to be destroyed by flood. However, this prediction was unable to occur since no flood happened. After the failure of this prophecy, the people's behavior and attitude depended on the level of their investment and commitments. Those who had low obligations were more likely to identify that they had been fooled and tricked by the cult. However, those who had a higher commitment to this prophecy were more likely to reinterpret the proper evidence of this situation appropriately, and it is believed that their faithfulness was the leading cause that made the flood not happen. This situation was interesting because while those who had a low commitment to the prophecy and failed to give up their lives realized that the cult fooled them. However, those who had had high commitments were also convinced that the world was saved from the flood out of their faithfulness. These people found a way of explaining the event in a manner that safeguarded their system of belief rather than admitting that their belief was not correct. It was out of this experiment that Leon Festinger came up with the cognitive dissonance theory together with many other studies. Cognitive dissonance theory explains that all people have an innate drive to maintain internal cognition consistency as well as avoiding conditions of tension.

Additionally, Dr. Ting provides an example of cognitive dissonance by using the initiation effect experiment. The experiment was based on the proposition that people who encounter unpleasant initiations in order to be members of a particular group always increase their liking and have a positive attitude towards that group. They thus find the group more attractive than those who became members without experiencing the unpleasant initiation. Dr. Ting explains that because avoiding cognitive dissonance is always an innate desire, cognitive dissonance has a powerful influence on people's behaviors and actions. This is because it affects our decisions, judgment, and evaluations. This theory is also significant as it explains multiple common but severe tendencies of human beings, such as rationalization, justification, and continuous changing of attitudes and beliefs.

Dr. Ting further explains various factors that are responsible for the occurrence of cognitive dissonance. Among these factors include forcing individuals to comply with a particular behavior. Such situations occur when people are forcefully made to perform inconsistent actions contrary to their beliefs. The second factor pertains to decision-making. Since everyone must constantly make decisions in life, choosing alternatives always involve forgoing specific options. The more similar or attractive the two options are, the more people tend to experience cognitive dissonance. Reducing this experience always makes people justify their decisions, even in particular situations where they made wrong decisions. Gaining new information is another factor that causes cognitive dissonance. Besides, people are always influenced by the urge to achieve more in their lives based on the number of effects that they put. Activities or things that make people make a lot of effort always result in cognitive dissonance; more so, people spend a lot of effort but end up making little achievements. Ting concludes by noting that people's cognitive dissonance continuously varies depending on the situation that caused the dissonance to occur.


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