18 March 2019

18th March 1959 - Cognitive Dissonance Experiment

On 18th March 1959 — Leon Festinger and J. Merrill Carlsmith's article Cognitive Consequences of Forced Compliance was published in the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. This was the first of many experiments to test Festinger's theory.

Leon Festinger proposed that if a person is induced to to something against their private opinion that person will feel cognitive dissonance and the person will try to get rid of the dissonance or conflict to bring back mental harmony. One way is to change their opinion.

In the experiment participants took part in a repetitive, monotonous task. At the end they were asked to lie to the next person taking part and say the experiment was enjoyable. They were paid either $1 or $20 for lieing. A control group were not asked to lie. Lieing supposedly created dissonance as most people think lieing is wrong.

The experiment showed that those who were paid less subsequently said that they had found the task more enjoyable. Festinger said this was to reduce dissonance. So apparently those who were paid a larger sum did not have dissonance.

Thanks to today in psychology history for this date

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