COGNITIVE DISSONANCE: Leon Festinger and Me

Discussion in 'Poet's Corner' started by RonPrice, Dec 10, 2010.

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  1. RonPrice

    RonPrice Member

    The year I joined the Baha’i Faith the social psychologist Leon Festinger received the Distinguished Scientist Award of the American Psychological Association. He was also elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in that year. It was 1959. After masterful experimentation on the theory of cognitive dissonance, his research culminated in the publication of work that was at the time referred to as “the most important development in social psychology to date.”(1) Festinger also developed the theory of propinquity. The propinquity effect is the tendency for people to form friendships or romantic relationships with those whom they often encounter. In other words, relationships tend to be formed between those who have a high propinquity.–Ron Price with thanks to (1)Jack W. Brehm and A.R. Cohen Brehm, (eds.), Explorations in Cognitive Dissonance, Wiley, NY, 1962.

    Festinger did not rest his theory on observational data alone. He proceeded to test it experimentally. In Festinger and Carlsmith's classic experiment, in that same year of 1959 when I was in grade 10, students were asked to perform tedious and meaningless tasks. I won’t describe that experiment here. The result of the experiment, though, was in accord with the theory of cognitive dissonance. -Ron Price with thanks to “Leon Festinger,” in The New World Encyclopaedia.

    While I was just forming my belief system back
    in those days of the Baby Boom and the start of
    the X-generation, in those days of what was said
    to be the end of ideology;1 the days that offered
    the good life in the suburbs; the days when that
    mask of faith was drawn aside; when a superficial
    propriety reigned in the West and rock and roll
    woke people up from dreams of Doris Day, Ike
    the General, luxury without stress, or genetilia.2

    People were given undeniable evidence that their beliefs
    were wrong but they did not change them. Convictions
    of their truth often increased acting with great fervour
    to convince others to believe also. What leads to such
    paradoxical behavior? Deeply held conviction & actions
    that must be taken for the sake of this belief and are very
    difficult to undo; the belief must be able to be disconfirmed
    by events in the world……such undeniable disconfirmatory
    evidence must occur and be recognized by the individual;
    and the individual believer must have good social support.
    Historical examples are the Millerites who expected the 2nd
    coming of Christ in the year 1843, but He came in a way that
    they never expected. Arousal of dissonance resulted when the
    prophecy failed. Altering beliefs would have been too difficult
    and it was the same for millions back then when I was putting
    my beliefs into some package of organic sweet reasonableness
    that would have to deal with my life’s inevitable dissonances.

    1 Daniel Bell, The End of Ideology, 1960.
    2 D.T. Miller and M. Nowak, The Fifties: The Way We Really Were, Doubleday & Co., Inc., NY, 1977. p.302.

    Ron Price
    2 December 2010
     
  2. Sadeyes

    Sadeyes Staff Alumni

    I live in the world of cognitive dissonance...just completed an article on leaders' ability to tolerate same and their ability to manage change...thanks for sharing...J
     
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