Cognitive dissonance as a function of self-esteem and logical inconsistency1


  • 1

    This research was supported by United States Public Health Service Grant No 5-S05-FR-07057-04


An experiment was conducted to test the importance of self-esteem in the arousal of cognitive dissonance. Recently, Aronson (1969) suggested that the reason an attitude-discrepant speech can arouse dissonance is that it is an indecent act committed by an individual who likes to think of himself as a good and decent person. Looking at counterattitudinal behavior as a discrepancy with one's self-concept rather than as a logical discrepancy between behavioral and attitudinal cognitions differs from Festinger and Carlsnuth's (1959) original notion In the experiment reported, subjects volunteered to take a personality inventory and received either neutral, very favorable, or very unfavorable feedback In this way, subjects' level of self-esteem was raised or lowered Following this procedure, subjects were induced to record a speech that was known to be discrepant with their private beliefs. They were offered either a small or a large inducement for their statements. It was predicted that, regardless of their level of self-esteem, subjects would manifest the inverse relationship between incentive magnitude and attitude change predicted by dissonance theory The major analysis of the results, and the concomitant internal analysis, generally supported the prediction With one qualification, the results were held to be consistent with Festinger and Carlsmith's version of dissonance arousal and inconsistent with the self-esteem analysis