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Cognitive Dissonance: Leon Festinger And Me


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#1 RonPrice

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 08:32 AM

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 Ken

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 05:47 PM

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



A Behaviorist replies: :D

I think any answer to your question will either come in the far future or, more likely, never.

Why not ignore the why and concentrate on the data that confirms some fascinating realities of Social Psychology?

When I was listed with my university speaker's bureau one of my most popular talks was Mate Selection. I used a filtering approach using such factors as propinquity and a number of others drawn from both Social Psychology and Sociology to bring the total N-1 population of the earth down to a final "pool" of perhaps a dozen viable mates.

Lots of sight gags and intentional mis-quotes in the PowerPoint that accompanied the talk. Its likely stored on some disk and perhaps findable. ;) If I find it I'll send you a copy.

#3 sigurdV

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 12:02 PM

I read everything but did not understand anything, what is "cognitive" , What is "dissonance" and what is "cognitive dissonance"?

#4 Ken

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 10:33 PM

I read everything but did not understand anything, what is "cognitive" , What is "dissonance" and what is "cognitive dissonance"?


The Wikipedia definition is pretty good:

Cognitive dissonance is a discomfort caused by holding conflicting cognitions (e.g., ideas, beliefs, values, emotional reactions) simultaneously.


It often describes a situation in which one holds a belief but behaves in ways opposite to that belief. The solution, according to Festinger, is that the individual change either his/hers belief or their behavior to make belief and behavior consonant (in agreement).
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#5 RonPrice

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Posted 09 July 2015 - 06:31 AM

After more than 3 years, I offer my belated apologies for this response. Thanks to Wikipedia we can say that "In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values." for more go to: https://en.wikipedia...tive_dissonance