Study Document

Psychology Question Answer

Pages:5 (1482 words)



Topic:Cognitive Dissonance

Document Type:Question Answer



Question 1

What differentiated the control group from the two experimental groups and the two experimental groups from each other?

The aim of the experiment is key to differentiating all the groups involved: groups A, B, and control. Festinger and Carlsmith (1959) were trying to identify the occurrence of cognitive dissonance in the experiment through the motivations of the groups, thereby proving the validity of their theory over the behaviorist and reinforcement approach. The main difference between all the groups is the motivation/level of dissonance experienced. The control group experienced no dissonance, as they were not required to lie about the experimental procedure nor offered monetary compensation; the other groups were, however, motivated to lie via monetary compensation. Groups A and B are further differentiated by their level of “induced dissonance” through the amount of monetary compensation offered to them: group A received $1, which is significantly less than the $20 offered to group B participants. Based on the premise of cognitive dissonance, group B is expected to experience less dissonance due to an increased or justifiable motivation (induced) for their attitude change. Group A, on the other hand, had a higher cognitive dissonance and experienced a greater attitude change to compensate for the inconsistency.

Question 2

What does dissonance do to a person, and what can they do the reduce it?

Cognitive dissonance being a state of confliction between a person’s belief and outward actions or expressions results in varying degrees of discomfort and uneasiness, depending on the degree of conflict within the person (Van Kampen, 2019. p. 7). The discomfort associated with cognitive dissonance is usually in form of anxiety, shame or guilt (Legg, 2019). Since a person can only tolerate an inconvenient cognitive state for a period, the conflicted person attempts to reduce their dissonance by equally reducing the conflict within them. This motivation to escape from the mental cage of cognitive dissonance is termed “the principle of cognitive consistency” (Van Kampen, 2019. pp. 1-2). Dissonance reduction is usually achieved through a change in behavior or attitude, especially towards the existing belief system, a change in the existing belief system, or a justification of current behavior/attitude in line with the existing belief system (Izuma & Murayama, 2019). As prescribed by the principle of cognitive consistency, the human mind continuously tries to harmonize itself by blocking-out or denying conflicting thoughts/data that contradicts an already adopted/existing belief system (Northrup, 2018).

Question 3

A. Why did the $20 group change their opinion less than the $1 group?

The $20 group changed their opinion less than the $1 group because the theory of cognitive dissonance is valid. According to Festinger and Carlsmith (1959), the theory of cognitive dissonance suggests when a reward system is attached to a change in opinion or attitude, a higher reward results in less change in attitude than lesser rewards. This is due to the internalization of interest (or attitude-discrepant behavior) in the individuals offered the lower reward as a compensation for the non-justification of their expected change in attitude in favor of the associated low reward. In the case of a high reward, however, the reward can be considered enough compensation for the change in attitude. This serves as a good substitute for reducing the expected level of dissonance that would have been recorded otherwise.

B. Supposed the $20 group did change their opinions more than the $1 group, which theory would that have supported?

Assuming the $20 group had a greater change in opinion than the $1 group, their actions would have supported the Reinforcement/Incentive theory. This theory explains that the behavior of an operant (or test subject) is dependent on the consequence of such behavior, and certain consequences increase the tendency for its repetition. Consequences that increase the tendency for repeating a behavior are tagged “reinforcers,” and the process of encouraging behavior through such reinforcers is called reinforcement (Silverman, Jarvis, Jessel, & Lopez, 2016. p.98). In this case, monetary compensation would serve as a reinforcer. Thus, if its increase (from $1 to $20) leads to a corresponding increase in the intended behavior, reinforcement theory would have been justified. The failure of this…

Sample Source(s) Used


Cherry, K. (2020). The Incentive Theory of Motivation. Retrieved from:

Festinger, L., & Carlsmith, J. M. (1959). Thoughts out of tune. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 58, 203-210.

Izuma, K., & Murayama, K. (2019). The neural basis of cognitive dissonance. In E. Harmon-Jones (Ed.), Cognitive dissonance: Reexamining a pivotal theory in psychology (p. 227–245). American Psychological Association.

Legg, T. (2019). Cognitive dissonance: What to know. Retrieved from:

McLeod, S. (2018). Cognitive dissonance. Retrieved from

Northrup, C. (2018). 4 ways to reduce cognitive dissonance. Retrieved from:

Silverman, K., Jarvis, B. P., Jessel, J., & Lopez, A. A. (2016). Incentives and motivation. Translational Issues in Psychological Science, 2(2), 97–100. DOI:10.1037/tps0000073 Retrieved from:

Van Kampen, H. S. (2019). The principle of consistency and the cause and function of behaviour. Behavioural processes, 159, 42-54. Retrieved from:

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