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Cognitive Dissonance and Personal Investment
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6/23/2016 3:13:23 PM
Posted: 7 months ago
A study (linked below) demonstrates that people's opinions, perceptions, and acceptance of a group are altered by the level of investment that's undertaken towards becoming or considering becoming a member of said group. This is theorized to be a result of Cognitive Dissonance; essentially, the more effort/resources (e.g. time) and trouble that an individual experiences directly influences the individual's judgments towards perceiving the group more positively. This creates dissonance between the individuals personal investment and what would normally be considered negative aspect of the group. This dissonance is reduced in two ways: (a) the individual minimizing the level of investment, judging it to be less unpleasant or difficult that it was, or (b) maximizing the positive aspects of the group while minimizing the negative. In general, the greater the level of investment, the more difficult it is to minimize it, so individuals who invest more greatly in a group will be more inclined towards (b) in reducing cognitive dissonance.
This is applicable to organized religious groups or cults, such that individuals who are selected for recruitment are required to invest time, money, and/or social sacrifices in order to become a member of such a group. If investments begin small and the positive aspects of the group are accentuated, then the appeal of the group will be higher. However, as personal investment grows, difficulty in dismissing this investment correlatively increases, thus, increasing the tendency to minimize the negative aspects of the group. Dismissing the group as not worthwhile (leaving) invokes cognitive dissonance by rendering all personal investment worthless (which could create dissonance with a self-image of intelligence and rationality) and invoke social consequences. Both of these potential factors influence the individual towards maintaining membership of said group.
This can be attributed to Postdetection Dissonance, in which investors faced with two alternatives and following the selection, will tend to maximize the positive aspects of the selected options while minimizing the aspects of the other. This would cause an individual who chose to join a group to view membership and non-membership of the group appropriately and, theoretically, proportionally to the degree of investment. This establishes strong bias towards maintaining an overly positive perspective as a result of the need to minimize dissonance.
Note that an individual's intelligence or general education may not be a significant factor in their participation or recruitment into such groups, especially once initiation is established.
Does anyone have opinions on or disagreements with the above or which the study, itself? Thank you.
Summary and Conclusion (from primary source):
An experiment was conducted to test the hypothesis that persons who undergo an unpleasant initiation to become members of a group increase their liking for the group; that is, they find the group more attractive than do persons who become members without going through a severe initiation. This hypothesis was derived from Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance.
College women who volunteered to participate in discussion groups were randomly assigned to one of three experimental conditions: A Severe initiation condition, a Mild initiation condition, and a Control condition. In the Severe condition, subjects were required to read some embarrassing material before joining the group; in the Mild condition the material they read in order to join the group was not very embarrassing; in the Control condition, subjects were not required to read any material before becoming group members. Each subject listened to a recording that appeared to be an ongoing discussion being conducted by the group which she had just joined. Afterwards, subjects filled out a questionnaire evaluating the discussion and the participants. The results clearly verified the hypothesis. Subjects who underwent a severe initiation perceived the group as being significantly more attractive than did those who underwent a mild initiation or no initiation. There was no appreciable difference between ratings by subjects who underwent a Mild initiation and those by subjects who underwent no initiation.
Paper: The Effect of Severity of Initiation on Liking for a Group (Aronson/Mills, 1959)
Supporting Paper: Importance of Decision and Postdetection Dissonance: A Return to the Racetrack (Stevick/Martin/Showalter 1991)
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6/27/2016 11:55:36 AM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 6/23/2016 3:13:23 PM, Chaosism wrote:
It's quite interesting how much bias we are all subject too