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Cognitive Dissonance Research Paper


This paper gives the definition of cognitive dissonances. Also, it outlines the methods put in place to measure a person’s attitude. Apart from that, it also lists and describes the ways attitudes can be changed. Furthermore, it discusses the three components of the Tri-component Model of attitudes, defines and explains the halo effect and horn effect and lastly provides a conclusion.

Cognitive dissonance.

In definition, cognitive dissonance refers to the feeling of having uncomfortable tension resulting holding two thoughts at the same time in the mind that are conflicting. It is also the anxiety resulting from holding incompatible or contradicting attitudes, beliefs among others simultaneously as evident when a person likes somebody but one of his or her habit causes a strong disapproval to the liking.

Cognitive dissonance is a powerful motivator often leading to changes in a person or the belief or action causing the conflict ion. The discomfort present in between opposing thoughts is tension like. In releasing the tension, changing our behavior, change of the conflicting cognition and addition of new cognition as a means of justifying our behavior are among the three choices one can take. Dissonance increases with the decision impact or importance in its relation to difficulty in reversing it.

Common methods to measure a person’s attitude.

People possess different degrees in likes and dislikes. The need to measure attitudes is because they are action tendencies and in that way, they hinder or facilitate at all levels the actions of an individual, community, groups, state and national. Therefore, according to there are two basic categories of attitude measurement 1. The direct measurement that involves the use of Liker scale as well as semantic differential. The other is Indirect Measurement where protective techniques are put into place.

Semantic Differential.

Semantic differential technique involves asking a person to rate issues or topics basing on standardized bipolar adjectives set with a scale representing seven points 6 to prepare this scale one needs to think of opposite meanings words applicable in describing the test subject. This technique (semantic differential) gives three basic attitude dimensions of information, activity, evaluation and potency.

Evaluation is involved with how a person thinks whether positively or negatively about the topic of the attitude.1 How powerful the topic is to the involved person is potency, and lastly, activity is concerned with how active or passive the topic is to the involved person. Using this technique a person’s feeling (evaluation) regarding an object with behavior consistency is seen.

Use of Protective Techniques.

To avoid problems associated with social desirability, indirect attitude measures have been put into place. Indirect methods typically use a protective test. In this test, a person is presented with the ambiguous stimulus. The person is required to interpret the stimulus. The way the person interprets the ambiguous stimulus, his/ her attitude is inferred. In this measure, the assumption is that the involved person is going to “project” opinions, attitudes or views thus revealing his/her attitude[i]. Indirect methods provide only general information, and therefore they lack precision in measurement of the attitude because of its qualitative nature. The method is faced with big criticism because it is neither objective nor scientific.

Use of direct observation.

It involves recording actual behavior about people whose attitude is being studied. The method is objective and is not practicable where the need to collect data about large groups of individual arises. Where behavior become the outcome of the studied attitude, it may tell where the attitude direction underlies may it may not easily provide the attitudes magnitude or strength. The caution that needs to be taken care of is in deciding on the suitability of the method to given situation.

Ways attitudes can be changed.

  1. Generating a positive attitude.

It can be achieved by getting rid of negativity in life. Consider joining support groups with people who have been similarly motivated to change for the better doing as recommended; there are chances that a positive change will be noted. A person can gain positive habits and strengthen them.

A positive attitude can also be achieved by staying in a healthy relationship. Looking for the positive in yourself and being kind to others helps in generating a positive attitude.

  1. Developing an attitude of gratitude.

It is achieved by writing a daily gratitude list by doing this the attention is slowed down in a meaningful way feel grateful if you doesn’t have anything to be grateful about. Also, send thank you cards because it is essential for attitude change.

Practicing meditation or prayers places the mind in the present moment   is vital cultivating a positive attitude.` People are also advised to stop complaining but instead, recognize good aspects sin their life. Paying more attention to positive things allows good experiences. Taking ownership of your thoughts and actions is effective to changing.

  1. Forming new habits

It includes waking up earlier to allow more time to focus on yourself, goal and the intention you are employing to change. Avoid time wastage in negative mind traps. It is also advisable to spend time with positive people to prevent from feeling drained and depressed by unproductive individuals3 trying to respond and not to react to situations also a way to change. Dwelling on the past or the future is also not good but instead, try to dwell on the present moment.

The three components of the Tri-component Model of Attitudes.

There are three components of attitude as described by a tri-component model of attitudes also known as CAC model. The components are affective, conative/behavior and cognitive. Affective model is characterized by emotional response, that is, the emotional aspect that develops as a person is talking with others about a particular subject 4.  For instance, if a person is talking about a flying car with another person, then they will start thinking if it has features of an airplane and car at the same time and how they can perform excellently on both functionality.

The other component, conative or behavioral component, its featured with the aspect of action response to an observation from what another person is doing5. It is commonly in children when they are learning how to do some chores or just playing. If an adult is typing using a laptop and a child is watching, then later on the child will try to do the same thing they observed to their level best of how it was done.

The third component, cognitive component, a person assesses a situation to their level best and respond it according to their opinion. The judgment is based on a person’s belief concerning an attitude situation based on the exposure to information about the situation at hand. An example may be when a person is convinced by another to smoke cigarettes, but the other person already knows the side effects of smoking cigarettes do he can’t accept to take the action.

Horn effect and halo effect.

This refers to a cognitive bias causing one to allow one trait deemed good (halo) or bad (horns) to overshadow other behaviors, traits, beliefs or actions.

Halo and Horn effect is attributed to the fact that it is closely related to mental models and working together they bring about magnified influence having mere association at work on one hand. The mental model of implicit personality theory, on the other hand that states that individuals believe that there is an inter-connection between traits and in the presence of one trait means others are present which is not true6. The best defense against halo effect and horns effect is adhering to one rule always. Regardless who proposes an idea, the idea must stand regarding merits attributed to it.

In conclusion, the discussion has looked into various definitions employed in understanding cognitive dissonance, the various methods used to measure attitude and ways to improve the same.It lastly gives a depth explanation on halo and horn effect.


  1. Shepard, J.M.,Cengage advantage books: sociology. Cengage Learning 2012.
  2. Borkowski, N.. Organizational behavior in health care. Sudbury, Mass, Jones and Bartlett Publishers 2011.

3 Fiske, S.T., Gilbert, D.T. and Lindzey, G.,. Handbook of social psychology . John Wiley & Sons 2010 (Vol. 2).

  1. Davey, G., Sterling, C. and Field, A.,.Complete psychology. Routledge 2014.
  2. Borkowski, N.. Organizational behavior in health care. Sudbury, Mass, Jones and Bartlett Publishers 2011.



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