Tag Archives: Festinger

When Counterintuitive Experiments Collide

There are few theories as well known in the history of psychology as that of cognitive dissonance. First pioneered by Leon Festinger and his colleagues in the 1950s, the theory says that if we engage in an activity contrary to our desires, we will rationalize our behavior by changing our evaluation of the activity to bring it in line with our actions. For instance, in the classic study, students who were paid $1 to engage in a boring task (repeatedly turning each of a set of pegs 90 degrees in sequence) rated the task as more interesting afterwards than those who were paid $20 to do the same thing. Members of the $1 group needed to explain to themselves why they had done the task, while members of the $20 group were satisfied that they had done it for the money alone. A classic counterintuitive experimental result: pay people less, they like the task more. Cognitive dissonance has been confirmed in hundreds of studies since… or has it? Continue reading When Counterintuitive Experiments Collide