Leon Festinger and James Carlsmith proposed the term cognitive dissonance which is Every individual has his or her Festinger, L. and Carlsmith, J. M. ( ). The following article by Leon Festinger and James M. Carlsmith is the classic study on Reprinted from Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, , 58, . Forced compliance theory is a paradigm that is closely related to cognitive dissonance theory. Leon Festinger and James M. Carlsmith () conducted an experiment entitled “Cognitive Consequences of Forced Compliance”. This study.

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Green York University, Toronto, Ontario. What happens to a person’s private opinion if he is forced to do or say something contrary to that opinion? Only recently has there been any experimental work related to this question. Fewtinger studies fwstinger by Janis and King ; clearly showed that, at least under some conditions, the private opinion changes so as to bring it into closer correspondence with the overt behavior the person was forced to perform.

Specifically, they showed that if a person is forced to improvise a speech supporting a point of view with which he disagrees, his private opinion moves toward fesstinger position advocated in the speech.

The observed opinion change is greater than for persons who only hear the speech or for persons who read a prepared speech with emphasis solely on execution and manner of delivery The authors of these two studies explain their results mainly in terms of mental rehearsal and thinking up new arguments. In this way, they propose, the person who is forced to improvise a speech convinces himself. They present some evidence, which is not altogether conclusive, in support of this explanation.

We will have more to say concerning this explanation in discussing the results of our experiment. Kelman tried to pursue the matter further. He reasoned that if the person is induced to make an overt statement contrary to his private opinion by the offer of some reward, then the greater the reward offered, the greater should be the subsequent opinion change.

His data, however did not support this idea. He found, rather, that a large reward produced less subsequent opinion change carrlsmith did a smaller reward. Actually this finding by Kelman is consistent with the theory we will outline below but, for a number of reasons is not conclusive. One of the major weaknesses of the data is that not all subjects in the experiment made an overt statement contrary to their private opinion in order to obtain the offered reward.

What is more, as one might expect, the percentage of subjects who complied increased as the size of the offered reward increased. Thus, with self-selection of who did and who did not make the required overt statement and with varying percentages of subjects in the different conditions who did make the requsted statement, no interpretation of the data can be unequivocal.

Recently Festinger proposed a theory concerning cognitive dissonance from which come a number of derivations about opinion change following forced compliance. Since these derivations are stated in detail by FestingerCh. Let us consider a person who privately holds opinion “X” but has, as a result of pressure brought to bear on him publicly stated that he believes “not X. This person has two cognitions which, psychologically, do not fit together: In evaluating the total magnitude of dissonance one must take account of both dissonances and consonances.

Let us think of the sum of all the dissonances involving some particular cognition as “D” and the sum of all the consonances as “C.

Cognitive Dissonance Theory

Let us then see what can be said about the total magnitude of dissonance in a person created by the knowledge that he said “not X” and really believes “X. Thus, if the overt behavior was brought about by, say, offers of reward or threats of punishment, the magnitude of dissonance is maximal if these promised rewards or threatened punishments were just barely sufficient to induce the person to say “not X.

One way in which the dissonance can be reduced is for the person to change his private opinion so as to bring it into correspondence with what he has said. One would consequently expect to observe such opinion change after a person has been forced or induced to say something contrary to his private opinion.

Furthermore, since the pressure to reduce dissonance will be a function of the magnitude of the dissonance, the observed opinion change should be greatest when the pressure used to elicit the overt behavior is just sufficient to do it. The present experiment was designed to test this derivation under controlled, laboratory conditions.


The prediction [from 3 and 4 above] is that the larger the reward given to the subject, the smaller will be the subsequent opinion change. Seventy-one male students in the introductory psychology course at Stanford University were used in the experiment.

In this course, students are required to spend a certain number of hours festiger subjects S s in experiments. They choose among the available experiments by signing their names on a sheet posted on the bulletin board which states the festingrr of the experiment. The present experiment was listed as a two-hour experiment dealing with “Measures of Performance. During the first week of the course, when the requirement of serving in experiments was announced and explained to the students, the instructor also told them about a study that psychology department was conducting.

He explained that, since they were required to serve in experiments, the department was conducting a study to evaluate these experiments in order to be able to improve them in the future. They were told that a sample of students would be interviewed after having served as S s. They were urged to cooperate in these interviews by being completely and honest. The importance of this announcement will become clear shortly. It enabled us to measure the opinions of our Ss in a context not directly connected with our experiment and in which we could reasonably expect frank and honest expressions of opinion.

When the S arrived for the experiment on “Measures of Performance” he had to wait for a few minutes in the secretary’s office. The experimenter E then came in, introducing himself to the S and, together, they walked into the laboratory room where the E said:.

With no further introduction or explanation the S was shown carlsmihh first task, which festigner putting 12 spools onto a tray, emptying the tray, refilling it with spools, and so on.

He was told to use one hand and to work at his own speed. He did this for one-half hour. The E then removed the tray and spools and placed in front of the S a board containing 48 square pegs. His task was to turn each peg a quarter turn clockwise, then another quarter turn, and so on. He was told again to use one band and to work at his own speed.

The S worked at this task for another half hour. While the S was working on these tasks the E sat, with a stop watch in his hand, busily making notations on a sheet of paper. He did so in order to make it convincing carlsmtih this was [p. From our point of view the experiment had hardly started.

The hour which the S spent working on the repetitive, monotonous tasks was intended to provide, for each S uniformly, an experience about which he would have a somewhat negative opinion. After the half hour on the second task was over, the E conspicuously set the stop watch back to zero, put it away, pushed his chair back, lit a cigarette, festinfer said:.

Up to this point the procedure was identical for S s in all conditions. From this point on they diverged somewhat. If the S hesitated, the E said things like, “It will only take a few minutes,” “The regular person is pretty reliable; this is the first time he has missed,” fsetinger “If we needed you we 1995 phone you a day or two in advance; if you couldn’t make it of course, we wouldn’t expect you to come.

The E then paid the S one dollar twenty dollarsmade out a hand-written receipt form, and asked the S to sign it. The E then took the S into the secretary’s office where he had previously waited and where the next S was waiting.

Cognitive Dissonance Theory | Simply Psychology

The secretary had left the office. He introduced the girl and the S to one another saying that the S had just finished the experiment and would tell her something about it. He then left saying he would return in a couple of minutes. The girl, an undergraduate hired for this role, said little until the S made some positive remarks about the experiment and then said that she was surprised because a friend of hers had taken the experiment the week before and had told her that it was boring and that she ought to try to get out of it.

Most S s responded by saying something like “Oh, no, it’s really very interesting. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. The discussion between the S and the girl was recorded on a hidden tape recorder. After two minutes the E returned, asked the girl to go into the experimental room, thanked the S for talking to the girl, wrote down his phone number to continue the fiction that we might call on him again in the future and then said: From this point on, the procedure for all three conditions was once more identical.


As the E and the S started to walk to the office where the interviewer was, the E said: I hope you did enjoy it.

Most of our subjects tell us afterward that they found it quite interesting You get a chance to see how you react to the tasks and so forth. The reason for doing it, theoretically, was to make it easier for anyone who wanted to persuade himself that the tasks had been, indeed, enjoyable. When they arrived at the interviewer’s office, the E asked the interviewer whether or not he wanted to talk to the S. The interviewer said yes, the E shook hands with the Ssaid good-bye, and left.

The interviewer, of course, was always kept in complete ignorance of which condition the S was in. The interview consisted of four questions, on each of which the S was first encouraged to talk about the matter and was then asked to rate festinget opinion or reaction on an point scale.

Forced compliance theory

The questions are as follows:. As may be seen, the questions varied in how directly relevant they were to what the S had told the girl. This carlsith will be discussed further in connection with the results. At the close fesinger the interview the S was asked what he thought the experiment was about and, following this, was asked directly whether or not he was suspicious of anything and, if so, what he was suspicious of.

When the interview was over, the interviewer brought the S back to the experimental room where the E was waiting together with the girl who had posed as the waiting S.

In the control condition, of course, the girl was not there. The true purpose of the experiment was then explained to the S in detail, and the reasons for each of the various steps in the experiment were explained carefully in relation to the true purpose. All experimental S s in both One Dollar and Twenty Dollar conditions were asked, after this explanation, to return the money they had [p. All S s, without exception, were quite willing to return the money. The data from 11 of the 71 S s in the experiment had to be discarded for the following reasons:.

Five S s three in the One Dollar and two in the Twenty Dollar condition indicated in the interview that they were suspicious about having been paid to tell the girl the experiment was fun and suspected that that was caflsmith real purpose of the experiment.

Two S s both in the One Dollar condition told the girl that they had been hired, that the experiment was really boring but they were supposed to say it was fun.

Cognitive Dissonance

Three S s carlemith in the One Dollar and two in the Twenty Dollar condition refused to take the money and refused to be hired. One S in festiinger One Dollar conditionimmediately after having talked to the girl, demanded her phone number saying he would call her and explain things, and also told the E he wanted to wait until she was finished so he could tell her about it.

These 11 S s were, of course, run through the total experiment anyhow and the experiment was explained to them afterwards. Their data, however, are not included in the analysis. There remain, for analysis, 20 S s in each of the thee conditions. Let us review these briefly: These S s were treated identically in all respects to the S s in the experimental conditions, except that they were never asked to, and never did, tell the waiting girl that the experimental tasks were enjoyable and lots of fun.

These Ss were hired for one dollar to tell a waiting S that tasks, which were really rather dull and boring, were interesting, enjoyab1e, and lots of fun. Twenty Dollar condi tion. These S s were hired for twenty dollars to do the same thing.