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Behavioral Consequences of Cognitive Dissonance. Freedman (1963) based his study on the study of Aronson and Carlsmith (1963) who found that children who were forbidden to play with a toy evaluated it more positively if they were severely threatened than if they were only mildly threatened.

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Behavioral Consequences of Cognitive Dissonance

Freedman (1963) based his study on the study of Aronson and Carlsmith (1963) who found that children who were forbidden to play with a toy evaluated it more positively if they were severely threatened than if they were only mildly threatened.

Cognitive dissonance was higher for children in the mild threat condition because they had less justification to leave the toy untouched than children in the severe threat condition.

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© POSbase 2005


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Behavioral Consequences of Cognitive Dissonance

In order to test the effect of cognitive dissonance on behavior, Freedman (1963) had seven to nine-year old children sitting individually in a lab. He told each child that he will go out for some time, and that the child is forbidden to play with a very attractive robot, which was among five toys, until the experimenter is back.

© POSbase 2005


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Behavioral Consequences of Cognitive Dissonance

  • There were two conditions:

  • In the mild threat condition, the experimenter told the child not to touch the attractive robot he is back because this would be wrong.

  • In the severe threat condition, the experimenter threatened to that he would get angry and has something to do about it.

Most children complied with the experimenter’s instructions.

© POSbase 2005


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Behavioral Consequences of Cognitive Dissonance

Six weeks after the children visited the lab, a woman came to their school and gave them an opportunity to play with the five toys.

  • In the severe threat condition, 77% of the children played with the attractive robot.

  • In the mild threat condition, only 22% chose the robot.

© POSbase 2005


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Behavioral Consequences of Cognitive Dissonance

This finding demonstrated behavioral consequences of cognitive dissonance.

Children in the mild threat condition felt more dissonance that children in the severe threat condition, who had more justification to follow the experimenter’s instruction.

Therefore, children in the mild threat condition adjusted their attitude towards their behavior, and found the forbidden toy less attractive.

© POSbase 2005


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Behavioral Consequences of Cognitive Dissonance

This study helps explaining why children like to play with forbidden toys. According to the present study, parents who want to induce a stable behavior should not punish too harshly, because the child will show the behavior again if the threat of punishment – and with it the justification to suppress the forbidden behavior – is taken away.

Mild punishment, however, leads to more stable suppression of unwanted behavior.

© POSbase 2005


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