|Experiment: artificial bringing about of an event or artificial creation of a state for testing a hypothesis. Experiments can lead to the reformulation of the initial hypotheses and the reformulation of theories. See also theories, measuring, science, hypotheses, Bayesianism, confirmation, events, paradigm change, reference systems.<_____________Annotation: The above characterizations of concepts are neither definitions nor exhausting presentations of problems related to them. Instead, they are intended to give a short introduction to the contributions below. – Lexicon of Arguments. |
Leon Festinger on Experiments - Dictionary of Arguments
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Experiment/Festinger/Carlsmith: Festinger and Carlsmith (1959(1): The method they created became the model for research for the next several decades. (>Milgram-Experiment). Its rigour and control were matched by its creativity. Indeed arguably, this study became as famous for its ingenious methodology as it did for the findings it produced.
A new attitude had to be created in the laboratory. They invented a task for students to perform and made sure that it would be perceived as truly dull and boring by anyone who performed it. That would constitute the attitude that participants would subsequently contradict by their verbal statements.
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Experiment: The experimenter tells the participants. The real purpose of the study, (…) is to see how expectations affect performance on simple, manual tasks. He explains that half of the people who participate are actually in an experimental group. He double-checks with you. He confesses that what he is really testing is whether people who expect the study to be fun perform differently from people – like you – who had no expectation. You had no way to know this, but nothing the experimenter has told you so far was true.
The individual participants were pretended to be initiates who, for once, were supposed to convince the other participants of the interesting nature of the experiment. The experimenter offered the participant $1 for talking with the next person or $20, depending on the condition to which [she] had been randomly assigned [as a control person].
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However, the next “candidate” in the waiting room is no candidate but the experimenter’s paid confederate. She listens to the lie about a supposedly interesting task and then disappears into the examination room.
Dissonance: [The] prediction was that the behaviour (i.e., making the statement to the waiting participant that the task was fun) that was discrepant from the attitude (i.e., that the task was dull and boring) would create dissonance. The uncomfortable tension state of dissonance would lead to a change in attitude to bring it in line with the behaviour, but the amount of dissonance would be opposite to the size of the incentive: the higher the incentive for making the statement, the lower the dissonance. Festinger and Carlsmith predicted that participants would therefore express more positive attitudes towards the measures of performance task if they had been paid a trivial amount rather than a large amount for their statement.
Measurement: One more ruse was necessary to measure the participant’s attitudes. They were asked to sign some papers at the department’s secretary’s office. The secretary explained that the Psychology Department was conducting a survey about how students enjoyed the tasks they had performed in psychology experiments. The students were asked a series of questions about how interesting the tasks were and how much they enjoyed them.
Results: Control participants constituted a group of randomly assigned participants who merely performed the peg-turning task without being asked to make any counter-attitudinal statement. As expected, they expressed boredom with the task and had no interest in doing it again.
However, also as predicted, making a statement that was discrepant from their attitude caused participants to change their attitudes to match their behaviour, but only when the incentive for doing so was very low. When participants made the very same statement but received a large financial reward for doing so, the statement produced no effect whatsoever on their attitudes. They held firm to their attitude that the [task] was indeed a boring task. Apparently, and as predicted, dissonance was minimal when there was a large incentive to speak against one’s attitude, but was maximal when the incentive was trivially small. >Dissonance theory/psychological theories.
1. Festinger, L. and Carlsmith, J.M. (1959) ‘Cognitive consequences of forced compliance’, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 58: 203–10.
Joel Cooper, “Cognitive Dissonance. Revisiting Festinger’s End of the World study”, in: Joanne R. Smith and S. Alexander Haslam (eds.) 2017. Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies. London: Sage Publications_____________Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
S. Alexander Haslam
Joanne R. Smith
Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2017