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Cognitive Dissonance 1

Running Head: Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance Theory

In APA Style

Joey Centanni

University of the Pacific

25 November 2008
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In the middle of September 2008, the University of the Pacific Baseball Team attended a

retreat about an hour and a half east of Stockton. A situation arose that involved me and all other

34 of my teammates. I had never done any drug, tobacco product, or drank alcohol before in my

life. There was an interesting conversation about team camaraderie. Everyone on my team was

involved in the conversation because they all knew how important it was to me to stay straight

and not chew tobacco. The conversation below shows what happened and the decision I made

that was very important for the team in my eyes.

Me: “Since we are on a team retreat, how about I do something that you guys love that I

have never done before?”

Others: “Yeah! Take a dip, please.”

Me: “I will take a dip but other people are going to have to do other things that they don’t

want to do.”

Others: “Definitely. Just take one and sit down.”

Me: “Why do you all want me to do this so bad?”

Others: “You have never done it before but you always knock it.”

Me: “I am only doing this because you guys have to understand that sometimes you have

to take one for the team.”

Others: “We know. We just want to see if you can handle this.”

Me: “This is so stupid. I told myself I would never do this.”

Others: “Just get it over with already then.”

Me: “This is wrong; you are all going to get cancer in your mouths.”

Other: “Well you just have to do it once, you will not get cancer.”

Me: “I know. It is just really stupid. I am only doing this so our team can have a story to

tell in the future.”

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This was the overlying conversation that took place when I took my first dip of chewing

tobacco no more than 2 months ago. Our baseball team here at University of the Pacific was on

a retreat in a barn. We were all bonding one night and there were about 10 of us playing poker.

One of my teammates asked me if I wanted to put a dip in. They ask me almost every day

because they know that I will never do it and they try to irritate me. A couple of the other guys

that had never done it before happened to be standing near me. I told them if they did it that I

would do it.

We decided that since we were all bonding, we would ‘take one for the team’. We did not

really know what we were in for,since we had never done it before, but our teammates told us

that we may get a little bit sick. The key of this situation is team chemistry. Jackasshas been

one of the most popular television shows on for the past 4 years. It is really popular because

people like watching other people get hurt or sick. This was why everyone wanted me and 2

other teammates to put the chewing tobacco in. After discussing with everyone for about 10

minutes, we went ahead with the original plan. The other players enjoyed watching us and they

were constantly talking about how funny it was. The communication between me and my

teammates was bad. I was not feeling well and everyone was laughing at me. I was glad that my

teammates were all talking while I was feeling terrible because I know that they were having a

good time. They were all laughing at me because they could not believe that I put the tobacco in

my mouth. I was the center of attention and it was helpful for our team’s chemistry.

I have been against tobacco, drugs, and alcohol my entire life. This situation was the first

time that I had ever done anything harmful to my body, other than fast food. “Seventy-one

percent of the college baseball players surveyed said they tried smokeless tobacco at least once

in their life” (). I was hoping by not chewing tobacco I could influence others to stay away from
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it. It is unhealthy, but for some reason a lot of players still enjoy it.Throughout my life, I have

tried to stay away from the trend. I do not do things because a lot of people do them.

If I think I will enjoy something, I will pursue it. I would not ever want to do something

that could potentially harm my body and well being. Staying strong and staying away from

sickness is an important aspect of life because that gives me the best opportunity to perform at

my best.

My teammates were all present when I put the chewing tobacco in my mouth. I did my

best to describe to them how important it was to me to stay away from tobacco. The discussion

with my teammates was humorous and went out for a while. They all know how I try to be as

good as possible in regards to unhealthy objects. Having the communication that I had with my

teammates is something that is burned into my brain. Thirty-fourcollegiate baseball players were

hounding me about putting chewing tobacco in my mouth because they wanted to see me get

dizzy. The conversations were juvenile, but I am glad that I went through the experience that I

did because it caused me to open my mind and try something that I had not done before. I tried it

once for them, and I will never do it again.

After I had been talking to my teammates and discussing what I needed to do in order to

make everybody happy, I put the dip in. I was playing poker with a few other guys on the team

at the time. I was constantly asked, ‘how are you feeling?’ I did not feel anything for the first 10

minutes and I thought I was going to be fine. My teammates then did something to me that was

completely unnecessary. They told me to stand up. I stood up and walked for a minute. That

was the worst idea anyone had. I immediately got dizzy and wanted to throw up. I put my head

down on the table and did not move for about 25 minutes. A friend of mine had to take over at

the poker table because I was not capable of continuing while I was in such bad shape. All of the

players kept telling me to walk around for a while and I would feel better. Everything that my
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friends were saying was going in one ear and out the other. I did not want to do anything except

sit at the table with my head down. They kept saying how bad their first experience was with

chewing tobacco. I was the unhappiest person at the barn that night. I eventually got up from

the chair, walked to my sleeping bag, curled up into a little ball, and fell asleep.

“Festinger first developed this theory in the 1950’s to explain how members of a cult who

were persuaded by their leader, a certain Mrs. Keech, that the earth was going to be destroyed on

21st December and that they alone were going to be rescued by aliens, actually increased their

commitment to the cult when this did not happen”(). Leon Festinger was the creator of the idea

of Cognitive Dissonance Theory. The people that joined this cult did not want the world to end;

but, they were convinced that it was going to because of the way that somebody brainwashed

them. Cognitive Dissonance Theory is a great way to compile one’s values and see how they

truly feel about a subject. This idea has not been around a long time; but the idea of Cognitive

Dissonance is a great one. It will help people grasp ideas about themselves after certain decisions

that they have made.

Cognitive Dissonance Theory can be used to explain the interaction between me and my

teammates while we were on the retreat. “The feeling of uncomfortable tension which comes

from holding two conflicting thoughts in the mind at the same time” (). I do not want to chew

tobacco, but I want my teammates to understand the importance of team chemistry. I am a leader

on the team, I was trying to set an example for the younger players and help them realize how we

all needed to get along. I was, as they say, ‘stuck between a rock and a hard place’. The two

conflicting thoughts that were racing through my head made for a very difficult decision. Even

though I did something against my beliefs, I feel that I made the right decision. The theory of

Cognitive Dissonance does not exactly say what the right decision is.

“Dissonance increases with:

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-The importance of the subject to us

-How strongly the dissonant thoughts conflict

-Our inability to rationalize and explain away the conflict”


For obvious reasons, Cognitive Dissonance varies depending on the three factors that

are listed above. The importance of the subject discusses what is close or valuable in

someone’s life. If chewing tobacco was not an important aspect in my life, I would have had no

problem putting it in my mouth. Since I am against all types of tobacco and drugs, it was a

difficult decision for me to make. The thoughts in my mind involved the importance of my

teammates and the principle of sticking to my beliefs. The thoughts conflicted in my head, but

they were not polar opposites. My rationalization of the problem was well planned. I knew

that I wasgoing to have to make a decision that was going to disappoint someone. If I did not

put the dip of chewing tobacco in, my teammates would have been upset. IfI put the chewing

tobacco in my mouth; I would have been going against my beliefs. I wanted to be unselfish and

make my teammates happy.

The rationalizing that I was constantly thinking about was the most difficult aspect of

the situation. I needed to make a decision by communicating with my teammates and figuring

out what the best case scenario could be. I consciously thought about the situation and

discussed it with my teammates. I kept telling myself, ‘it is not that big of a deal to do it one

time’. This reasoning that was occurring in my head made the decision a bit less difficult.

Trying to justify the fact that it was not a big deal helped me realize that I could be potentially

helping the team without doing anything too drastic. The self-talk that was going on in my

head helped me set my priorities straight along with the conversations that I had with my

teammates. I was finally capable of making a decision that I still stand by today.
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Throughout this entire social occurrence, there was tension between me and some of my

teammates. I did not want to do something, but they wanted me to do it. I was against it, and

they were for it. I could make them happy, or disappoint them. The questions that were

bouncing around in my head about what I should do was making the situation very confusing. I

wanted everyone to understand the sacrifice that was being made. My decision to do something

that was against my beliefs was a sacrifice that my teammates respected. The tension leading

up to my decision was aproblem that I needed to discuss with my teammates in order to solve.

There are six criteria for evaluation theories that were discussed in class. The first of the

theories is called scope. Scope describes the generality of the theory(). The broader the theory

is, they larger scope it has. Cognitive Dissonance Theory is very broad. People have opinions

about everything; whenever they make a decision that goes against their beliefs (which happens

every day) that is known as Cognitive Dissonance Theory. “This theory is able to manipulate

people into certain behavior, by doing so these people will alter their attitudes themselves. It is

especially relevant to decision-making and problem-solving”(). This quote describes what

Cognitive Dissonance Theory is capable of. It is so broad that it relevant to decision-making

and problem-solving. Decisions are made by everybody on a daily basis. Solving problems is

something that people have to deal with every day as well. The topic of Cognitive Dissonance

Theory is very broad.

The next criterion for evaluation is known as appropriateness of assumptions. This

criterion is about the assumptions that the theory make. Is the topic discussed closely related to

Cognitive Dissonance Theory? This topic is related to Cognitive Dissonance Theory and is

very important to me personally. Baseball has been the most important thing in my life for

many years; being able to relate it to this theory enables me to understand the theory more

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The third criterion for evaluation is heuristic value. Heuristic value wants to know if

this theory is useful. Cognitive Dissonance Theory will help people understand decisions that

they make and why they make them. I think that knowing about this particular theory can be

very helpful to people. People make decisions dozens of times a day; knowing why you feel a

certain way about a topic is very important. People have perceptions about things in life;

making decisions to help back up your perceptions are useful. We do not believe different

things only because we can. Everyone has beliefs because of the way they were raised or

experiences that they have had.

The fourth criterion is called validity. We can say that Cognitive Dissonance Theory

“squares with reality” (). Cognitive Dissonance Theory is valid in regards to our social world.

The theory is helpful to people because we need reasoning behind our decisions. The reality is

that we make decisions on a daily basis and we have to understand why we do things so that we

can have happiness. Having certain beliefs and making choices is what life is about; changing

the wrongs in your life is how we can make our lives better. Cognitive Dissonance Theory

helps us understand what we do right and wrong.

Parsimony is the fifth criterion discussed in the class notes. This means that the theory

is concise. I feel that they theory is very broad, but at the same time easy to describe. It is not

difficult to understand what Cognitive Dissonance Theory is. When someone does something

that is against their beliefs. That is a very concise and to the point description of it.

Understanding how it can be related to pieces of one’s life is also easy to do. Of the theories

that have been discussed in class, I feel that Cognitive Dissonance Theory is the most

descriptive of them all. It is easy to put into words what it means in one sentence.

Openness is the final criterion for evaluation. I have a hard time trying to falsify this

theory. I feel that they theory is very basic in definition and not have any noticeable problems.
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It is very basic in description; however, it is very complex once you get down to the base.

Nothing is perfect though; everything can be improved. Cognitive Dissonance Theory can be

improved because it is vague in regards to what it can be related to. Does it relate to every

decision someone makes? I think that it should be narrowed down so that people can better

understand what the theory truly relates to.


This cartoon is about the Cognitive Dissonance Theory. I found it to be very humorous.

It is a little different than the situation I discuss in the paper; but, it still shows how people can

make a decision about something that they may not completely agree with themselves. The man

working has an idea of why he works at his job. When the new worker puts a new thought in his

head, the worker justifies his reasoning for working there. He loves his job!

Cognitive Dissonance Theory is a way of reassuring yourself that what you believe is the

right thing. In some cases, the theory may change your perceptions about something. I think

that this theory is great because it helps people keep an open mind. People that are open to

different ideas and interpretations are much more capable of accepting changes. Narrow-minded
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people would have more trouble understanding the process of Cognitive Dissonance because

they are so set in their ways.