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Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 39 (2003) 508515 www.elsevier.com/locate/jesp

The eect of self-attribute relevance on how self-esteem moderates attitude change in dissonance processesq
Je Stonea,* and Joel Cooperb
b a Department of Psychology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85715, USA Department of Psychology, Green Hall, Princeton University, Princeton , NJ 08544, USA

Received 10 May 2002; revised 3 September 2002

Abstract An experiment was conducted to examine the conditions under which self-esteem operates as an expectancy, as a resource, or does not inuence cognitive dissonance processes. Based on the self-standards model of dissonance (Stone & Cooper, 2001), it was predicted that following a high-choice counter-attitudinal behavior: (a) priming positive self-attributes that were relevant to the discrepant behavior would cause participants with high self-esteem to report more attitude change as compared to participants with low self-esteem, (b) priming positive self-attributes that were irrelevant to the behavior would cause participants with high selfesteem to report less attitude change as compared to participants with low self-esteem, and (c) priming neutral self-attributes would eliminate self-esteem moderation of attitude change. The results of the attitude change measure supported the predictions. The discussion explores dierent processes by which the accessibility of cognitions about the self mediate dissonance arousal and reduction. 2003 Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.
Keywords: Cognitive dissonance; Attitude change; Self-esteem; Self-armation; Self-consistency; Self-standards

Since the introduction of the theory of cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957), several theories have been proposed to explain how self-esteem and cognitions about the self inuence the arousal and reduction of cognitive dissonance. One contemporary theory proposes that cognitions about the self function as resources for dissonance reduction (e.g., Aronson, Cohen, & Nail, 1999; Steele, Spencer, & Lynch, 1993; Tesser, 2000). Resource models maintain that for self-relevant thought to reduce psychological discomfort, people must bring to mind more positive than negative selfattributes following a discrepant act (Steele & Lui, 1983; Tesser & Cornell, 1991). Resource models further assume that people with high self-esteem possess more positive attributes in their self-concept than people with low self-esteem (Spencer, Josephs, & Steele, 1993). Thus,
q We thank John Bargh for his insightful comments about the priming manipulations used in this research. We also gratefully acknowledge Jason Chism, Jeremey Baver, Jaymonde Errico, and Erin Atkinson for their help in collecting the data reported in this paper. * Corresponding author. Fax: 1-520-621-9306. E-mail address: jes@u.arizona.edu (J. Stone).

self-relevant thought can provide more armational resources to people with high self-esteem relative to people with low self-esteem, suggesting that positive cognitions about the self cause people to be less vulnerable to dissonance processes following a discrepant behavior. Other theory and research, however, indicates that positive cognitions about the self makes people with high self-esteem more vulnerable to dissonance processes. According to self-consistency theory (Aronson, 1968; Thibodeau & Aronson, 1992), cognitions about the self can represent standards or expectancies for behavior. Following a counter-attitudinal behavior, people with high self-esteem, who hold more positive expectancies for themselves, are more likely to perceive a discrepancy between their behavior and their self-expectancies. They are subsequently more likely to feel discomfort and be motivated to use a self-justication strategy. In contrast, people with low self-esteem, who presumably hold less positive expectancies for their behavior, may not perceive the same behavior to be discrepant from their negative self-expectancies. As a

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result, they should experience less discomfort following a discrepant act. Research in support of the self-consistency prediction shows that following a discrepant behavior, people with positive self-expectancies (Aronson & Carlsmith, 1962; Brockner, Wiesenfeld, & Raskas, 1993), or high self-esteem (Gibbons, Eggleston, & Benthin, 1997; Glass, 1964; Maracek & Mettee, 1972; Stone, 1999) reported more attitude or behavior change than people with negative expectancies or low self-esteem. This suggests that, under some conditions, positive cognitions about the self can also exacerbate the discomfort some people feel when they commit a discrepant act. The purpose of the research in this paper was to test a new model designed to address the seemingly paradoxical role of self-esteem and cognitions about the self in dissonance processes. In recent papers describing the Self-Standards Model of cognitive dissonance (SSM, see Stone, 2001; Stone & Cooper, 2001), we proposed that the dierent theoretical perspectives on cognitive dissonance essentially describe a variety of processes by which people interpret and evaluate their behavior. The various perspectives dier, however, because each makes a specic assumption about the type of information people use to interpret and evaluate a given act. Theories like self-armation (Steele, 1988) and self-consistency (Aronson, 1968) assume that cognitions about the self represent the default criteria for judgment, whereas other theories assume that non-self related cognitions, such as specic attitudes (Harmon-Jones, Brehm, Greenberg, Simon, & Nelson, 1996) or behavioral consequences (Cooper & Fazio, 1984) represent the default information used in the assessment of behavior. Consequently, each theory makes dierent predictions regarding the role of self-esteem (and the cognitions about the self that it represents) in the dissonance process, because each assumes that dierent types of information are regularly brought to mind when people assess their behavior and then attempt to cope with their discomfort. Our new theoretical model proposes that the assessment of behavior is more malleable than has been previously recognized. The SSM holds that people can use important attitudes, beliefs, or self-knowledge to understand the meaning of their behavior, but which criteria people use depends upon the type of information that is brought to mind by cues in the situation. Once they have acted, people evaluate their behavior against a standard of judgment, and that standard of judgment may or may not relate to a cognitive representation of the self. For example, the evaluation of behavior may be based on its relationship to a specic attitude or belief (Harmon-Jones et al., 1996), or the assessment of behavior may be based on generally shared, normative considerations of what is foolish or immoral (Cooper & Fazio, 1984). However, the assessment of behavior may also be based on personal, idiographically held consid-

erations of what is foolish or immoralstandards that are connected to individual representations of the self. The SSM maintains that only the use of personal standards in the assessment of behaviorthose that relate to idiosyncratic self-expectancieswill cause self-esteem dierences in dissonance arousal. Furthermore, once dissonance is aroused, the SSM predicts that bringing to mind certain aspects of the self can inuence the need to justify behavior, or use self-knowledge as a resource to reduce discomfort. The moderating role of self-esteem in dissonance reduction depends upon whether the cognitions about the self are positive, self-descriptive, and related to the behavioral discrepancy. Thus, the SSM provides a framework from which to predict when and how cognitions about the self will moderate dissonance processes (Stone & Cooper, 2001). Recent research testing the SSM indicates that the standards people use to interpret and evaluate a discrepant act inuences when self-esteem moderates dissonance processes (Stone, in press). For example, in one experiment, participants with high versus low self-esteem wrote a counter-attitudinal essay. To prime selfstandards, participants then examined a list of positive, negative, and neutral traits (e.g., competent, irrational, and average). Some participants were directed to circle the traits that represented their personal standards for behavior, whereas others circled the traits that represented the normative standards for behavior (participants in a high- and low-choice control condition did not view the trait lists). The attitude change measure showed that in the low-choice control condition, highand low-self-esteem participants showed less attitude change compared to high and low self-esteem participants in the high-choice control condition. Moreover, when normative standards were primed, high self-esteem and low self-esteem participants showed equal levels of attitude change. However, when primed for their personal standards for behavior, participants with high selfesteem showed signicantly more attitude change than participants with low self-esteem, whose attitude change scores were not signicantly dierent than the lowchoice control groups. Thus, as predicted by the SSM, self-esteem moderated dissonance-induced attitude change only when personal self-standards were primed in the context of the discrepant act. When primed to consider the normative standards for their behavior, or when no standard was directly primed, both self-esteem groups showed the same level of dissonance-induced attitude change. The research in this paper was designed to further test SSM predictions concerning how self-esteem moderates dissonance processes. According to the model, once people perceive that their behavior deviates from an important personal or normative standard, they will experience discomfort and be motivated to reduce it. But how they reduce their discomfort depends upon the

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cognitions about the self that are accessible in the context. If no further self-relevant thought occurs, the discrepancy will remain salient and people will seek justication of their behavior (e.g., attitude change). However, if new positive cognitions about the self are made accessible in the context, then the strategy for dissonance reduction turns on the relevance of the selfattributes to the behavioral discrepancy. The SSM predictions concerning how the relevance of positive cognitions moderates the role of self-esteem in dissonance reduction derives from research by Aronson, Blanton, and Cooper (1995) and Blanton, Cooper, Skurnik, and Aronson (1997) in which participants wrote an uncompassionate essay. In one experiment (Aronson et al., 1995), when subsequently allowed the opportunity to read positive feedback on self-attributes that were related (e.g., compassion) and unrelated (e.g., creative) to the essay, participants chose to avoid the positive feedback about attributes that were relevant to the discrepant behavior; they focused instead on the positive feedback that was unrelated to their discrepant behavior. Another study (Blanton et al., 1997) provided participants with either positive relevant or irrelevant feedback following an uncompassionate advocacy. When told they were highly compassionate individuals, participants showed signicantly more attitude change relative to participants in a no feedback high-choice control condition. In contrast, when told they were highly creative individuals, participants showed signicantly less attitude change compared to high-choice control participants. These data suggest that in order for positive self-attributes to serve as resources for dissonance reduction, they must shift processing away from the relevant standards for behavior. Otherwise, thinking about positive self-attributes that are relevant to the discrepancy exacerbates the need to justify behavior (Stone & Cooper, 2001). The SSM further proposes that the eects of relevant versus irrelevant positive self-attributes on dissonance reduction can be moderated by self-esteem. Specically, when relevant positive attributes are salient, people with high self-esteem will experience more dissonance, and report more attitude change, than people with low selfesteem. The model assumes that because of their relationship to the discrepant behavior, relevant positive attributes bring to mind self-expectanciesthe cognitive representation of how well an individual upholds the conventional standards for behavior. Based on selfconsistency theory (Aronson, 1968), people with high self-esteem, who think they typically match the conventional standards for behavior, should perceive that their behavior is discrepant from their positive expectancy. The perceived discrepancy should then cause discomfort and motivate dissonance reduction via attitude change. In contrast, people with low self-esteem, who tend to

view themselves as falling short of the conventional standards for behavior, should perceive that the same behavior is more consistent with their negative expectations, and this congruous information will reduce their need to justify the discrepancy. Thus, when the salience of relevant self-attributes activate self-expectancies, selfesteem will moderate dissonance reduction via self-consistency processes. Conversely, if cues in the situation make accessible positive attributes that are irrelevant to the discrepant act, the SSM predicts that people with high self-esteem will report less attitude change than people with low self-esteem. This prediction is based on the resource model assumption that people with high self-esteem possess more positive attributes in their self-concept than people with low self-esteem (Spencer et al., 1993). As a result, self-relevant thought provides more armational resources to people with high self-esteem. People with low self-esteem, in contrast, do not perceive positive attributes to be as highly self-descriptive (see Brown, 1998). If they are less likely to perceive positive attributes as applying to them, then making irrelevant positive attributes salient in the context should not provide them with resources to use for dissonance reduction. As a result, people with low self-esteem should use attitude change to reduce their discomfort (Steele et al., 1993). This leads to the prediction that when irrelevant attributes are salient in the situation, self-esteem will moderate dissonance reduction through selfarmation processes. The present experiment was designed to test the predicted interaction between self-esteem and self-attribute relevance on dissonance induced attitude change. In some conditions of the experiment, participants with high or low self-esteem completed a counter-attitudinal essay under conditions of high choice. They then completed a task designed to prime either positive self-attributes that were relevant to the discrepant essay, or positive self-attributes that were irrelevant to the discrepant essay. Also included in the design were highand low-choice control conditions in which participants were primed for neutral self-attributes. After the priming task, participants then reported their attitudes toward the essay topic. It was predicted that choice, and not self-esteem, would moderate attitude change in the neutral prime conditions (Cooper & Duncan, 1971), but that self-esteem would interact with the priming manipulation to inuence attitude change when self-attribute relevance was varied.

Method Participants. Participants were 155 undergraduates at the University of Arizona who participated in the experiment for course credit. All had been pretested for

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their level of self-esteem using the Rosenberg self-esteem measure (1979) during a mass pretest session of the participant pool. As in previous research on self-esteem and dissonance (Maracek & Mettee, 1972; Steele et al., 1993), self-esteem was treated as a categorical variable in the design and analysis, and only those with scores falling in the upper (i.e., scores greater than 34) and lower (i.e., scores less than 30) 30th percentile of the Rosenberg scale were recruited. In addition, attitudes toward the essay topic (see below) were measured in the pretest session using a 10 pt scale with the endpoints strongly disagree (1) and strongly agree (10). Only those who reported negative attitudes toward the topic (those who scored less than or equal to 5 on the scale) were recruited (Elliot & Devine, 1994). A total of 82 with high self-esteem and 73 with low self-esteem completed the procedures described below.1 Procedure. Participants were contacted by phone and invited to participate in two short studies on language and cognition. They participated in groups of 13 but completed the materials individually in a private cubicle. The experimenter (who was unaware of the hypothesis and level of self-esteem) explained that the rst study was designed to measure how people think about political policy issues. Participants were then assigned to a cubicle and provided with the study packet. The written instructions in the packet explained that the study intended to measure the relationship between cognition and evaluation of political policy by having participants express their opinions and beliefs about dierent campus policy issues. The instructions informed participants that the issue currently under investigation concerned a proposed decrease in funding for handicapped services at the university for the next academic year (Blanton et al., 1997). Ostensibly, previ1 The assumption that participants with high and low self-esteem would have dierent underlying self-views was tested in the current participant sample. In a mass pretest, 1487 introductory psychology students at the University of Arizona completed the Rosenberg selfesteem scale (1979) and the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (or PAQ, Pelham & Swann, 1989). They rated the self-descriptiveness of the attributes of compassion and creativity on a 10 pt scale ranging from 1 (exceptionally low) to 10 (exceptionally high). They also used the same scale to rate the certainty and importance of their selfdescriptions. Participants were classied into high ((N 836) and low self-esteem (N 418) groups using the upper and lower 30th percentiles. MANOVA analyses showed that participants with high selfesteem rated compassion (M 7:87) and creativity (M 6:98) as signicantly more self-descriptive compared to participants with low self-esteem (M s 7:62 and 6.56, respectively), F 2; 1251 8:04, p < :0003. Furthermore, those with high self-esteem were signicantly more certain of their ratings on these traits (M s 7:39 and 6.94, respectively) than participants with low self-esteem (M s 6:86 and 6.42), F 2; 1251 16:60, p < :0001. However, both groups rated the traits as important to possess (high self-esteem M s 7:53 and 6.48, respectively; low self-esteem M s 7:34 and 6.56, respectively), F 2; 1251 2:02, p < :11. Thus, the self-knowledge structure of participants with high and low self-esteem diered as assumed by the SSM.

ous research had shown that a good way to collect opinions and beliefs about a topic was to instruct people, no matter how they felt personally, to make arguments on only one side of the issue. At this point, the instructions for executing the uncompassionate behavior varied as a function of the choice manipulation. Choice manipulation. Participants randomly assigned to the high-choice conditions were told that the decision to argue for the decrease was up to them, but the research currently needed strong forceful arguments in favor of the decrease. Participants in the low-choice condition were told that in order to complete the study, they needed to write strong forceful arguments in favor of the decrease. On the next page of the packet was a letter ostensibly from the Committee for Undergraduate Education. The letter stated that the committee might read their essay in order to gauge student opinion about potential cuts in the university budget for the next academic year (Cooper & Fazio, 1984). The nal page provided the space for them to write their essay and instructed them to begin with the statement The U of A should decrease funding toward facilities and services for people with physical disabilities on campus because. . . When they completed the essay, they were instructed to place it in an envelop and alert the experimenter. Priming manipulation. After they completed their uncompassionate essay, the experimenter announced that the rst study was over and that they would now complete the second study on language and cognition. He then introduced a modied scrambled sentence test designed to prime relevant, irrelevant, or neutral selfattributes (Bargh, Chen, & Burrows, 1996). In each condition, the task consisted of eight blocks of words, with each block containing one distracter word and the target words. Participants were told the task consisted of a group of words that could be unscrambled to form a grammatically correct sentence. However, one word did not belong in the word group and should be omitted from the sentence they would form. The experimenter then showed them an example at the top of the page. Participants were told their goal was to complete the sentence scrambles as quickly as possible. The relevant self-attribute prime condition was designed to make accessible self-cognitions that were relevant to the uncompassionate essay. The target sentences were I am a compassionate person, I try to be thoughtful, Helping people is important (to prime helpful), and I want to be considerate. In the irrelevant self-attribute prime condition, the target sentences were I am a creative person, I try to be imaginative, Teaching people is important (to prime intelligent), and I want to be exible. In the neutral self-attribute prime condition the sentences were I am a punctual person, I try to be quiet, Believing people is important (to prime trusting), and I want to be

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cautious. All priming conditions contained four ller sentences like Sharpen a pencil and A phone rings. Once participants completed the priming task, they alerted the experimenter who then collected the primary dependent measures.2 Dependent measures. The experimenter returned and claimed that he forgot to give them a questionnaire during the essay task. He handed participants a questionnaire with the statement The U of A should decrease funding toward facilities and services for people with physical disabilities on campus. Participants responded by circling a number on a 10 pt scale with the endpoints Strongly agree (1) to Strongly disagree (10). On the next page, participants were asked to complete a check of the choice manipulation by indicating their agreement with the statement, I felt free to decline to write an essay for the opinion survey today on an 10 pt scale ranging from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (10). The experimenter left participants alone to complete each questionnaire, and once they alerted him, he collected the materials and announced that the study was complete. All participants were then fully debriefed about the purposes for the study.

Fig. 1. The eects of self-esteem and experimental condition on attitude change. LC, low choice and HC, high choice. Higher scores indicate more change in the direction of support for a decrease in funding for handicapped services. Means with dierent superscripts dier signicantly at p < :05 using Fishers LSD test.

Results Choice manipulation check. To test the eectiveness of the choice manipulation, a planned interaction contrast was conducted that compared the perception of choice reported by participants with high or low self-esteem in the three high-choice conditions against the low-choice control condition. The analysis showed a signicant main eect for condition, F 1; 151 5:98, p < :01, and no main or interaction eects for self-esteem (both F s < 1). Participants in the high-choice conditions experienced greater choice (M 7:19) than did participants in the low-choice condition (M 5:85). Attitude change. The degree of attitude change was computed by subtracting the attitude scores collected during the pretest session from those collected after the essay task. The change scores were then subjected to a 2 (Self-esteem) 4 (Experimental Condition: low-choice neutral prime, high-choice neutral prime, high-choice relevant prime, and high-choice irrelevant prime) ANOVA. The analysis revealed a signicant main eect for Condition, F 3; 147 2:88, p < :04, and a signicant Self-esteem Condition interaction, F 3; 147 3:18, p < :03. Planned comparisons of the attitude change scores displayed in Fig. 1 were conducted to unpack the
Based on the trait list provided by Anderson (1968), valence ratings were assigned to each self-attribute used in the priming manipulations. With higher scores indicating more positively valenced traits, the average for the set of relevant traits was 5.07, the average for the set of irrelevant traits was 4.93, and the average for the set of neutral attributes was 4.02.
2

meaning of the omnibus interaction between self-esteem and the experimental conditions. As expected, an ANOVA conducted on the attitude change data in the neutral self-attributes prime condition revealed a signicant main eect for choice, F 1; 147 8:15, p < :005 but no main or interaction eect for self-esteem, both F s < 1. When neutral selfattributes were primed, high-choice participants tended to justify their advocacy more (M 2:64, SD 2:27) than did low-choice control participants (M 1:25, SD 1:85) and the eect was not moderated by selfesteem (Cooper & Duncan, 1971). A planned interaction contrast between self-esteem and the relevant versus irrelevant priming conditions on the attitude change scores showed that attitude change was signicantly moderated by self-esteem when the relevance of the self-attributes was varied, simple interaction F 1; 147 9:10, p < :005. As seen in Fig. 1, a planned comparison showed that as predicted, when relevant attributes were primed, those with low self-esteem reported less attitude change (M 1:42, SD 1:98) compared to participants with high self-esteem (M 2:71, SD 1:74), F 1; 147 3:99, p < :05. In contrast, when irrelevant positive attributes were primed, participants with high self-esteem reported signicantly less attitude change (M 1:39, SD 1:78) compared to participants with low self-esteem (M 2:87, SD 1:74), F 1; 147 5:63, p < :02. Thus, both the expectancy and resource role of self-esteem in dissonance emerged as a function of the type of self-relevant thought invoked by the priming manipulations.

Discussion The results of the experiment provided support for the hypotheses regarding the role of self-attribute relevance on how self-esteem moderates attitude change following a counter-attitudinal behavior. As predicted

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by the processing assumptions of the Self-Standards Model (SSM, Stone & Cooper, 2001), self-esteem moderated attitude change following a counter-attitudinal behavior, but only when cognitions about the self were primed following the discrepant act. Moreover, whether self-esteem functioned as a resource or as an expectancy depended upon the type of self-relevant thought induced by the priming manipulation. Overall, the data indicate that the role of cognitions about the self and self-esteem in dissonance is a function of if and how people think about themselves in the context of a discrepant behavior. When self-attributes that were irrelevant to the discrepant act were primed, participants with high self-esteem showed less attitude change as compared to participants with low self-esteem. This pattern supports the perspective that high self-esteem, and the wealth of positive attributes it represents, can serve as a buer or resource against the discomfort people typically feel following a discrepant behavior (Steele et al., 1993). Participants with low self-esteem, in contrast, were motivated to change their attitudes, presumably because the primed self-attributes were less self-descriptive, and therefore, less capable of serving as an armational (Steele et al., 1993) or aective resource (Tesser, 2000). As predicted by the resource models, the more positive self-attributes individuals have at their disposal, the less they need to rely on self-justication to resolve behavioral discrepancies. The data also show that there are constraints on the ability of people to use their positive self-attributes as resources for dissonance reduction. In the high- and low-choice control conditions in which neutral self-attributes were primed, participants with high and low self-esteem reported the same levels of attitude change, which was signicantly moderated by perceptions of choice, and not by the self-cognitions underlying their level of self-esteem. This nding conceptually replicates previous research on the relative importance of self-esteem and perceptions of responsibility for behavioral outcomes in dissonance (Cooper & Duncan, 1971). The fact that both self-esteem groups showed signicant attitude change in the high-choice-neutral prime control condition is compatible with the assumption that both groups were focused on the inconsistency between specic attitudes or beliefs and their behavior (e.g., Festinger, 1957; Harmon-Jones et al., 1996) or on the aversive consequence of their behavior (Cooper & Fazio, 1984). The lack of self-esteem dierences in the control conditions suggests that for self-esteem to moderate dissonance, something in the context of a discrepant behavior must make cognitions about the self accessible. Otherwise, the cover story or procedure itself may focus people primarily on specic attitudes or beliefs, and on the situational antecedents of the act (e.g., choice and forseeability), and dissonance processes may

proceed without the inuence of idiosyncratic selfknowledge (Stone, in press; Stone & Cooper, 2001). Furthermore, not just any positive self-relevant thought will provide resources for dissonance reduction; when positive self-attributes that were relevant to the topic of the discrepant essay were primed, participants with high self-esteem reported more attitude change compared to participants with low self-esteem. This pattern of self-esteem moderation reects self-consistency for people with low self-esteem in the process of dissonance, a phenomenon that has proved dicult to replicate in past dissonance research (e.g., Ward & Sandvold, 1963; see Swann, 1990). The data suggest that when relevant positive attributes were primed following the discrepant act, they activated the dierent self-expectancies for behavior held by participants with high and low self-esteem (Aronson, 1999). For those with high self-esteem, the behavior was perceived as inconsistent with their self-expectancies for compassion, which increased the need to change attitudes. This supports the SSM assumption that in order for positive self-attributes to provide resources for dissonance reduction, they must shift attention away from the discrepancy; otherwise, the accessibility of positive cognitions about the self may sustain or enhance discomfort and the motivation to change attitudes (Stone & Cooper, 2001). In contrast, for participants with low self-esteem, the relevant prime may have activated negative self-expectancies for compassionate behavior, which reduced the perception of a discrepancy and the need for attitude change. It is important to acknowledge that whereas the data are consistent with the processing assumptions of the SSM, no mediational data were gathered in the present study that addresses alternatives to the processes specied in the model. For example, research indicates that when self-attributes are primed, they may reduce the need for attitude change by inducing trivialization of the behavioral discrepancy (Simon, Greenberg, & Brehm, 1995). However, a trivialization explanation may be hard pressed to account for the cross-over interaction between self-esteem and the relevance of the primed selfattributes on attitude change. According to Simon et al. (1995), trivialization only occurs when people are able to bring to mind highly important cognitions, such as those related to the self, prior to being oered the opportunity to change attitudes. In the current study, not only were the self-attributes chosen because they were rated in previous research as equally desirable to possess (Anderson, 1968; Blanton et al., 1997), but during the pretest session, participants in the current study with high or low self-esteem also rated the attributes as equally important to their self-concepts. Thus, the manipulation brought to mind equally important cognitions in each of the self-attribute priming conditions, but attitude change was still moderated by the interplay between

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self-esteem and the relevance of the attributes to the behavioral discrepancy. It is also important to consider other processes by which relevant attributes reduce the need for self-justication among people with low self-esteem. For example, when self-expectancies were made accessible by the relevant prime, it is possible that participants with low self-esteem showed less need for attitude change because they were relatively less certain of whether the behavior was inconsistent with their self-view of compassion. However, other research has shown that self-consistency for people with low self-esteem is more likely to occur among those who are especially certain of their negative self-views (e.g., Maracek & Mettee, 1972; Stone, in press). Another possibility is that the observed selfconsistency eect for people with low self-esteem was a function of how the attribute primes inuenced the way in which they labeled their arousal (Cooper & Fazio, 1984). The relevant primes may have caused participants with low self-esteem to perceive a discrepancy between their expectancies and behavior, but they labeled their arousal as emotions like dejection or depression, which reduced the motivation for attitude change, whereas participants with high self-esteem labeled their negative emotions as discomfort, tension, or guilt, which motivated attitude change to reduce their arousal (Galinsky, Stone, & Cooper, 2000; Harmon-Jones, 2000; Higgins, 1987). Investigating the mediators of the observed interaction between self-esteem and the accessibility of self-attributes in the context of a discrepant act is an important direction for future research.

gand, Cooper, & Aronson, 1997). The process by which people interpret their behavior, conclude it represents a discrepancy, experience discomfort, and seek a way to reduce it, may be more malleable than has been recognized in previous revisions of dissonance theory.

References
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Conclusions Over 40 years after its initial publication (Festinger, 1957), the role of cognitions about the self in dissonance continues to intrigue researchers. The research in this paper found support for predictions made by both the self-resource and the self-consistency perspectives on how self-esteem moderates dissonance induced attitude change. However, the present research also demonstrated that cognitions about the self and self-esteem are not always invoked by a discrepant act. This suggests, as predicted by the self-standards model (Stone & Cooper, 2001), that people are capable of using their selfknowledge to interpret and evaluate their behavior, but whether they use cognitions about the self, specic attitudes, or norms to interpret behavior is a function of which criterion is made salient in the situation. How cognitions about the self inuence the arousal and reduction of dissonance depends upon the type of selfattributes and self-standards brought to mind when people make a counter-attitudinal statement, a dicult decision, or engage in other established dissonance arousing behavior, including hypocrisy (Stone, Wie-

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Further reading
Cooper, J. (1999). Unwanted consequences and the self: In search of the motivation for dissonance reduction. In E. Harmon-Jones, & J. Mills (Eds.), Cognitive dissonance 40 years later: Revival with revisions and controversies (pp. 149174). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Festinger, L., & Carlsmith, J. M. (1959). Cognitive consequences of forced compliance. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 58, 203210. Harmon-Jones, E. (1999). Toward an understanding of the motivation underlying dissonance eects: Is the production of aversive consequences necessary. In E. Harmon-Jones, & J. Mills (Eds.), Cognitive dissonance: Progress on a pivotal theory in social psychology (pp. 7199). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Harmon-Jones, E., & Mills, J. (1999). Cognitive dissonance: Progress on a pivotal theory in social psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.