Social Psychology - Attitude Change - Consistency Theories of Attitude Change: Balance and Dissonance

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Balance and dissonance

Roots in gestalt principles of organisation

Consistency theories

- Heider's balance theory
- Theory of cognitive dissonance (Festinger)

Functions of consistency

(1) Cognitive, adaptive function (initial formulations)
(2) A self-presentational function (later revisions)

Heider's Balance Theory (1)

- Primarily an approach to person perception and the relationship between attitude objects
- Experience construed as "perceptual fields"
- Balanced and unbalanced states
- Tensions of imbalanced states
- Motivation to achieve balanced states in the simplest way, hence, attitude change

Heider's Balance Theory (2)

- Deals with the relationship between a person (P), another person (O) and an object or event (X)
- The relationship between each pair of these elements can be positive or negative - producing 3 relationships
- You (P) like bird watching (X) (P+X)
- You (P) have a friend (O) (P+O)
- He/She thinks bird-watchers are losers (O-X)
- This relationship is unstable

Heider's Balance Theory - Unbalanced Triads

- They are unstable and harder to learn
- We tend to want to change to stable states and we tend to do this in the simplest way
- But, people like to agree, so "P+O" is favoured
- People tend to isolate elements rather than change relationships

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