Steven Gabler

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Martin, Randall B.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Cognitive dissonance


Cognitive dissonance theory has found great difficulty incorporating Individual differences in personality. Previous attempts have had the aim of determining which personality types were dissonance susceptible and which were not. The purpose of the present study was to uncover individual differences in cognitive dissonance generation, specifically to induce dissonance in a personality type previously thought immune to dissonance production and its effects. The sensitizer, as determined by the Byrne Repression-Sensitization Scale, was chosen as a personality with the history of being exempt from the generation of dissonance. The experiment was a three factor design. The subject variable was that of sensitizer/represser. Three levels of "probable failure" were utilized: low, indeterminate, and high. Two levels of reward were used: extra reward or no additional reward. Seventy-two subjects, each run individually, took an ego-involved test and were given false feedback as to their performance, told they did: a) very poorly, b) average, or c) very well. Each voluntarily committed himself to undertake a similar test being told he would probably do: a) just as poorly as on the first test (high probability of failure), b) either very well or very poorly as there was no way to know beforehand (Indeterminate probability of failure), or c) just as well as on the first test (low probability of failure). Half of each group was offered extra reward to take the second test, half were told no such reward would be given. The hypothesis holds that the actual dissonance arousing condition is commitment to an "unattractive" situation with little reward for doing so. This allows for individual differences in dissonance generation through individual difference preferences in "attractiveness." Stemming from the theory of achievement motivation and parallels between high/low need achievers and the represser/sensitlzer distinction, comes the prediction that repressers will find a high probability of failure to be unattractive, while sensitizers will find unattractive an indeterminate probability of failure. Thus the hypothesis predicts repressers committed to a high probability of failure situation coupled with low reward (unattractive + low reward) will undergo dissonance, while sensitizers in this condition will be in attractive circumstances engendering no dissonance at any reward level; sensitizers committed to an indeterminate probability of failure task with low reward (unattractive + low reward) will generate dissonance, while repressers will find this to be attractive and will therefore not be subject to the dissonance process. Unfortunately an artifact disrupts the measure of dissonance such that no unconditional test of the hypothesis is possible. A physiological index of dissonance also offered no significant results. It is unclear whether the collected data may indeed support the hypothesis or merely reflect this unexplained base rate disposition. While trends in the data are in directions as would be predicted, no unconfounded analysis is possible.


Includes bibliographical references.


81 pages




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