19 março 2024

Dissonance theories

Paul F. Lazarsfeld

If one drops from the philosophical heights of the discussion on society and the individual, one can move into various levels of concreteness. How is law and order maintained in a state? How do people collaborate in an organization? How does a family stay together? Across all these levels of generality there is the constant of how individuals adjust to the norms that they have to obey, the pressures which propaganda and advertisements exercise upon them, or the demands of their fellow men. In some cases they simply submit to brute or subtle force. Probably more often, however, they merely comply; they change attitudes, lower their own demands, shift to substitute gratifications, etc. It is along this latter line that social psychologists have done much work in recent years. Their studies and theories are usually summarized under the heading of a need for congruence or a desire to avoid cognitive dissonance. […]

The sociologist has long been acquainted with the problem of dissonance. His literature abounds in notions like role conflict, cross-pressure, normative inconsistency, etc. The social psychologist analyses how the individual behaves in a dissonant situation. But be it remembered the idea permeated macrosociology literature a long time ago. Macrosociologists have interpreted the French revolution in the light of the discrepancy felt by the bourgeoisie between economic and political power. German fascist movements after the First World War were explained by the contrast between the former status and the post-war experience of the aristocracy and army. […]

The strongest defenders of the dissonance theory consider the quest for cognitive consonance as something of a basic need, like hunger and sex. It is no surprise therefore that considerable controversy has developed around counter- explanations, in terms of other motivational theories. Malewski has launched his attack on a most general level. He feels that the conventional theories of learning by reinforcement could subsume most of the findings. Other authors have joined the discussion on a more specific level. Some experiments show that people can live happily with an inconsistent plan, and other writers have pointed out that dissonance might be a pleasant state of arousal because it drives one on to new explorations. Still others have proposed translating the findings through a theory of frustration. These counter-arguments are instructively summarized in Berkowitz [Berkowitz, L. 1969. Social motivation. In: Lindzey, G. & Aronson, E. The handbook of social psychology, v. 3. Reading, Addison-Wesley]. From a sociological point of view this discussion does not seem too important. Important is that the social psychologist has discovered a number of heretofore unsuspected interesting patterns.

Fonte (espanhol): Unesco. 1973 [1970]. Tendencias de la investigación en las ciencias sociales. Madri, Alianza.

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