Sunday, March 29, 2009


i think IPA's are the best beer ever invented. there's something about the bitter taste of a shitload of hops that i love, and since it has more alcohol than most other beers, its a win-win situation. on a side note, this blog is never updated, and i am sorry for your humble narrator never has much to say. telling you about my love for IPA has been the most profound thing i've needed to say lately. so don't be surprised if this blog turns into more than just a bitching-about-grad-school blog, since a) i don't bitch much about school, and b) well there is no b, just a.

but in regard to school, i think i have come up with a potential thesis idea. its on cognitive dissonance, which i feel is one of the more interesting and counterintuitive ideas in psychology. this is how it works: when you have a strong opinion about something (i.e., you are very pro-life) but then you are given information to counter this information (like a pro-choice argument), you feel dissonance, an uncomfortable feeling, in regard to these two opposing attitudes. The dissonance is uncomfortable to the point where you need to organize your attitudes in a way to relieve the feeling. Possibly the best example is a seasoned cigarette smoker, who when he reads information from a legitimate source stating that smoking is bad for you, feels dissonance. He feels dissonance from these opposing ideas, and rationally, he should change his behavior and try to quit smoking. However, one would be surprised about how often instead of changing smoking behavior, one might try to rationalize or justify their smoking behavior, while delegitimizing the information about health risks.

This effect has been found in a wide variety of settings, and doesn't necessarily need to pertain to explicit behaviors, because as we all know, attitudes do not match behavior, no matter how much we'd like it to be so. Cognitive dissonance also applies to attitude change, such that just reading a legitimate countering argument to one's beliefs can lead to dissonnance and subsequent attitude change. In many experiments, a forced-compliance paradigm is used, which usually manifests itself as having a participant give you his attitude on some concept. We'll continue with the pro-choice/life argument for the sake of consistancy. so in this paradigm, let's say our hypothetical participant is extreme in in support for pro-life. Now we force him to comply with out demand, which in most cases, is writing a counterattitudinal essay in favor of the opposing attitude. So, a pro-life participant would write a pro-choice essay. Now, writing this essay provokes a degree of dissonance in the participant's mind, and theoretically, the participant should change his original attitude in order to relieve the dissonance. This is exactly what is found in literature. Participants will change their original attitude to more closely match what they wrote in the essay; that is, participants adopt a different viewpoint at the end of the study as compared to what they believed at the start. Now, it should be noted this is not a black to white kind of attitude change, it is not completely opposite. Although it is not extreme, there is a certain difference pre- and post-experiment.

Now comes my thesis: many psychologists theorize that people change their attitudes to achieve cognitive consistancy. people want to think they are consistant in thought, in all aspects. this also contributes to self-esteem as well as other self-important ideas, but generally speaking, feeling consistant in thought makes us feel good. However, other theorists think that people change their attitudes in order to appear as consistant to other people. This falls in line with the idea of impression management, in which people try to control how they appear in order to portray themselves in a certain light to other people. basically, i am testing these opposing theories about why people change their attitudes. i would go into the procedure and how i will go about doing that, but im still incubating these ideas a bit. i am pretty excited to do this study, as this is the kind of stuff that i really care about. i was afraid that i would end up doing some BS thesis just to get it out of the way, but since i found something that interests me, perhaps the process of the entire work won't be too bad.

I know that my postings are usually perfect examples of brevity, but if you read this far i congratulate you. if what i said didnt make any sense at all, let me know.