Consistency Theories and Cognitive Dissonance in Communications Essay

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Question:
Review this week’s lecture, which shows how the company Digital Living used a pilot as a communication effort to encourage employees to adopt a new annual performance review evaluation system.Then identify one (and only one) tactic that is related to consistency theories and cognitive dissonance and used by the example.Finally, discuss whether you would use the same tactic and why?

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Public Health Briefs
Overcoming Denial and Increasing the
Intention to Use Condoms through the
Induction of Hypocrisy
Elliot Aronson, Came Fried, and Jeff Stone
Introducion
Now that the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) epidemic is
making significant inroads into the heterosexual, nonintravenous drug-using,
young adult population,I it is vital that we
convince this group to practice safer sex.
The intervention of choice, thus far, has
primarily been information campaigns
that rely heavily on fear. Unfortunately,
social psychological research has shown
that fear does not always lead people
toward rational behavior; it may instead
trigger denial. Indeed, recent surveys
have shown that, although most young
adults believe that AIDS is a serious
problem, they have trouble believing it is
their problem. We have found that denial
is caused by fear of AIDS coupled with a
prejudice against using condoms; young
people believe condoms are a nuisance
that diminishes the romance and spontaneity of sexual encounters. Unless this
denial can be overcome, it seems doubtful that we can convince this population
to practice safer sex. If they have convinced themselves that they are not at
risk, why should they change their behavior?
What kind of intervention might obviate this denial and induce young adults
to realize their vulnerability and increase
their resolution to practice safer sex?
Imagine you are a college student and
your younger brother, who is in high
school, confides to you that he has become sexually active. How might you respond? You would probably urge him to
use condoms. But suppose further that
you were then reminded that you, yourself, do not always use condoms. How
might this affect you? Recent theorizing2
suggests that being confronted with the
fact that you are not practicing what you
preach induces feelings of hypocrisy,
which is a form of cognitive dissonance.3
Cognitive dissonance has been shown to
produce “self persuasion,” a powerful
and relatively permanent form of persuasion.4 We propose that inducing people to
realize they are not practicing what they
are preaching cuts off the easy route of
denial and forces them to make a more
realistic assessment of the risk of AIDS
and, ultimately, to take adequate precautions.
Method
To test this hypothesis, it was necessary to manipulate the degree to which subjects were made aware of their own insufficient condom use and the degree to which
they took an active role in preaching to others. In a two-by-two laboratory experiment,
40 female and 40 male sexually active young
adults were randomly assigned to condition,
counterbalanced by gender.
Upon entering the lab, all subjects
were told they would be helping to develop an AIDS prevention program. Half
the subjects (high mindful) were asked to
describe fully the situations in their recent past when they failed to use condoms; half of this subgroup then went on
to the preach condition. The other half of
the subjects (low mindful) simply went
directly to the preach condition without
any reference to their own sexual behavior.
The authors are all with the University of California at Santa Cruz.
Requests for reprints should be sent to
Elliot Aronson, Kerr Hall, University of California at Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA 95064.
This paper was submitted to the journal
August 30, 1990, and accepted with revisions
June 24, 1991.
December 1991, Vol. 81, No. 12
Public Health Briefs
In the preach condition, half the high
mindful and half the low mindful subjects
were induced to compose a short speech
(from a menu of facts) advocating condom
use and to deliver it in front of a television
camera. They were told this tape would be
shown to high school students as part of
an AIDS prevention program. The other
half of the subjects (no preach) used the
same menu of facts to compose a speech;
these subjects rehearsed their speeches
silently and were not videotaped. Thus,
all subjects were exposed to the same
information, but only those in the preach
condition believed they were actively
persuading others.
All subjects then answered questions about the frequency of their condom use in the past, as well as about their
intentions to use condoms in the future.
The difference between the two questions can be seen as a measure of how
much an individual intends to improve
his or her condom use in relation to past
behaviors.
Results
The results showed support for the
effectiveness of hypocrisy and are summarized in Figure 1. On the first measure,
subjects in the hypocrisy condition were
more likely to admit to their failure to use
condoms enough in the past. This indicates that our procedure enabled subjects
to overcome denial. Although a ceiling effect prevented us from documenting any
possible differences on the future intentions measure, the difference between responses on the two questions indicates
that the hypocrisy condition yielded a better index of improvement than any of the
other conditions.
In addition to the immediate measures, we contacted subjects after 3
months and asked them about their recent condom use (Table 1). Because a
sizable proportion of the subjects could
not be located, statistical testing was inappropriate. Nevertheless, the obvious
difference in the size of the means suggests that hypocrisy might be the most
effective route to long-term behavior
change.
These findings may have important
implications for AIDS interventions that
rely on the passive reception of communication. Specifically, when it comes to
acknowledging personal risk of human
immunodeficiency virus infection, simply learning about AIDS does not appear
to motivate people to overcome denial
and examine their risk objectively. Our
December 1991, Vol. 81, No. 12
Corndfflons
o . Low Mindful, No Preach
* Preach Ony
1. Mindkig Only
U* High Mlndful, Preach (Hypocilsy)
14
more
Frequently
Enough
1312
10
9-
8
Not
LeSS
Frequently
7
Enough
6
Intent for
AIDS
Specific
Past Use
Future
Use
FIGURE 1-mean responses to qusIons about past and future use of condoms.
information-only condition, which most
closely resembles passive information,
was the least effective intervention. The
people within this category remained in a
state of denial and were unwilling or unable to admit that AIDS was a serious
threat to them personally. Additionally,
learning about AIDS even when the information is directly linked to personal
behavior does not appear to motivate
people to examine their risk objectively,
nor does simply advocating safe sex. Our
data suggest that making people aware of
their past high-risk behaviors must be accompanied by an engaging activity such
as a public advocacy if we want them to
overcome denial and adopt safer sexual
behavior.
The hypocrisy technique can easily be
applied to most secondary school classes
on sex education or AIDS prevention.
Based on our results, we suggest that lectures be supplemented by small group discussions in which each student is induced
to make a public attempt to persuade others about the importance of safe sex and,
subsequently, to acknowledge his or her
past laxity. El
Acknowledgments
was presented at the Western
Psychological Association Conference in Los
Angeles, Calif, April 1990, in a paper titled
“AIDS Prevention through Cognitive Dissonance: New Twist on an Old Theory.”
The authors would like to thank Anthony
R. Pratkanis, Judith C. Schwartz, Ruth Thi-
This research
American Journal of Public Health 1637
EPublc Health Briefs
bodeau, and the rest of the SIRF committee for
helpful comments on the design. We also thank
Kyra Kissam, Jennifer Hearst, and Bruce Fraser for their help in collecting the data.
References
1. Weisse CS, Nesselhof-Kendall S, FleckKandath C, Baum A. Psychosocial aspects
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r
Knowledge about HJV and Behavioral
Risks of Foreign-Born Boston Public
School Students
Intdudion
V..yh::’i
S.o >f.v
nance. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University
Press; 1957.
4. Aronson E. Self-persuasion via selfjustification: large commitments for
small rewards. In: Festinger L, ed. Retrospection on Social Psychology. New
York, NY: Oxford University Press;
1980.
Ralph W. Hingson, ScD, Lee Stnir* PhD, Michael Grady, MD, Nancy
StwunI RN, MS, Robert Carr, MS, Beth BerMW MS, and Donald E.
Craven, MD
.*:S}..S.
….
>,
.F!>M.._._W..
………………:..
ZR«
X!-:g:
:}}
IBM..2~EwEr_ …k:}
of AIDS prevention among heterosexuals.
In: Bickman L, ed.Applied Social Psychology AnnuaL Beverly Hills, Calif: Sage;
1990;10.
2. Aronson E. The return ofthe repressed: dissonance theory makes a comeback. Psychol
Inquiy. In press.
3. Festinger L. A Theory of Cognitive Disso-
e ‘S^:S>’
Sixteen million mainland US residents age 18 and older were bom elsewhere.’ Many are Blacks or Hispanics
who moved to urban areas where the incidence of AIDS has been particularly
high, e.g., New York City, Miami, and
Los Angeles. Little is known about their
knowledge of human immunodeficiency
virus-i (HIV-1), drug use, and sexual behaviors.
Studies of adolescents particularly
are needed. One fifth of the 186 895 AIDS
cases nationally as of September 1991
have been in the 16 to 29-year-old age
group.2 Given the long incubation period
of HIV-1, many persons in this age group
probably became infected as teenagers.
This study compares middle and high
school students in the Boston public
schools who were born outside the US
mainland with students born in the US
concermingknowledge about HIV-1 transmission; beliefs about the number of adolescents who engage in risky sexual practices and drug use; and intravenous (IV)
drug use, sexual intercourse, and condom
use.
Metds
In May 1990, 3049 students from a
random sample of Boston public schools
(13/19 middle schools and 9/15 high
schools) completed a self-administered
questionnaire about these topics in English (n = 2704), Spanish (n = 158), Chinese (n = 45), Vietnamese (n = 50), or
French or Haitian Creole (n = 92). Trans-
lation and independent back translation
ensured accuracy of questionnaire wording.
We attempted to survey all 8th and
10th grade students in selected schools. In
response to an informational letter about
the survey sent to parents of eligible students, 75 parents (1.5%) requested that
their children not participate. On the day
of the survey 11% of middle school students and 23% of high school students
were absent. Among students in attendance, 81% (n = 1382) in middle schools
and 73% (n = 1667) in high schools completed the questionnaires, (overall response rate = 77%). Most nonresponse
resulted from teachers not scheduling time
to administer the survey. The gender, racial, and ethnic distributions of surveyed
students closely matched those enrolled in
the 8th and 10th grades in the targeted
schools and in the Boston school system
(Table 1). The questionnaires were anonymous and were placed by students in
Ralph W. Hingson, Lee Strunin, Beth Berlin,
and Donald E. Craven are with Boston University Schools of Public Health and Medicine.
Michael Grady and Nancy Strunk are with the
Boston School Department. Robert Carr and
Donald E. Craven are with the Boston Department of Health and Hospitals.
Requests for reprints should be sent to
Ralph Hingson, ScD, Boston University
School of Public Health, Social and Behavioral
Sciences Section, 85 East Newton Street, Boston, MA 02118.
This paper was submitted to the journal
October 30, 1990, and accepted with revisions
April 2, 1991.
Editores Note. See related Editorial by
Hinnman on page 1557.
December 1991. Vol. 81. No. 12
U.S. Copyright Law
(title 17 of U.S. code)
governs the reproduction
and redistribution of
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Downloading this
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Eleventh Edition
The Social Animal
Elliot Aronson
University of California, Santa Cruz
with Joshua Aronson
New York University
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5
Self-Justification
Picture the following scene: A young man named Sam is being hypnotized. The hypnotist gives Sam a posthypnotic suggestion, telling
him that, when the clock strikes 4:00, he will (1) go to the closet, get
his raincoat and galoshes, and put them on; (2) grab an umbrella;
(3) walk eight blocks to the supermarket and purchase six bottles of
bourbon; and (4) return home. Sam is told that, as soon as he reenters his apartment, he will “snap out of it” and be himself again.
When the clock strikes 4:00, Sam immediately heads for the
closet, dons his raincoat and galoshes, grabs his umbrella, and
trudges out the door on his quest for bourbon. There are a few
strange things about this errand: (1) it is a clear, sunshiny day—there
isn’t a cloud in the sky; (2) there is a liquor store half a block away
that sells bourbon for the same price as the supermarket eight blocks
away; and (3) Sam doesn’t drink.
Sam arrives home, opens the door, reenters his apartment, snaps
out of his “trance,” and discovers himself standing there in his raincoat and galoshes, with his umbrella in one hand and a huge sack of
liquor bottles in the other. He looks momentarily confused. His
friend, the hypnotist, says,
“Hey, Sam, where have you been?”
“Oh, just down to the store.”
“What did you buy?”
“Urn . . . um . . . it seems I bought this bourbon.”
“But you don’t drink, do you?”
18 8 The Social An imal
“No, but . . . um . . . um . . . I’m going to do a lot of entertaining during the next several weeks, and some of my friends do.”
“How come you’re wearing all that rain gear on such a sunny day?”
“Well . . . actually, the weather is quite changeable this time of
year, and I didn’t want to take any chances.”
“But there isn’t a cloud in the sky.”
“Well, you never can tell.”
“By the way, where did you buy the liquor?”
“Oh, heh, heh. Well, um . . . down at the supermarket.”
“How come you went that far?”
“Well, um . .. um . . . it was such a nice day, I thought it might
be fun to take a long walk.”
People are motivated to justify their own actions, beliefs, and feelings.
When they do something, they will try, if at all possible, to convince
themselves (and others) that it was a logical, reasonable thing to do.
There was a good reason why Sam performed those silly actions—he
was hypnotized. But because Sam didn’t know he had been hypnotized, and because it was difficult for him to accept the fact that he
was capable of behaving in a nonsensical manner, he went to great
lengths to convince himself (and his friend) that there was a method
to his madness, that his actions were actually quite sensible.
The experiment by Stanley Schachter and Jerry Singer discussed
in Chapter 2 can also be understood in these terms. Recall that these
investigators injected people with epinephrine. Those who were
forewarned about the symptoms caused by this drug (palpitations of
the heart, sweaty palms, and hand tremors) had a sensible explanation for the symptoms when they appeared. “Oh, yeah, that’s just the
drug affecting me.” Those who were misled about the effects of the
drug, however, had no such handy, logical explanation for their
symptoms. But they couldn’t leave the symptoms unjustified; they
tried to account for them by convincing themselves that they were
either deliriously happy or angry, depending on the social stimuli in
the environment.
Self-Justification
179
The concept of self-justification can be applied more broadly
still. Suppose you are in the midst of a great natural disaster, such as
an earthquake. All around you, buildings are toppling and people are
getting killed and injured. Needless to say, you are frightened. Is
there any need to seek justification for this fear? Certainly not. The
evidence is all around you; the injured people and the devastated
buildings are ample justification for your fear. But suppose, instead,
the earthquake occurred in a neighboring town. You can feel the
tremors, and you hear stories of the damage done to the other town.
You are terribly frightened, but you are not in the midst of the devastated area; neither you nor the people around you have been hurt,
and no buildings in your town have been damaged. Would you need
to justify this fear? Yes. Much like the people in the Schachter-Singer
experiment experiencing strong physical reactions to epinephrine but
not knowing why, and much like our hypnotized friend in the raincoat and galoshes, you would be inclined to justify your own actions
or feelings. In this situation, you see nothing to be afraid of in the
immediate vicinity, so you would be inclined to seek justification for
the fact that you are scared out of your wits.
This disaster situation is not a hypothetical example; it actually
occurred in India. In the aftermath of an earthquake, investigators
collected and analyzed the rumors being spread. What they discovered was rather startling: Jamuna Prasad,1 an Indian psychologist,
found that when the disaster occurred in a neighboring village such
that the residents in question could feel the tremors but were not in
imminent danger, there was an abundance of rumors forecasting impending doom. Specifically, the residents of this village believed, and
helped spread rumors to the effect that a flood was rushing toward
them; February 26 would be a day of deluge and destruction; there
would be another severe earthquake on the day of the lunar eclipse;
there would be a cyclone within a few days; and unforeseeable
calamities were on the horizon.
Why in the world would people invent, believe, and communicate such stories? Were these people masochists? Were they paranoid?
Certainly these rumors would not encourage the people to feel calm
and secure. One rather compelling explanation is that the people were
terribly frightened, and because there was not ample justification for
this fear, they invented their own justification. Thus, they were not
compelled to feel foolish. After all, if a cyclone is on the way, isn’t it
18 8 The Social An imal
perfectly reasonable that I should be wild-eyed with fear? This explanation is bolstered by Durganand Sinha’s study of rumors.2 Sinha investigated the rumors being spread in an Indian village following a
disaster of similar magnitude. The major difference between the situation in Prasad’s study and the one in Sinha’s study was that the people being investigated by Sinha had actually suffered the destruction
and witnessed the damage. They were scared, but they had good reasons to be frightened; they had no need to seek additional justification for their fears. Thus, their rumors contained no prediction of
impending disaster and no serious exaggeration. Indeed, if anything,
the rumors were comforting. For example, one rumor predicted
(falsely) that the water supply would be restored in a very short time.
Leon Festinger organized this array of findings and used them
as the basis for a powerful theory of human motivation that he called
the theory of cognitive dissonance.3 It is a remarkably simple theory
but, as we shall see, the range of its application is enormous. Basically, cognitive dissonance is a state of tension that occurs whenever
an individual simultaneously holds two cognitions (ideas, attitudes,
beliefs, opinions) that are psychologically inconsistent. Stated differently, two cognitions are dissonant if, when considered alone, the opposite of one follows from the other. Because the occurrence of
cognitive dissonance is unpleasant, people are motivated to reduce it;
this is roughly analogous to the processes involved in the induction
and reduction of such drives as hunger or thirst—except that, here,
the driving force arises from cognitive discomfort rather than physiological needs. To hold two ideas that contradict each other is to flirt
with absurdity, and—as Albert Camus, the existentialist philosopher,
has observed—humans are creatures who spend their lives trying to
convince themselves that their existence is not absurd.
How do we convince ourselves that our lives are not absurd; that
is, how do we reduce cognitive dissonance? By changing one or both
cognitions in such a way as to render them more compatible (more
consonant) with each other or by adding more cognitions that help
bridge the gap between the original cognitions.*
*In the preceding chapter, we learned that beliefs and attitudes are not always
good predictors of a person’s behavior—that is to say, behavior is not always consistent with relevant beliefs and attitudes. Here we are making the point that most people feel that their beliefs and attitudes should be consistent with their behavior and,
therefore, are motivated to justify their behavior when it is inconsistent with a preexisting attitude.
Self-Justification
181
Let me cite an example that is, alas, all too familiar to many people. Suppose a person smokes cigarettes and then reads a report of
the medical evidence linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer and
other diseases. The smoker experiences dissonance. The cognition “I
smoke cigarettes” is dissonant with the cognition “cigarette smoking
produces cancer.” Clearly, the most efficient way for this person to
reduce dissonance in such a situation is to give up smoking. The cognition “cigarette smoking produces cancer” is consonant with the
cognition “I do not smoke.”
But, for most people, it is not easy to give up smoking. Imagine
Sally, a young woman who tried to stop smoking but failed. What
will she do to reduce dissonance? In all probability, she will try to
work on the other cognition: “Cigarette smoking produces cancer.”
Sally might attempt to make light of evidence linking cigarette
smoking to cancer. For example, she might try to convince herself
that the experimental evidence is inconclusive. In addition, she
might seek out intelligent people who smoke and, by so doing, convince herself that if Debbie, Nicole, and Larry smoke, it can’t be all
that dangerous. Sally might switch to a filter-tipped brand and delude herself into believing that the filter traps the cancer-producing
materials. Finally, she might add cognitions that are consonant with
smoking in an attempt to make the behavior less absurd in spite of
its danger. Thus, Sally might enhance the value placed on smoking;
that is, she might come to believe smoking is an important and
highly enjoyable activity that is essential for relaxation: “I may lead a
shorter life, but it will be a more enjoyable one.” Similarly, she might
try to make a virtue out of smoking by developing a romantic, devilmay-care self-image, flouting danger by smoking cigarettes. All such
behavior reduces dissonance by reducing the absurdity of the notion
of going out of one’s way to contract cancer. Sally has justified her
behavior by cognitively minimizing the danger or by exaggerating
the importance of the action. In effect, she has succeeded either in
constructing a new attitude or in changing an existing attitude.
Indeed, shortly after the publicity surrounding the original Surgeon General’s report in 1964, a survey was conducted4 to assess people’s reactions to the new evidence that smoking helps cause cancer.
Nonsmokers overwhelmingly believed the health report, only 10 percent of those queried saying that the link between smoking and cancer had not been proven to exist; these respondents had no motivation
to disbelieve the report. The smokers faced a more difficult quandary.
18 8 The Social An imal
Smoking is a difficult habit to break; only 9 percent of the smokers
had been able to quit. To justify continuing the activity, smokers
tended to debunk the report. They were more likely to deny the evidence: 40 percent of the heavy smokers said a link had not been
proven to exist. They were also more apt to employ rationalizations:
More than twice as many smokers as nonsmokers agreed that there
are many hazards in life and that both smokers and nonsmokers get
cancer.
Smokers who are painfully aware of the health hazards associated with smoking may reduce dissonance in yet another way—by
minimizing the extent of their habit. One study5 found that of 155
smokers who smoked between one and two packs of cigarettes a day,
60 percent considered themselves moderate smokers; the remaining
40 percent considered themselves heavy smokers. How can we explain these different self-perceptions? Not surprisingly, those who labeled themselves as moderates were more aware of the pathological
long-term effects of smoking than were those who labeled themselves as heavy smokers. That is, these particular smokers apparently
reduced dissonance by convincing themselves that smoking one or
two packs a day isn’t really all that much. Moderate and heavy are,
after all, subjective terms.
Imagine a teenage girl who has not yet begun to smoke. After
reading the Surgeon General’s report, is she apt to believe it? Like
most of the nonsmokers in the survey, she should. The evidence is
objectively sound, the source is expert and trustworthy, and there is
no reason not to believe the report. And this is the crux of the matter. Earlier in this book, I made the point that people strive to be
right, and that values and beliefs become internalized when they appear to be correct. It is this striving to be right that motivates people
to pay close attention to what other people are doing and to heed the
advice of expert, trustworthy communicators. This is extremely rational behavior. There are forces, however, that can work against this
rational behavior. The theory of cognitive dissonance does not picture people as rational beings; rather, it pictures them as rationalizing beings. According to the underlying assumptions of the theory,
we humans are motivated not so much to be right as to believe we
are right (and wise, and decent, and good).
Sometimes, our motivation to be right and our motivation to believe we are right work in the same direction. This is what is happen-
Self-Justification
183
ing with the young woman who doesn’t smoke and therefore finds it
easy to accept the notion that smoking causes lung cancer. This
would also be true for a smoker who encounters the evidence linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer and then succeeds in giving up
cigarettes. Occasionally, however, the need to reduce dissonance (the
need to convince oneself that one is right or good) leads to behavior
that is maladaptive and therefore irrational. For example, many people have tried to quit smoking and failed. What do these people do?
It would be erroneous to assume that they simply swallow hard and
prepare to die. They don’t. Instead, they try to reduce their dissonance in a different way: namely, by convincing themselves that
smoking isn’t as bad as they thought. Thus, Rick Gibbons and his
colleagues6 recently found that heavy smokers who attended a smoking cessation clinic, quit smoking for a while and then relapsed into
heavy smoking again, subsequently succeeded in lowering their perception of the dangers of smoking.
Why might this change of heart occur? If a person makes a serious commitment to a course of action, such as quitting smoking,
and then fails to keep that commitment, his or her self-concept as
a strong, self-controlled individual is threatened. This, of course,
arouses dissonance. One way to reduce this dissonance and regain a
healthy sense of self—if not a healthy set of lungs—is to trivialize the
commitment by perceiving smoking as less dangerous. A more general study that tracked the progress of 135 students who made New
Year’s resolutions supports this observation.7 Individuals who broke
their resolutions—such as to quit smoking, lose weight, or exercise
more—initially felt bad about themselves for failing but, after a short
time, succeeded in downplaying the importance of the resolution.
Ironically, making light of a commitment they failed to keep serves
to restore their self-esteem but it also makes self-defeat a near certainty in the future. In the short run, they are able to feel better about
themselves; in the long run, however, they have drastically reduced
the chances that they’ll ever succeed in achieving their goals.
Is this the only way to reduce the dissonance associated with failing to achieve a goal? No. An alternative response—-and perhaps a less
maladaptive one—would be to lower one’s expectations for success.
For example, a person who has been unable to give up smoking completely, but who has cut down on the number of cigarettes smoked
daily, could interpret this outcome as a partial success rather than as
18 8 The Social An imal
a complete failure. This course of action would soften the blow to his
or her self-esteem for having failed while still holding out the possibility of achieving success in future efforts to quit smoking altogether.
Let’s stay with the topic of cigarette smoking for a moment and
consider an extreme example: Suppose you are one of the top executives of a major cigarette company—and therefore in a situation of
maximum commitment to the idea of cigarette smoking. Your job
consists of producing, advertising, and selling cigarettes to millions
of people. If it is true that cigarette smoking causes cancer, then, in
a sense, you are partially responsible for the illness and death of a
great many people. This would produce a painful degree of dissonance: Your cognition “I am a decent, kind human being” would be
dissonant with your cognition “I am contributing to the early death
of thousands of people.” To reduce this dissonance, you must try to
convince yourself that cigarette smoking is not harmful; this would
involve a refutation of the mountain of evidence suggesting a causal
link between cigarettes and cancer. Moreover, to convince yourself
further that you are a good, moral person, you might go so far as to
demonstrate how much you disbelieve the evidence by smoking a
great deal yourself. If your need is great enough, you might even succeed in convincing yourself that cigarettes are good for people. Thus,
to see yourself as wise, good, and right, you take action that is stupid
and detrimental to your health.
This analysis is so fantastic that it’s almost beyond belief—
almost. In 1994, Congress conducted hearings on the dangers of
smoking. At these hearings, the top executives of most of the major
tobacco companies admitted they were smokers and actually argued
that cigarettes are no more harmful or addictive than playing video
games or eating Twinkies! In a subsequent hearing in 1997, James J.
Morgan, president and chief executive officer of the leading U.S. cigarette maker, said that cigarettes are not pharmacologically addictive.
“Look, I like gummy bears and I eat gummy bears. And I don’t like
it when I don’t eat gummy bears,” Morgan said. “But I’m certainly
not addicted to them.”8 This kind of public denial is nothing new, of
course. Forty years ago, the following news item was released by the
Washington Post’s News Service.
Jack Landry pulls what must be his 30th Marlboro of the day
out of one of the two packs on his desk, lights a match to it and
Self-Justification
185
tells how he doesn’t believe all those reports about smoking and
cancer

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