Using Cognitive Dissonance Theory to investigate the thoughts and behaviors of individuals who commit romantic infidelity
Foster, Josh David
MetadataShow full item record
Romantic infidelity is a behavior that conflicts with how most individuals view the self and therefore may promote cognitive dissonance. Furthermore, individuals who commit infidelity may use strategies such as trivialization and behavior change to diminish negative consequences associated with cognitive dissonance. Consistent with my predictions, I found that prior instances of romantic infidelity promoted discrepancy involving the self-concept and psychological discomfort, particularly in women. Additionally, prior infidelity promoted negative shifts in general affect, suggesting that infidelity causes a combination of cognitive dissonance and negative general affect. Also consistent with my predictions, prior infidelity promoted the use of trivialization and behavior change; the latter from perpetrators who desired consistency amongst their beliefs and behaviors. Perpetrators of infidelity who did trivialize their behaviors experienced significant improvement in terms of self-concept discrepancy and psychological discomfort, but not general affect, suggesting that trivialization directly targets the dissonance associated with infidelity. Finally, participants were more likely to trivialize prior infidelities when they were highly aware of their personal beliefs regarding infidelity, suggesting that a salient discrepancy between beliefs and behavior may lead perpetrators of infidelity to trivialize their behaviors. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed, and future avenues of research are suggested.