Mental contrasting and cognitive dissonance
Anderson, Wyatt Cary
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The action-based model of cognitive dissonance (Harmon-Jones, 1999) and mental contrasting (Oettingen, 1996) share a number of similarities. Both depend on a form of motivational inconsistency producing arousal, moderated by various subjective expectations. In the dissonance tradition, arousal and subsequent behavioral effects are moderated by expectations about whether some action or belief was freely chosen. In mental contrasting, arousal and behavioral effects are moderated by expectations of success about some desired goal. To examine whether each theory would operate similarly in the same context, participants induced to use mental contrasting or experience dissonance were compared to control conditions in two experiments. In Study 1 I examined whether mental contrasting and cognitive dissonance would replicate earlier work on arousal and performance effects (Zajonc & Sales, 1966). In Study 2 I expanded on this procedure by manipulating participant’s subjective expectations with regard to each theory. Hypotheses in Study 1 were unconfirmed, though those in Study 2 received partial support. Shortcomings and recommendations for future research are discussed.