Self-Attribution and Cognitive Dissonance

The theory of self-attribution claims that people form the judgments about their attitudes, preferences and personal qualities, analyzing their own behavior. In case of perception of oneself an individual uses self-attribution; explaining the behavior, an actor can think attributively, as if from the position of the observer of own behavior. Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort caused by a contradiction between the available fixed belief and the latest information and facts. This theory was offered by Leon Festinger in 1957. The outstanding psychologist explains conflict situations which quite often arise in the cognitive structure of a person. The theory is aimed to explicate and investigate the condition of a cognitive dissonance emerging as a reaction to a certain situation, actions of individuals or the whole society. The given essay will describe the connection between self-attribution and cognitive dissonance.

The mental processes of self-attribution and cognitive dissonance include four main stages:

  • Sensomotor stage. At this stage individual acquires knowledge through sensual experience and management of the objects of surrounding reality and forms own self-attribution;
  • Pre-processing stage. In this phase individual learns the world through logic and perceptions of the point of view of other people and their self-attribution and cognition;
  • Stage of concrete operations. At this stage individual implements definite actions, developing logics as well as cognitive development;
  • Stage of formal operations. This is the final phase of the mental processes of the development of logic and ability to self-identification.


The phenomena of self-attribution and decrease in a dissonance have some similar features. In particular, both of them can promote emergence of the less means more effect. It becomes apparent as people can be forced to change own beliefs if the strength of incentive factors is hardly sufficient for them to behave how the agent of influence wants. From the point of view of the theory of a cognitive dissonance too strong activators are additional consonant cognitions owning to which the change of beliefs becomes unnecessary. From the point of view of the theory of self-attribution in the presence of strong activators individual has an opportunity to explain the behavior with the situational reasons. Therefore, the probability of dispositional self-attribution decreases.

Read more about Research Paper Writing Help for Any Student. Feel free to order your paper from Essays-Services and forget about your worries.

According to Faizo et al:

  • Dissonance theory, in general, concerns the relationship between various cognitions. The theory posits the existence of a drive-like motivation to maintain consistency among relevant cognitions. Self-perception theory, on the other hand, concerns the passive inference of attitudinal dispositions from behavior.
  • A human nature and nurture have different influence on self-attribution and affect the further cognitive development differently.
  • A human nature - beliefs, feelings, opinions and ideas of themselves - can be formed only under the influence of processes of self-attribution. However, the nurture, external affect, can lead to the changes in internal states. These effects can accompany the processes of self-attribution - execution of any role or considering of the new point of view up to occurrence of its acceptance as own. The situations, in which the impersonation is combined with self-belief, are able to have a deep impact on people, leading to the considerable changes as well as cognitive development.

According to the research conducted by Karen Jordens and Frank Van Overvalle, despite the fact that the results of the process of the decrease of a cognitive dissonance and the process of self-attribution are of equally great importance concerning their influence, starting the effects of insufficient correctness and super correctness, they are different. The decrease in a dissonance is, first of all, the process of a motivated change, and beliefs often become the object of a change. On the one hand, the contradictions between the existing cognitions are created by tension. On the other hand, self-attribution is a cognitive process, taking place when initial beliefs are weak, ambiguous or are absent at all. It is more likely the process of creation of the coordinated system than the process of resolution of conflicts. Therefore, self-attribution is the process of formation of beliefs or a gradual strengthening of the understanding in the correctness of own beliefs and cognitive development.

An individual aspires to make the system of knowledge and ideas of the world and him to be coordinated and consistent. He endures emotional discomfort and tension (a cognitive dissonance) when two thoughts (opinions, beliefs, positions) are realized by him as inconsistent and incompatible. In case of coherence in the available system of knowledge people avoid events generating a dissonance or try not to notice and ignore the cognitive elements not coordinated among them. Condition of a cognitive dissonance arises when individual perceives oneself as a reason of the arisen cognitive inconsistency, when actions of the subject are based on a free choice and destroy I-concept, when people feel personal responsibility for their own wrong actions and acts. In this case such actions and acts have serious consequences.

At the emergence of a cognitive dissonance people seek to eliminate or reduce it. Cognitive dissonance is eliminated by the change of one of the elements of the knowledge system not to contradict another one; by addition of the new elements to the coordinated inconsistent structure of knowledge; by means of reduction of the importance of the knowledge not coordinated among themselves for a person. There are various types of situations, in which there is a cognitive dissonance: a logical discrepancy: a person realizes that he/she made a decision in favor of one option, but the logic demands another one; discrepancy to the cultural patterns: a person, working according to the beliefs, realizes that he/she conflicts the standard norms; discrepancy of new knowledge to more generalized system of representations; discrepancy of new knowledge to the existing experience.

The problem of motivation consists in the fact that, trying to resolve a cognitive dissonance, individual is often occupied not with the search for the truth, but with the formal reduction of knowledge and motives to a common denominator; therefore, many people cope with internal contradictions, using more or less suitable justification. Thus, Cooper & Carlsmith state that cognitive dissonance involves inconsistency among cognitive elements and conclude that inconsistency produces motivation for change. Another motivation for people to resolve a cognitive dissonance is the fact that it can be a good manipulator. People often agree to do something that they were not going to do at all if it corresponded to their ideas of self-attribution.

Related essays