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Cognitive dissonance is the theory that when someone holds two conflicting cognitions they will feel internal discomfort and will be motivated to reduce this discomfort. They reduce the discomfort by changing one of the cognitions, either by intensifying the original cognition or by diminishing the original cognition, making the new cognition the dominant cognition. The present experiment examines the role that cognitive dissonance plays in intensifying or diminishing prejudices within the attitude domain of the association between height and leadership. I attempted to induce dissonance by showing 20 Bard College students the discrepancy between their explicit and implicit attitudes about the connection of height and leadership. I measured the magnitude of dissonance produced after they viewed a discrepancy score, using skin conductance response equipment and a self-assessment of dissonance scale. Ten subjects then received an educational intervention describing fifteen world leaders whose heights were below average, which was predicted to diminish implicit prejudices. Subjects’ implicit attitudes were then measured again to determine if there had been a change in attitude. I expected that dissonance would be created when subjects viewed their discrepancy score and that the educational intervention would then further diminish implicit prejudices. The results showed that dissonance was created when subjects viewed their discrepancy score, but that the educational intervention did not significantly diminish the dissonance. The dissonance assessed by the selfassessment scale, however, was connected to the diminishment of implicit attitudes. These results show that cognitive dissonance can lead to the diminishment of implicit prejudices.
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Harris, Emily Faith, "Reaching New Heights: An Examination of Cognitive Dissonance and the Attitude Toward Height and Leadership" (2014). Senior Projects Spring 2014. 20.