Extending Psychological Frontiers

Extending Psychological Frontiers

Copyright Date: 1989
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 616
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  • Book Info
    Extending Psychological Frontiers
    Book Description:

    Leon Festinger's forty-year scrutiny of that "curious animal, the modern human being" fundamentally transformed psychological thinking and shaped an entire scientific field, that of social psychology. The twenty-four papers brought together for the first time inExtending Psychological Frontiersencompass the classic contributions and critical turning points of Festinger's long career.

    Spanning the post-war decades, this unprecedented volume reveals the full scope, diversity, and import of Festinger's work. Its thematic arrangement clarifies the complex network of problems that preoccupied Festinger and the unique imaginative style that characterized his intellect. Whether examining the voting behavior of Catholics and Jews, the meaning of minute eye movements, the decisions of maze-running rats, or the proselytizing behavior of cultists, Festinger consistently transcended the traditional bounds of the discipline. His theory of cognitive dissonance, which describes how people attempt to resolve the tensions that result when they hold simultaneously two inconsistent beliefs, challenged preexisting psychological theories and produced more important ideas and experimentation than any other development in social psychology. Major writings on group dynamics, decision making, and perceptual processes further underscore the impact of Festinger's research not only on psychology, but also on a wide range of intellectual fronts, from literary theory to ethnology and from historical studies to contemporary political analysis.

    Extending Psychological Frontiersis an invaluable resource, providing a comprehensive and coherent picture of an extraordinary body of work.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-486-6
    Subjects: Psychology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Preface
    (pp. v-vi)
    Stanley Schachter and Michael Gazzaniga
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxiv)
    Henri Zukier

    The decades after the Second World War were an era of uncommon imaginativeness and insight in social psychology, which produced new ways of understanding the social nature of human behavior and transformed social-psychological inquiry into a rigorous intellectual and experimental discipline. Leon Festinger’s work includes many landmarks in the history of this transformation and defines the broad contours of the field. Edward Jones, a statesman in social psychology working outside the Festingerian tradition, has articulated the common view: Festinger has been “the dominant figure in social psychology” since Kurt Lewin Gones, 1985), and “whatever the future holds, the dissonance research...

    • 1 Wish, Expectation, and Group Standards as Factors Influencing Level of Aspiration
      (pp. 3-20)
      Leon Festinger

      Previous experiments have demonstrated that the level of aspiration is determined by a manifold of factors. Some of these factors are: effects of success and failure (Gardner, 3; Sears, 7); certain personality variables (Escalona, 2; Gould and Kaplan, 4); and previous successes of the individual (Sears, 7). There are also factors in the social environment of the individual which affect his level of aspiration. Evidence of this has been found by Chapman and Volkmann (1) and by Hertzman and Festinger (5). From these studies we find that in a social situation the performance of others in the group exerts a...

    • 2 A Theoretical Interpretation of Shifts in Level of Aspiration
      (pp. 21-34)
      Leon Festinger

      In experiments aimed to discover the factors influencing the level of aspiration two sessions, separated by about a week, were held with each subject. The subjects were all college students mostly in their sophomore year. In each session a measure of the level of aspiration of the subject was obtained. The measure obtained was expressed in terms of the difference between the subject’s performance and his estimate of future performance. This measure has been called the discrepancy score. Three experimental variables were introduced: (a) Reality-Irreality variable.—In order to elicit the estimate of performance for the next trial half of...

    • 3 Level of Aspiration
      (pp. 35-88)
      Kurt Lewin, Tamara Dembo, Leon Festinger and Pauline Snedden Sears

      Almost any set of psychological problems, especially those in the fields of motivation and personality, inevitably involves goals and goal-directed behavior. The importance of setting up goals for behavior is especially accentuated in a culture with as strong a competitive emphasis as ours. Until recently, however, little formal attempt has been made to study goals as phenomena in themselves and the effects of attainment or nonattainment of goals on the behavior of the individual.

      The concept of “level of aspiration,” introduced by Dembo (published in 1931), made explicit the possibility of observing goal levels occurring in the course of a...

    • 4 A Quantitative Theory of Decision
      (pp. 89-114)
      Darwin Cartwright and Leon Festinger

      The mark of maturity of a science is the extent to which it can state its laws and functional relationships in precise mathematical terminology. Statistical techniques, especially those employing the theories of probability, have found wide application in psychology. Some geometrical concepts, particularly those of topology, have also been used although somewhat less widely. Rarely, if ever, however, has there been a thorough application of both types of mathematical means in psychological theory.

      Recently in psychophysics an attempt has been made by Cartwright (5) to utilize geometrical concepts in the construction of a theory which brings psychophysics and “motivation psychology”...

    • 5 Informal Social Communication
      (pp. 117-133)
      Leon Festinger

      The importance of strict theory in developing and guiding programs of research is becoming more and more recognized today. Yet there is considerable disagreement about exactly how strict and precise a theoretical formulation must be at various stages in the development of a body of knowledge. Certainly there are many who feel that some “theorizing” is too vague and indefinite to be of much use. It is also argued that such vague and broad “theorizing” may actually hinder the empirical development of an area of knowledge.

      On the other hand there are many who express dissatisfaction with instances of very...

    • 6 A Theory of Social Comparison Processes
      (pp. 134-160)
      Leon Festinger

      In this paper we shall present a further development of a previously published theory concerning opinion influence processes in social groups (7). This further development has enabled us to extend the theory to deal with other areas, in addition to opinion formation, in which social comparison is important. Specifically, we shall develop below how the theory applies to the appraisal and evaluation of abilities as well as opinions.

      Such theories and hypotheses in the area of social psychology are frequently viewed in terms of how “plausible” they seem. “Plausibility” usually means whether or not the theory or hypothesis fits one’s...

    • 7 Interpersonal Communication in Small Groups
      (pp. 161-175)
      Leon Festinger and John Thibaut

      Small face-to-face groups, or as they have sometimes been called, primary groups, play an important part in influencing attitudes and opinions of their members. This important fact about social behavior has been assumed for many years. In the past decade experimental facts have accumulated to substantiate this fact and to specify the relationships involved.

      In summary, the following is a list of some major conclusions which may be drawn from experimental work:

      1. Belonging to the same group tends to produce changes in opinions and attitudes in the direction of establishing uniformity within the group (5, 6).

      2. The amount of change...

    • 8 Tendencies Toward Group Comparability in Competitive Bargaining
      (pp. 176-198)
      Paul J. Hoffman, Leon Festinger and Douglas H. Lawrence

      The present study is concerned with some of the socio-psychological factors that determine behavior in a situation where some ability is being revealed or measured. In such a situation, in order to evaluate their ability, persons frequently tend to compare their own performance with the performance of others whom they accept as comparable to themselves. As a consequence, the individual’s behavior is determined more by his performance relative to those others than by the absolute level of his performance. If the situation in which the particular ability is measured is a bargaining situation where coalitions can form, it is possible...

    • 9 A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance
      (pp. 201-237)
      Leon Festinger

      This Foreword contains primarily a bit of the history of how the ideas which form the core of this book arose. This chronological form is the best way to acknowledge properly the assistance received from others—assistance which was considerable and crucial—and at the same time to explain how this book relates to the purposes which originally motivated it.

      In the late fall of 1951 the writer was asked by Bernard Berelson, the Director of the Behavioral Sciences Division of the Ford Foundation, whether he would be interested in undertaking a “propositional inventory” of the substantive area of “communication...

    • 10 The Arousal and Reduction of Dissonance in Social Contexts
      (pp. 238-257)
      Leon Festinger and Elliot Aronson

      The theory of dissonance is a theory concerning psychological processes which go on, somehow, inside of the individual organism. The core notions of the theory are extremely simple. These notions are that the simultaneous existence of cognitions which in one way or another do not fit together (dissonance) leads to effort on the part of the person to somehow make them fit better (dissonance reduction).

      Of course, in order to make these notions amenable to empirical test and to give them predictive power, one must specify the conditions under which dissonance exists, the ways in which dissonance may be reduced,...

    • 11 When Prophecy Fails
      (pp. 258-269)
      Leon Festinger, Henry W. Riecken and Stanley Schachter

      A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point. We are familiar with the variety of ingenious defenses with which people protect their convictions, managing to keep them unscathed through the most devastating attacks.

      But man’s resourcefulness goes beyond simply protecting a belief. Suppose an individual believes something with his whole heart; suppose further that he has a commitment to this belief and that he has taken irrevocable actions because...

    • 12 Cognitive Consequences of Forced Compliance
      (pp. 270-284)
      Leon Festinger and James M. Carlsmith

      What happens to a person’s private opinion if he is forced to do or say something contrary to that opinion? Only recently has there been any experimental work related to this question. Two studies reported by Janis and King (1954; 1956) clearly showed that, at least under some conditions, the private opinion changes so as to bring it into closer correspondence with the overt behavior the person was forced to perform. Specifically, they showed that if a person is forced to improvise a speech supporting a point of view with which he disagrees, his private opinion moves toward the position...

    • 13 The Psychological Effects of Insufficient Rewards
      (pp. 285-304)
      Leon Festinger

      Some fields of Psychology have for many years been dominated by ideas concerning the importance of rewards in the establishment and maintenance of behavior patterns. So dominant has this notion become, that some of our most ingenious theoretical thinking has been devoted to imagining the existence of rewards in order to explain behavior in situations where, plausibly, no rewards exist. It has been observed, for example, that under some circumstances an organism will persist in voluntarily engaging in behavior which is frustrating or painful. To account for such behavior it has, on occasion, been seriously proposed that the cessation of...

    • 14 Efference and the Conscious Experience of Perception
      (pp. 307-359)
      Leon Festinger, Clarke A. Burnham, Hiroshi Ono and Donald Bamber

      Around the turn of the last century there were a few people who proposed that motor output was essential to the conscious experience of perception. Münsterberg (1899), for example, elaborated the view that incoming, afferent stimulation and outgoing motor innervation were a single, continuous nerve process with no point of separation between them. The motor discharge, he held, is necessary before any central activity corresponding to perception or consciousness takes place. Montague (1908) stated that “Perceptions are presumed to arise synchronously with the redirection in the central nervous system of afferent currents into efferent channels [p. 128].”

      Ultimately, such views...

    • 15 Inferences About the Efferent System Based on a Perceptual Illusion Produced by Eye Movements
      (pp. 360-387)
      Leon Festinger and A. Montague Easton

      In the last decade neurophysiologists have increasingly emphasized the importance of understanding the organization and functioning of the efferent system. The general question is how, and in what form, motor commands are formulated and issued and how the nervous system controls motor activity. Some progress has been made on such questions at a neurophysiological level. For example, studies have been reported on the relationship between firing rates in motor neurons and force exerted by limb movements (Evarts, 1966, 1968, 1972); studies have identified cells in the central nervous system that regularly fire in connection with specific motor movement (Bizzi, 1968;...

    • 16 Visual Perception During Smooth Pursuit Eye Movements
      (pp. 388-412)
      Leon Festinger, Harold A. Sedgwick and Jeffrey D. Holtzman

      There are many reports in the literature that indicate inaccurate perception of the paths, extents and velocities of movement of targets that move with reasonably slow velocities on a homogeneous background. The earliest study that bears directly on the issues addressed in this paper is reported by Dodge (1904). Observers were instructed to track a spot of light moving with simple harmonic motion in a darkened room. The eyes engaged in predominantly smooth pursuit eye movements. Dodge reports that the perceived extent of movement of this tracked target was about one third of the perceived extent of motion of another...

    • 17 The Human Legacy
      (pp. 415-421)
      Leon Festinger

      Four years ago I closed my laboratory which, over time, had become devoted to studying ever narrowing aspects of how the human eye moves. It is natural for me to talk as if the laboratory was at fault, but a laboratory is only a collection of rooms and equipment. It was I who conceived of, and worked on narrower and narrower technical problems.

      That is not a proper occupation for an aging man who resents that adjective. Young men and women should work on narrow problems. Young people become enthusiastic easily: any new finding is an exciting thing. Older people...

    • 18 The Social Organization of Early Human Groups
      (pp. 422-438)
      Leon Festinger

      There is evidence for the existence of groups that, by some definitions, we might call human—at least they were fully bipedal primate animals—going back to between 3 and 3½ million years ago. We will not, however, go back that far in this chapter. The farther back in time one goes, of course, the smaller is the similarity between them and the current species of human being. In addition, the farther back in time, the less available evidence there is about how they lived and what they did.

      Our own current species has been around for only the last...

    • 19 Development of Differential Appetite in the Rat
      (pp. 441-451)
      Leon Festinger

      That organisms prefer one thing to another is a common observation. We have little knowledge, however, of the psychological dynamics behind such preferential behavior. This experiment is an attempt to study one factor which might bring about such “differential taste”; namely, differences in previous experience. More specifically, the question is: if an animal is given more of one food than of another, will it eventually come to prefer that food on which it has experienced relative deprivation?

      Rats were used as subjects so that feeding habits and general hunger drive could be controlled.

      The apparatus used is shown in Figure...

    • 20 Some Consequences of De-Individuation in a Group
      (pp. 452-467)
      Leon Festinger, A. Pepitone and T. Newcomb

      Anyone who observes persons in groups and the same persons individually is forced to conclude that they often behave differently in these two general kinds of situations. Casual observation would seem to indicate that one kind of behavior difference stems from the fact that people obtain release in groups, that is, are sometimes more free from restraints, less inhibited, and able to indulge in forms of behavior in which, when alone, they would not indulge.

      The most often noted instance of such freedom from restraint is the behavior of persons in crowds. In a crowd, persons will frequently do things...

    • 21 The Effectiveness of Unanticipated Persuasive Communications
      (pp. 468-479)
      Leon Festinger and Jane Allyn

      It seems plausible to suppose that an attempt to persuade a person to change his opinion on some issue would be more effective if the persuasive communication were unexpected than if the person anticipated the influence attempt. At least many people find this to be plausible. Lazarsfeld, Berelson, and Gaudet, for example, state:

      If we read or tune in a speech, we usually do so purposefully, and in doing so we have a definite mental set that tinges our receptiveness…. This mental set is armor against influence. The extent to which people, and particularly those with strong partisan views, listen...

    • 22 The Effectiveness of “Overheard” Persuasive Communications
      (pp. 480-494)
      Elaine Walster and Leon Festinger

      It is widely believed that a communication, if inadvertently overheard, is more likely to be effective in changing the opinion of the listener than if it had been deliberately addressed to him. Intuitively, the advantages of an overhearing situation for effective influence seem so obvious that it is accepted as virtually proven. Berelson (1950), for example, gives two reasons for the presumed extraordinary effectiveness of overheard communications. He states that,

      in such exposure defenses against new ideas are presumably weaker because preconceptions are not so pervasively present. Finally, there may be other psychological advantages centering around the gratification of “overhearing”...

    • 23 On Resistance to Persuasive Communications
      (pp. 495-509)
      Leon Festinger and Nathan Maccoby

      Some time ago Allyn and Festinger (1961) reported an experiment which showed that if subjects were forewarned concerning the content of a communication arguing against an opinion they hold strongly, they tend to reject the speaker more and are influenced less than if they are not forewarned. Since the ideas which form the basis for the present article emerge in part from that experiment, it is necessary to examine it in some detail.

      Allyn and Festinger, in their experiment, used high school students as subjects on the assumption that high school students, at or approaching the age at which they...

    • 24 Laboratory Experiments
      (pp. 510-542)
      Leon Festinger

      Empirical science in general has as its major objective the understanding or control of phenomena as they occur in the real world. Nevertheless, laboratory experimentation generally plays a significant part in the development of a science. It is important to have some understanding of why this should be true and of the exact function which laboratory experimentation should have in relation to the science as a whole.

      We shall, consequently, attempt to clarify two aspects of laboratory experimentation—namely, what a laboratory experiment is and how the results of such experiments can be applied to the “real world.” It would...

    • Editors’ Note
      (pp. 545-546)
    • Looking Backward
      (pp. 547-566)
      Leon Festinger

      This book does not, nor was it intended to, paint a comprehensive picture of the growth of social psychology. It was intended to be selective, reflecting primarily the personal interests and views of each individual author. And the various chapters in the book are just that—personal views and personal interpretations of where we were, where we are, how we got here, and where we ought to be going. Each of them has, to me, a delightfully different flavor that identifies the writer.

      The original plan for this chapter was to present an integration of all the contributions to this...

  13. Name Index
    (pp. 575-580)
  14. Subject Index
    (pp. 581-589)