Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




According to cognitive dissonance theory engaging in behavior inconsistent with one's beliefs arouses dissonance. When individuals choose to engage in a boring and repetitious task they tend to positively reevaluate the task. Recent research (Pallak, et al. 1967) using an incidental verbal learning paradigm indicates that subjects who voluntarily commit themselves to performing a boring task reduce dissonance via enhanced task performance rather than through positive task reevaluation. Both the arousal of dissonance and its reduction can be expected to vary with individual differences. The present study investigated the individual differences of sex and internal-external locus of control as related to cognitive dissonance.

Casual observation of subjects in experiments have indicated that those individuals who tend to perceive events and reinforcements as being determined by factors under their control (Internals) evidence greater interest in their surroundings and in tasks in which they involve themselves than do those individuals who tend to perceive events and reinforcements as being determined by choice or factors extrinsic to themselves (Externals). This study was a 2 X 2 X 2 design with personality (I-E), sex, and choice-no choice as the independent variables. The dependent variables were the number of incidentally recalled words in a situation where the subjects were instructed to copy words but received no instructions to retain the words, and attitudes towards the task.

The data obtained did not support the hypotheses regarding task reevaluation or incidental learning. That is, there were no statistically significant differences in attitude toward the task or in incidental learning as a function of sex, I-E, or choice. There was evidence indicating that the task used in this study may not have fulfilled the forced-compliance paradigm's theoretical requirement of unequivocal aversiveness. It is not so surprising, therefore, that measures which are considered to be sensitive to differential dissonance reflected no such differences. Recall of words in an incidental learning paradigm showed a curvilinear relationship to concreteness and a strong recency effect.