Doctor of Philosophy
Dr. Lorne Campbell
The present research investigated sex differences in the experience of cognitive dissonance after decisions made for oneself or for one’s romantic partner. Guided by theory and research suggesting that women and men possess divergent self-construals, I predicted that women would experience more dissonance when making a difficult decision for their partner relative to men. Both men and women were predicted to experience dissonance after decisions made for themselves, although possibly to a lesser degree for women. In two studies, a modified free-choice dissonance paradigm was utilized to test sex differences in the experience of cognitive dissonance, as determined by the extent to which participants justified their decisions. In this paradigm, participants were asked to choose one of two closely rated items either for oneself or for one’s partner. In Study 1, men justified their decision (i.e., enhanced their attitude toward the chosen item and/or derogated the rejected item) when it was made for themselves but not when made for their partner. Females justified decisions made for their romantic partner but not themselves. In Study 2 a self-affirmation manipulation was added to the paradigm such that participants received no self-affirmation (No SA), an independent-focused self-affirmation (independent SA), or a relationship-focused self-affirmation (relationship SA). As in Study 1, men in the No SA condition justified their decision for themselves but not their partner whereas women justified their decision for their partner but not themselves. Neither men nor women justified decisions in the independent SA condition, as predicted. Males justified their decision for themselves but not their partner in the relationship SA condition, as predicted. Females justified their decisions for their partner in the relationship SA condition, supporting an alternative exacerbation interpretation, but also justified their decisions for themselves in this condition, which was not predicted. The pattern of results of both studies suggests a sex difference in the experience of dissonance when decisions are made for one’s romantic partner and I argue this is due to divergent self-construals. I discuss the implications of these findings for relationship literature as well as the limitations of the current research.
Lackenbauer, Sandra D., "Do I feel dissonance over you? Sex differences in the experience of dissonance for romantic partners" (2011). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 254.