Murray State University

Poster Title

Influence of Authority on Attitude Change due to Vicarious Dissonance

Institution

Murray State University

Abstract

With the idea of vicarious dissonance being relatively new, research has yet to look into what characteristics of the misbehaving individual may lead to more or less dissonance in the viewer. One possible characteristic that may influence this dissonance is whether the person behaving inappropriately is an authority figure. Research has suggested that authorities benefit from being perceived as fair (Rustichini & Villeval, 2012) and are considered legitimate only when they behave appropriately (Yau, Smetana, & Metzger, 2008).A pilot experiment was conducted comparing the differences in attitude change after participants experienced vicarious dissonance due to the behavior of a friend or a teacher. The results indicated that people reported lower interpersonal closeness (as measured by the Inclusion of Other in the Self Scale; Aron, Aron, & Smollan, 1992) with a teacher than with a friend, after experiencing vicarious dissonance. These findings provide preliminary evidence that the way people view authority figures could influence their responses to dissonant experiences. Based on these results, a replication and extension is currently being conducted to investigate this effect in greater depth. In the current study, participants are asked to write about either their favorite teacher or friend. They are then asked to read a story in which either that person or an unfamiliar person behaves in an inappropriate manner. The impact of the vicarious dissonance is measured using both the IOS and the Positive and Negative Affective Schedule (Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988), a measure of emotional state. The results of this research will improve the understanding of how authorities can or cannot influence attitudes and may help to set different expectations for the behaviors of individuals in highly influencing positions.

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Influence of Authority on Attitude Change due to Vicarious Dissonance

With the idea of vicarious dissonance being relatively new, research has yet to look into what characteristics of the misbehaving individual may lead to more or less dissonance in the viewer. One possible characteristic that may influence this dissonance is whether the person behaving inappropriately is an authority figure. Research has suggested that authorities benefit from being perceived as fair (Rustichini & Villeval, 2012) and are considered legitimate only when they behave appropriately (Yau, Smetana, & Metzger, 2008).A pilot experiment was conducted comparing the differences in attitude change after participants experienced vicarious dissonance due to the behavior of a friend or a teacher. The results indicated that people reported lower interpersonal closeness (as measured by the Inclusion of Other in the Self Scale; Aron, Aron, & Smollan, 1992) with a teacher than with a friend, after experiencing vicarious dissonance. These findings provide preliminary evidence that the way people view authority figures could influence their responses to dissonant experiences. Based on these results, a replication and extension is currently being conducted to investigate this effect in greater depth. In the current study, participants are asked to write about either their favorite teacher or friend. They are then asked to read a story in which either that person or an unfamiliar person behaves in an inappropriate manner. The impact of the vicarious dissonance is measured using both the IOS and the Positive and Negative Affective Schedule (Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988), a measure of emotional state. The results of this research will improve the understanding of how authorities can or cannot influence attitudes and may help to set different expectations for the behaviors of individuals in highly influencing positions.