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J Gen Psychol. 1986 Oct;113(4):309-28.

Pills and attitude change: misattribution of arousal or excuses for negative actions?


Two experiments evaluated the competing interpretations of cognitive dissonance and impression management theories regarding the pill and misattribution studies of attitude change in the forced compliance situation. Attitude change was eliminated when subjects were told about the tension side effects of taking a placebo, replicating the usual effect. Attitude change was also eliminated, however, when subjects took the pill following counterattitudinal behavior. In one condition of the second experiment, subjects were given instructions about tension side effects but were also told that the drug would not affect their moral judgment or behavior. These instructions eliminated attitude change in a standard pill condition. The typical finding of attitude change was manifested in the misattribution/no-excuse condition. The primary and secondary data from both studies provided more support for the impression management interpretation of the standard misattribution manipulations than for a theory of misattribution of dissonance-produced arousal.

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