Vicarious dissonance: attitude change from the inconsistency of others

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2003 Jul;85(1):47-62. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.85.1.47.


Three studies support the vicarious dissonance hypothesis that individuals change their attitudes when witnessing members of important groups engage in inconsistent behavior. Study 1, in which participants observed an actor in an induced-compliance paradigm, documented that students who identified with their college supported an issue more after hearing an ingroup member make a counterattitudinal speech in favor of that issue. In Study 2, vicarious dissonance occurred even when participants did not hear a speech, and attitude change was highest when the speaker was known to disagree with the issue. Study 3 showed that speaker choice and aversive consequences moderated vicarious dissonance, and demonstrated that vicarious discomfort--the discomfort observers imagine feeling if in an actor's place--was attenuated after participants expressed their revised attitudes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Machiavellianism
  • Male
  • Social Behavior*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires