1- Cognitive dissonance and attitude change. 2- Priming and Automatic nature of social behaviour


Assignment for master’s degree in psychology (social behaviour Module)


Two separate short essays (each 450-550 words) with separate reference list (each minimum 5 references but the number of references is not important, proper evidence, the structure of the essay and proper answer to the question is important)


Below are notes I’ve taken from professor’s lecture on how to do these essays. They should be helpful for the first 200-300 of the essays and the rest should be focused on answering the questions. 

  1. Critically explore how “priming” studies have been used in understanding the automatic nature ofsocial behaviour.
  • First talk about automatic nature
  • What does priming tell us about the nature of automatic social behaviour
  • What is priming/how does it operate (cues are activated that are associated with particular social behaviour).
  • Priming is used to use these cues to influence how you behave
  • Priming is the activation of that particular cue in our thoughts
  • How is priming measured? (Operationalised as: subliminal priming technique & supraliminal priming technique -> critically evaluate one against the other, its in the lecture)


Subliminal is thought of as a more valid in terms of getting to the core of what priming is. It is about the low conscious awareness.

Supraliminal relies on that a person is not aware of particular behaviour that is primed. (example is stereotypes with sentences experiment).


  • Reflective responsive model
  • Adolescent risk-taking model


The above should take 200-300 words (be precise) and the rest should be :


  • Then talk about 1-2 studies to provide evidence to critically analyse the essay question (e.g. Bargh (is important) understanding on understanding, motivation, goal setting).
  • Critically analyse 1-2 Studies on how do we evaluate an object or person (automatic thinking) (evidence on social behaviour)


  • Priming studies have had criticism because they don’t always seem to be replicable. So there is an understanding that because it is not replicated may suggest that priming might not be the only way to generate this behaviour
  • Be critical for high marks



  1. Discuss the argument that cognitive inconsistency begets attitude change.
  • First set up briefly that one of our core principles for behaviour is we want to maintain consistency (Fiske).
  • If we need to maintain this consistency. What theoretical models are there that support this idea that we want to maintain this consistency.
  • What does it mean to be inconsistent -> Cognitive dissonance theory -> what happens when there is inconsistency (Festinger) -> Talks about what Cognitive dissonance (CD) is. The result of colliding -> we become psychologically uncomfortable -> then we are motivated to realign how our thoughts and behaviour to go with each other -> one way is to change attitude, other way is change behaviour).
  • Then extend on work by Cooper and Fazio (new look model) -> throw another layer on understanding CD and behaviour change -> much more an attribution process that results in CD.
  • On top of that: other consistency theories, one of them Heider’s Balance Theory. A
  • nd not consictency perse but useful is social judgment theory -> is to understand ourself in social world and to remain a consistency in how we think and behave towards an attitude object. Consistency is anchored in a current belief, if info is too far away from that then people are less likely to assimilate that info in their understanding (attitude change less likely).


Discuss 1-2 papers about CD and attitude change (for evidence)

  • Be critical for high marks


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