An example from my life in which I experienced dissonance is related to class enrollment, which took place in the fall semester last year. I wanted to get into an economics class, but the session that my friends recommended was registered full, so I was put on the waitlist. I thought the class was worth taking since my friends recommended it, so I tried to see the professor during office hours and wrote to the Dean on the possibility of opening a different session. I tried talking to every person that could possibly help me enroll in the class and finally got enrolled in the class one day before the deadline to add a class. I felt excited about the successful registration but later found out that the lecture was unorganized, dull and hard to follow. I felt uncomfortable that I had made a foolish decision. Cognitive dissonance is defined as “the feeling of discomfort caused by performing an action that is discrepant from one’s self-concept” (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2013, p.138). My experience shows that discomfort was aroused when I realized what I did—working hard to get into a boring class—diverged from my self-notion that I’m a sensible college student. Therefore my experience fits the definition of cognitive dissonance.
The specific kind of dissonance I believe I experienced is justification of effort. This type of dissonance is aroused when someone puts a lot of effort to gain something that turns out to be less valuable than he expected. It is quite applicable to my experience. I tried all means to enroll in the class thinking that it was going to be rather interesting and rewarding. But this thought failed to correspond to the real result: the class was disappointing. Therefore my cognition that I’m a smart person is dissonant with my cognition that I worked hard to get into a worthless class.
A psychology experiment that is closest to my experience is one conducted by Aronson and Judson Mills (1959) (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2013, p.147). In their experiment, college students joined a group that would discuss different topics in every regular meeting. But in order to join the group, some people underwent a challenging screening procedure; some underwent a mildly unpleasant one; and the rest was accepted to the group without any procedure at all. They then were allowed to listen in on a discussion that proved to be extremely boring. When asked to rate the discussion, students who had a tougher initiation to get in the group gave positive feedback on the discussion, while those who got in easily saw it as a waste of