The role of dichotomous thinking in changes to self-concept following cognitive dissonance
Kaysee M. Fahl
May 11, 2011
Department or Program
David R. Holliway
Dichotomous thinking is prevalent in many correlational studies that examine the variables associated with mental and emotional disorders, however the specific ways that it works to encourage or sustain such a variety of disorders is unknown. Dichotomous thinking may be most closely related to negative perfectionism involving a harmful self-concept. Cognitive dissonance, where contradictory information regarding one topic is simultaneously presented, may be a situation where a preference for dichotomy may be activated. The goal of this study was to measure the relationship between dichotomous thinking and changes in self-concept following cognitive dissonance and to see if dissonance differentially impacts this relationship. I presented a self-concept test to 28 people before and after a randomly assigned dissonance or consonance condition and measured dichotomous thinking to examine correlations between dichotomous thinking and self-concept scores. Results supported the idea that changes in self-concept are correlated with dichotomous thinking and that scores on dichotomous thinking within participants are stable across time and circumstances, however, there was not a significant effect of cognitive dissonance on any of these variables. This study calls for further exploration of dichotomous thinking in relation to cognitive dissonance and elaboration of the implications of its relationship to self-concept.