War, Death, and Cognitive Dissonance
A Case Study for Social Psychology
This case study explores cognitive dissonance theory, a theory proposed by psychologist Leon Festinger in 1956 to explain the tension that exists when peoples’ attitudes are incongruent with their behaviors. Students read a news article describing how residents of a town in Ohio are coping with the rising death toll among Ohio soldiers fighting in Iraq. They are then asked to evaluate the theory and to propose alternative explanations for the evidence in the article. Designed for use in social psychology courses, the case would also be appropriate for introductory psychology courses.
- Explore cognitive dissonance theory in more depth than what is covered in a social psychology textbook.
- Learn how psychologists use theory to explain social phenomena.
- Identify key social psychological constructs and to apply them to current social attitudes.
- Explore feelings about the war in Iraq specifically or about war, aggression, and intergroup relations more broadly.
KeywordsCognitive dissonance; cognitive inconsistency; balance theory; investment theory; war; aggression; Iraq war; human behavior; George W. Bush
Topical AreasSocial issues
Educational LevelHigh school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Type / MethodsDiscussion
Subject HeadingsPsychology | Sociology |
Case teaching notes are password-protected and access to them is limited to paid subscribed instructors. To become a paid subscriber, begin the process by registering.
Teaching notes are intended to help teachers select and adopt a case. They typically include a summary of the case, teaching objectives, information about the intended audience, details about how the case may be taught, and a list of references and resources.