ATTITUDES AND CONSISTENCY
Research has generally concluded that people seek consistency among their attitudes and between their attitudes and their behavior. This means that individuals seek to reconcile divergent attitudes and align their attitudes and behavior so they appear rational and consistent. When there is an inconsistency, forces are initiated to return the individual to an equilibrium state in which attitudes and behavior are again consistent. This can be done by altering either the attitudes or the behavior, or by developing a rationalization for the discrepancy.
Tobacco executives provide an example. How, you might wonder, do these people cope with the ongoing barrage of data linking cigarette smoking and negative health outcomes? They can deny that any clear causation between smoking and cancer, for instance, has been established. They can brainwash themselves by continually articulating the benefits of tobacco. They can acknowledge the negative consequences of smoking but rationalize that people are going to smoke and that tobacco companies merely promote freedom of choice. They can accept the research evidence and begin actively working to make more healthy cigarettes or at least reduce their availability to more vulnerable groups, such as teenagers. Or they can quit their job because the inconsistency is too great.
People change what they say so if it doesnâ€™t contradict what they do. A friend of ours has consistently argued that the quality of ABC country cars is not up to that of the import brands and that he will never own anything but an imported car. But his dad gives him a latest model of ABC country car. Suddenly our friend has changed stance mentioning ABC cars are not so bad. A new freshman believes that sororities are good and that pledging a sorority is important.