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Date of Award


Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Dr. George R. Goethals


The present study investigates how observers respond to two inconsistent inferences of an actor’s attitude. We designed a situation in which an observer forms an inference of an actor’s attitude, only to witness the actor engage in behavior that contradicts that inference one week later. Observers were then asked to rate what they believed the actor’s attitude was towards the issue and what they recalled their initial inference of the actor’s attitude to be. Observers were also asked to do the same for their own attitude towards the issue. Four main hypotheses were proposed that one, observers will attribute the counter-normative behavior to an attitude consistent with that behavior, and that, two, they would recall their prior inference of the actor’s attitude as consistent with their current perception of his attitude. Three, we expected that observers who viewed the actor as a valued, in-group member would subsequently change their own attitude in the direction of the actor’s behavior, and that, four, observers would recall their own initial attitude as consistent with their current attitude. Results demonstrate support, or partial support, for each of the four predictions in this study. Given the results, we proposed that the two inconsistent inferences can act as dissonant cognitions, causing the observers to alter their prior perception of the actor’s attitude to restore consistency. This effect was observed when the actor had both free choice and constrained choice, though to greater extent in the free choice condition. In-group members either changed their attitude in the direction of the actor’s behavior or ceased comparison, which occurred regardless of choice condition. Results indicate that inferences of another’s attitudes are not as stable as one might believe.