Sara K Winter.

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everyday life. Tl^e probability is thereby increased that dissonance will be
reduced by bringing behavior into closer approximation to the goal.

It now becomes clearer why Conditional Desire, Description of Essence and
Identity Diffusion are important personality variables for tlie self -directed
change process. These categories appear to reflect individual differences in
ability to create and maintain av;areness of dissonance in the goal setting
phase of a self-directed change project.

Tlie Conditional Desire seems to reflect the student's natural tendency
to phrase personal goals in a manner which implies dissonance between the goal
and present behavior. By phrasing goal-statements conditionally, the person
demonstrates simultaneous awareness of tv>o dissonant elements: the present
self, and the goal. Such clearly recognized dissonance motivates the indiv-
idual in his .change effort.

If the High-change subject is one who is able to create and maintain dis-
sonance between his present self concept and his goal, the Low-change subject,
in contrast, seems to be one who does not create dissonance for himself when
he sets goals. A consideration of the two content-analysis categories charac-
teristic of the papers of Low-change subjects suggests reasons why this may be
so. First, the Low-change subject's goals may be imperfectly differentiated
in his mind from his present behavior. Low-change subjects' Ideal-Self essays
are characterized by high Description of Essence, and by a CD / DE ratio of
less than one. In other words, when the Lo\7-change subject is asked to think
of goals he concentrates heavily on what he is, and appears to be unable to



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postulate for himself clearly different behaviors or feelings. He appears
closed-minded to possibilities for himself that do not exist at the present
time. The positive correlation between Description of Essence and the Rokeach
Dogmatism scale n,ay indicate that this closed-mindedness extends to other areas
of such individuals' functioning as well. In any case, this inability to
clearly articulatq differences between present behavior and future goal re-
duces the probability of experiencing dissonance between these tw elements. ,
Accordingly, little motivation to change behavior is likely to be present.

The Identity Diffusion category can be interpreted in a similar manner.
As Roger Brown (1965) points out, a dissonant relationship between two cogni-
tive elements exists not when the elements are logically contradictory, but
when the elements are psychologically incompatible for the particular indiv-
idual in question. The classical dissonance experiments in the psychological
literature work because most people share certain suppressed premises about
themselves - "I say what I believe," "I do things that are worthwhile," and
so on. But "since dissonance derives from premises about oneself and the world,
it must vary with self-concept and world-view." (p. 598) Thus there may be
individuals for whom the usual premises do not hold. For such persons, ele-
ments which we generally term dissonant can coexist without creating motivation
to change .

A person high in Identity Diffusion would appear to be one who tolerates
internal ambiguity and contradiction without experiencing dissonance. The
high Identity Diffusion score suggests that the person ordinarily conceives
of himself in contradictory terms. It is reasonable to suppose that for him
no contradiction is necessarily implied by the fact that present behavior and
valued goal are different from one another. For low identity diffusion sub-
jects , dissonance between present self and valued goal is created because of
the presence of the unspoken premise "I do what I value". For subjects high



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in Identity Diffusion, however, this premise appears to be directly refuted
in the Real-Self pssay. Hicli Identity Diffusion subjects will experience as
consonant discrepancies between ideal and real-self which would be felt as
dissonant by low Identity Diffusion individuals.

If the above Reasoning is correct it may be possible to increase an
indiviJinl 's success in self-directed change by creating conditions which
will increase his iiwareness of dissonance between his self-concept and his
ideal self-concept. Future research should investigate this possibility.



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References

Allport, G. Personality and social encounter . Boston: Beacon Press, 1960.

Atkinson, J.V7. (Ec|.). Motives in fantasy, action arid society . Princeton:
Van Nostrand, 1958.

Bradford, L.P., Gibb , Jack and Benne , Kenneth. T-group theory and laboratory
method . New York: John Wiley, ige-^t .

Brehm, J.W. and Cohen, A.R. Explorations in cor.nitive dissonance . New York:
John Wiley, 1962.

Bro\m, Roger. Social psychology . Glencoe , Illinois: The Free Press, 1965.

Erikson, Erik. Identity and the life cycle. Psychological Issues . Vol. 1,
' No. 1.

Festinger, Leon. A theory of cognitive dissonance . Evanston: Row-Peterson,
1957.

Goldiamond, I. Self-control procedures in personal behavior problems. Psychol -
ogical Reports . 1965, 17, 851-868.

Grossberg, J.M. Behavior therapy: a review. Psychological Review , 1964,
62, 73-88.

Kolb, David A., Winter, Sara K. and Berlew, David E. Self-directed change:
two studies, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science . In press, 1967.

McClelland, D.C. Toward a theory of motive acquisition. American Psycholo -
gist , 1965, 20, 321-333.

Rokeach, Milton. The open and closed mind . New York: Basic Books, I960-.

Schwltzgebel , R. A simple behavioral system for recording and implementing
change in natural settings. Unpublished Doctoral thesis, Harvard School
of Education, 1964.

Zachs, J. Collaborative therapy for smokers. Unpublished A.B. thesis. Harvard
University, 1965.



V/intcr -13-

Footnotes

The authors are indebted to the M.l.T. students who devoted time and energy
to reporting their self -directed change projects and to John Aram, Michael
Fulenwider, Douglas Hall, David Meredith, William McKelvey and Irv/in Rubin
who served as T-Group trainers. This research was in part supported by the
Sloan Research Fund of M.l.T.

2

The remaining three categories, for which there are statistically signifi-
cant differences in Semester I but not in Semester II, were as follows: (a)
In the Ideal-Self essay, High-change subjects exceeded Low-change subjects
in number of different goals naned ; (b) In the Ideal-Self essay, High-change
subjects' goals dealt with cooperation with other group members more often
than did goals of Low-change subjects; (c) In the Ideal-Self essay, Lovz-change
subjects mentioned social inadequacy or fear of failure more frequently than
did High-change subjects.

A complete scoring manual is available from the authors.



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Online LibrarySara K WinterThe capacity for self direction → online text (page 2 of 2)