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Look at these issues and how an understanding of cognitive dissonance can be used to help influence motorists to change their attitudes and behaviour.

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1. Introduction One of the most complex yet important challenges faced by road safety practitioners is how to influence the hearts and minds of road users in an attempt to change their often ingrained attitudes and behaviour. If this is to be achieved then we need to have an understanding of how attitudes develop and change and how we as road safety professionals can bring about a change in attitude to bring about a behavioural change. This assignment will look at these issues and how an understanding of cognitive dissonance can be used to help influence motorists to change their attitudes and behaviour. 2. Attitudes In simple terms attitudes are an expression of our likes or dislikes of things around us often described in such ways as "I can't abide animal testing" or "I really like red wine" "speeding drivers should be banned". Whilst these are expressions of feelings these are often tied into beliefs about the stimulus i.e. animal's are treated cruelly or red wine is good for you and speeding can cause accidents. During the early 1960's research was undertaken at Yale University from which Rosenburg and Hovland (1960) suggested that there are three classes of response to stimulus. Affective Response This concerns how a person feels towards a certain stimulus. ...read more.


This theory was investigated in a study undertaken by Festinger and Carlsmith in 1959. Subjects were asked to undertake two very dull repetitive tasks. At the end some of the subjects were given one dollar and told to tell the next subject that the task was interesting. Another group of subjects were given twenty dollars and told to tell the next subject that the task was interesting. The final group was sent away once the task was complete without talking to anybody. The groups were subsequently interviewed and questioned on how interesting the task had been. The one dollar group reported that the task was interesting, the twenty dollar group reported the task was boring and the control group reported the same. The conclusion was that the one dollar group was not sufficiently rewarded for lying and therefore cognitive dissonance occurred. They convinced themselves the task was interesting in order to remove the cognitive dissonance. The twenty dollar group were sufficiently rewarded for lying so felt no cognitive dissonance. 5. Dissonance theory and the motorist. When trying to change the attitudes and behaviour of motorists we need to explore Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance. For example, when a motorist takes a "rat run" in order to avoid a queue of traffic he may not in effect get to his destination any quicker, neither may he recognise the risks associated with his action. ...read more.


During the course attitudes and behaviour is examined and the consequences of inappropriate speeding is highlighted to the participants. Anecdotal evidence has shown that attitudes of even the most sceptical participants are affected by the course and whilst there is still much research to be undertaken to ascertain the long term affects of such programmes the initial research has shown that very few of the participants re-offend within the first two years after attending a course. It is also likely, though as far as I am aware not proven, that participants on the course will go on to re-educate others within their social circle as to the consequences of speeding. The course may therefore be having a greater impact than on just the referred participants. 7. Conclusion It is said by some that are attitudes and behaviour are formed as early as a few years old and by the time we reach adulthood and become drivers these are fully ingrained. Challenging and changing these attitudes is probably the key to long term success in the road safety field. It is clear that gaining a real understanding of cognitive dissonance will help road safety professionals tackle the challenge of changing driver attitude and behaviour. Knowing how to challenge the dissonance and how to eliminate or reduce it will help us to ensure that education and publicity programmes are effectively targeting the motorist. 8. ...read more.

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