Term of Award

Summer 2011

Degree Name

Master of Science in Experimental Psychology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Karen Z. Naufel

Committee Member 1

Amy A. Hackney

Committee Member 2

William D. McIntosh

Abstract

Psychologists disagree about what, if any, benefit high self-complexity might provide. Although Linville (1987) demonstrated that high complexity buffers against stress, other studies have found that it leads to more negative outcomes in the long term (Diehl et al., 2001). Cognitive dissonance is an important factor in regulating behavior, particularly moral behavior (Aronson, Fried, & Stone, 1999), and may explain how self-complexity leads to negative life outcomes. The present study examined if high self-complexity might buffer against the tension of cognitive dissonance, thus increasing the likelihood of dishonest behavior. Participants completed a selfcomplexity measure, and then they completed a dissonance-rousing task where they must choose between providing honest answers or maximizing their personal gain. Regression analysis showed that high self-complexity predicted greater dishonest behavior, but a disruption of cognitive dissonance could not account for this relationship. The possibility of personality as a potential mediating variable for the established relationship, and avenues for future research, are discussed.

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