Kylee A. Micalizzi '02
Senior Thesis
Saint Anselm College
Psychology Department

The Theory of Cognitive Dissonance is increasingly being used in contemporary, practical applications toward real-world problems. Briefly stated, this theory says people feel a tension when they are aware of an inconsistency either between two attitudes or between an attitude and a behavior (e.g., Festinger, 1957). Moreover, the theory asserts such tension motivates some type of change to reduce the state of dissonance. 
Cognitive Dissonance: A Study of Success in Tanning Cessation
A study aimed to determine whether the Theory of Cognitive Dissonance is a useful model for accounting to any resulting change in a person's attitude or behavior related to indoor tanning

Sq26rst.jpg (3519 bytes)It is generally recognized by the medical community that excessive, unprotected, exposure to ultraviolet light (UV) radiation is harmful to one's skin (e.g., American Academy of Dermatology, 1988). Despite the ample media attention to this effect, millions of Americans continue to deliberately engage in behaviors that increase their exposure to UV radiation. As a result, there has been an epidemic growth of skin cancers over the past decade (e.g., Fears & Scotto, 1982).  Given this trend, it is particularly disturbing to see an increase in intentional exposure to UV radiation due to frequent sunbathing and the use of indoor tanning beds in young people.
Tables and Figures

Attitudes Drive Behavior
Social Psychology: Actions and Attitudes
Tanning Salon Exposure Can Lead to Skin Cancer
Melanoma FAQ
Sun Caused Skin Conditions

Thank you to all the Psychology professors, at Saint Anselm College, who have devoted their time to educate me in the field of Psychology. You make dreams feel like they’re a possible reality. I would like to give special acknowledgment to Professor Gonsalves. Because of her awesome enthusiasm and amazing talent to teach, I learned the research skills to accomplish this study.

To Professor Finn, you have helped me to become proud of myself, when I thought it was not possible.   It has been an honor to learn from your incredible knowledge. You are not professor, but an educator. You have not been a role model; rather, you have been an inspiration. Without your encouragement, your endless time, and your ability to help me recognize my own unique worth, the completion of this study would never have been possible.

To my family, there are not enough words to accurately describe my gratefulness for your unconditional love and assurance in me that any obstacle can be conquered. Mom, you are the purpose of this study and my proof of this claim   Keri, you understood your footprints were too hard for me to follow; thanks for helping me travel my own path. I am grateful to have such an accomplished guide. Andy, you have gone beyond  the definition of being the greatest big brother. I bet you never thought your "monster" would be so smart. Dad, I have been quite an expense; thank you for providing me with an education; I, too, will make you proud.

Last, to Katie Faro, Katie Lamonde and Kristin O’Leary, my arms are just not wide enough to embrace you with the hug you deserve; I love you guys.  To Red, Trace, Ryan and all other psych majors, we did it, and we survived! These are the good old days we are going to miss in the years to come.

Perceptions of health risk associated with tanning, appearance motivation, and frequency of tanning behavior was assessed among tanners and non tanners before and after their exposure to dissonance inducing material. In the present study, two types of dissonance resulting from incompatible goals are identified: cognition based dissonance (accompanied with disagreements with the message) and affect-based dissonance (dissonance accompanied with negative emotions). Consistent with expectations derived from cognitive dissonance theory, results indicated dissonance increases when participants’ prior intentions to engage in tanning behavior are incompatible with health and appearance risk messages. Because sample size was too small, test scores of tanners and non tanners had to be analyzed together. As a result, contrary to the expectations of the present study, differences in scores among tanners and non tanners in the dissonance group could not be examined.

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