Evolutionary psychologically predicted biases in the manifestation of cognitive dissonance : an exploration : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
It was hypothesised that over evolutionary time, selection pressures have generated a cerebral modularity which detects survival and reproduction related contradictions preferentially over others. It was also hypothesised that contradiction-detecting mechanisms are rendered less effective if contradictions are implicit rather than explicit, or refer to the future rather than the immediate present. Explicit and implicit contradictions pertaining to the above conditions were embedded in narratives to test these hypotheses. Participants read the narratives via a computer screen, pressing the keyboard space bar to progress through the narratives line by line. A programme recorded reading times (RTs) of each narrative line. An extended RT for a line contradicting an earlier one was interpreted as indicating the generation of cognitive dissonance consequent to detecting the contradiction. A questionnaire was used to ascertain participants' subjective reactions. Analysis of the RTs provided some evidence that the hypothesised modularity exists for reproduction-related contradictions. The results, particularly those relating to survival, suggest that detection of subject matter related modularity is hindered by heterogeneous phrasing and/or the generation of mortality-related emotions. As predicted, implicit contradictions were less frequently noticed. The phrasing employed did not yield any timeframe-related difference in noticeability.