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Dissonance and abstraction: Cognitive conflict leads to higher level of construal

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European Journal of Social Psychology

Published online on


This study investigated the effects of cognitive conflict on abstract thinking. According to action‐identification theory, an ambiguous and unfamiliar situation might propel an individual to a more abstract mindset. Based on this premise, cognitive conflict was hypothesized to put people in an abstract mindset. The induced compliance paradigm, in which participants are asked to write a counter‐attitudinal essay under either low choice (producing little dissonance) or high choice (producing more dissonance), was employed. Results showed that an abstract mindset was in fact activated in the induced compliance paradigm, and this effect was more pronounced for participants having a more concrete mindset to begin with. The results suggest that the experience of cognitive conflict is closely related to increased abstraction.