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External Justification

 

Explanations > Theories > External Justification

Description | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

When we do something that causes uncomfortable cognitive dissonance, we will have a greater tendency to justify it by making external attributions, blaming it on something outside of us. This is as opposed to internal justification, where we attribute it to our character or some personal trait or belief.

Example

When you last had a car accident, did you blame yourself? Or did you blame the road, the rain, or something else?

So what?

Using it

When the other person runs away from the truth, maintain the tension by holding up a mirror so they cannot externally justify their actions. Or take the opposite approach: when they are suffering dissonance, build trust by helping them externally justify. 

Defending

Beware of people blaming you as they externally justify their actions. 

See also

Attribution Theory, Cognitive Dissonance, Counter-Attitudinal Advocacy (CAA), Extrinsic Motivation

References

Festinger and Carlsmith (1959)

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