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Title: The Application of Cognitive Dissonance Via Effort Expenditure and Justification to Improve Mood and Depressive Symptoms
Authors: Peterkin, Devon
Advisors: Cooper, Joel
Department: Psychology
Certificate Program: Neuroscience Program
Program in Cognitive Science
Class Year: 2020
Abstract: Depression and negative moods that progress to depression continue to be common and detrimental mental health issues that require additional and novel methods of treatment. The application of cognitive dissonance created by effort expenditure and reduced by effort justification was examined as a therapy to improve mood and depressive symptoms. An experiment was conducted in which college students, who had at least mild symptoms of depression, expended varying degrees of effort in the hope of bettering their mental health. In the high-cognitive effort condition, more dissonance was created via high effort expenditure. In the low-cognitive effort condition, less dissonance was created via low effort expenditure. In the control condition, dissonance was not employed. It was hypothesized that voluntarily expending effort may be a way to improve mood and depressive symptoms; participants in the high- cognitive effort condition would have more notable improvements than those in the control and the low-cognitive effort conditions. Improvements in mood and depressive symptoms were evaluated by comparing scores on the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ), Mood and Feelings Questionnaire (MFQ), Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), and a question about participants’ current mood between initial and follow-up assessments. Although not fully statistically significant, results revealed encouraging findings to support the hypotheses. More specifically, participants in the high-cognitive effort condition had larger average change scores for each questionnaire and a larger overall standardized change score compared to participants in the other two conditions, indicating greater improvements in mood and depressive symptoms. Implications, limitations, and future directions were also discussed.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Psychology, 1930-2020

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