Custom Search

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Cognitive Dissonance (L. Festinger)


According to cognitive dissonance theory, there is a tendency for individuals to seek consistency among their cognitions (i.e., beliefs, opinions). When there is an inconsistency between attitudes or behaviors (dissonance), something must change to eliminate the dissonance. In the case of a discrepancy between attitudes and behavior, it is most likely that the attitude will change to accommodate the behavior.

Two factors affect the strength of the dissonance: the number of dissonant beliefs, and the importance attached to each belief. There are three ways to eliminate dissonance: (1) reduce the importance of the dissonant beliefs, (2) add more consonant beliefs that outweigh the dissonant beliefs, or (3) change the dissonant beliefs so that they are no longer inconsistent.

Dissonance occurs most often in situations where an individual must choose between two incompatible beliefs or actions. The greatest dissonance is created when the two alternatives are equally attractive. Furthermore, attitude change is more likely in the direction of less incentive since this results in lower dissonance. In this respect, dissonance theory is contradictory to most behavioral theories which would predict greater attitude change with increased incentive (i.e., reinforcement).


Dissonance theory applies to all situations involving attitude formation and change. It is especially relevant to decision-making and problem-solving.


Consider someone who buys an expensive car but discovers that it is not comfortable on long drives. Dissonance exists between their beliefs that they have bought a good car and that a good car should be comfortable. Dissonance could be eliminated by deciding that it does not matter since the car is mainly used for short trips (reducing the importance of the dissonant belief) or focusing on the cars strengths such as safety, appearance, handling (thereby adding more consonant beliefs). The dissonance could also be eliminated by getting rid of the car, but this behavior is a lot harder to achieve than changing beliefs.


1. Dissonance results when an individual must choose between attitudes and behaviors that are contradictory.

2. Dissonance can be eliminated by reducing the importance of the conflicting beliefs, acquiring new beliefs that change the balance, or removing the conflicting attitude or behavior.


Brehm, J. & Cohen, A. (1962). Explorations in Cognitive Dissonance. New York: Wiley.

Festinger, L. (1957). A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Festinger, L. & Carlsmith, J.M. (1959). Cognitive Consquences of Forced Compliance. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 58, 203-210.
[available at}

Wickland, R. & Brehm, J. (1976). Perspectives on Cognitive Dissonance. NY: Halsted Press.

Relevant Web Sites:

Some relevant web sites to examine include:

Attribution Theory (B. Weiner)


Attribution theory is concerned with how individuals interpret events and how this relates to their thinking and behavior. Heider (1958) was the first to propose a psychological theory of attribution, but Weiner and colleagues (e.g., Jones et al, 1972; Weiner, 1974, 1986) developed a theoretical framework that has become a major research paradigm of social psychology. Attribution theory assumes that people try to determine why people do what they do, i.e., attribute causes to behavior. A person seeking to understand why another person did something may attribute one or more causes to that behavior. A three-stage process underlies an attribution: (1) the person must perceive or observe the behavior, (2) then the person must believe that the behavior was intentionally performed, and (3) then the person must determine if they believe the other person was forced to perform the behavior (in which case the cause is attributed to the situation) or not (in which case the cause is attributed to the other person).

Weiner focused his attribution theory on achievement (Weiner, 1974). He identified ability, effort, task difficulty, and luck as the most important factors affecting attributions for achievement. Attributions are classified along three causal dimensions: locus of control, stability, and controllability. The locus of control dimension has two poles: internal versus external locus of control. The stability dimension captures whether causes change over time or not. For instance, ability can be classified as a stable, internal cause, and effort classified as unstable and internal. Controllability contrasts causes one can control, such as skill/efficacy, from causes one cannot control, such as aptitude, mood, others' actions, and luck.

Attribution theory is closely associated with the concept of motivation. It also relates the work done on scripts and inferencing done by Schank.


Weiner’s theory has been widely applied in education, law, clinical psychology, and the mental health domain. There is a strong relationship between self-concept and achievement. Weiner (1980) states: "Causal attributions determine affective reactions to success and failure. For example, one is not likely to experience pride in success, or feelings of competence, when receiving an ‘A’ from a teacher who gives only that grade, or when defeating a tennis player who always loses...On the other hand, an ‘A’ from a teacher who gives few high grades or a victory over a highly rated tennis player following a great deal of practice generates great positive affect." (p.362). Students with higher ratings of self-esteem and with higher school achievement tend to attribute success to internal, stable, uncontrollable factors such as ability, while they contribute failure to either internal, unstable, controllable factors such as effort, or external, uncontrollable factors such as task difficulty. For example, students who experience repeated failures in reading are likely to see themselves as being less competent in reading. This self-perception of reading ability reflects itself in children's expectations of success on reading tasks and reasoning of success or failure of reading. Similarly, students with learning disabilities seem less likely than non-disabled peers to attribute failure to effort, an unstable, controllable factor, and more likely to attribute failure to ability, a stable, uncontrollable factor.

Lewis & Daltroy (1990) discuss applications of attribution theory to health care. An interesting example of attribution theory applied to career development is provided by Daly (1996) who examined the attributions that employees held as to why they failed to receive promotions.


Attribution theory has been used to explain the difference in motivation between high and low achievers. According to attribution theory, high achievers will approach rather than avoid tasks related to succeeding because they believe success is due to high ability and effort which they are confident of. Failure is thought to be caused by bad luck or a poor exam, i.e. not their fault. Thus, failure doesn't affect their self-esteem but success builds pride and confidence. On the other hand, low achievers avoid success-related chores because they tend to (a) doubt their ability and/or (b) assume success is related to luck or to "who you know" or to other factors beyond their control. Thus, even when successful, it isn't as rewarding to the low achiever because he/she doesn't feel responsible, i.e., it doesn't increase his/her pride and confidence.


1. Attribution is a three stage process: (1) behavior is observed, (2) behavior is determined to be deliberate, and (3) behavior is attributed to internal or external causes.

2. Achievement can be attributed to (1) effort, (2) ability, (3) level of task difficulty, or (4) luck.

3. Causal dimensions of behavior are (1) locus of control, (2) stability, and (3) controllability.


Daly, Dennis. (1996). Attribution Theory and the Glass Ceiling: Career Development Among Federal Employees. Public Administration & Management: An interactive Journal []
Heider, F. (1958). The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations. New York: Wiley.

Jones, E. E., D. E. Kannouse, H. H. Kelley, R. E. Nisbett, S. Valins, and B. Weiner, Eds. (1972). Attribution: Perceiving the Causes of Behavior. Morristown, NJ: General Learning Press.

Harvey, J.H. & Weary, G. (1985). Attribution: Basic Issues and Applications, Academic Press, San Diego.

Lewis, F. M. and Daltroy, L. H. (1990). "How Causal Explanations Influence Health Behavior: Attribution Theory." In Glanz, K., Lewis, F.M. and Rimer, B.K. (eds.) Health Education and Health Behavior: Theory , Research. and Practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, Inc

Weiner, B. (1974). Achievement motivation and attribution theory. Morristown, N.J.: General Learning Press.

Weiner, B. (1980). Human Motivation. NY: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Weiner, B. (1986). An attributional theory of motivation and emotion. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Aptitude-Treatment Interaction (L. Cronbach and R. Snow)


Aptitude-Treatment Interaction (ATI) -- the concept that some instructional strategies (treatments) are more or less effective for particular individuals depending upon their specific abilities. As a theoretical framework, ATI suggests that optimal learning results when the instruction is exactly matched to the aptitudes of the learner. It is consistent with theories of intelligence (e.g., Gardner , Guilford , Sternberg ) that suggest a multidimensional view of ability.

According to Snow (1989), the aim of ATI research is predict educational outcomes from combinations of aptitudes and treatments. He summarizes the main conclusions of Cronbach & Snow (1977) as: (1) aptitude treatment interactions are very common in education, (2) many ATI combinations are complex and difficult to demonstrate clearly, and no particular ATI effect is sufficiently understood to be the basis for instructional practice. Furthermore, Snow identifies the lack of attention to the social aspects of learning as a serious deficiency of ATI research. He states: "Learning style differences can be linked to relatively stable person or aptitude variables, but they also vary within individuals as a function of task and situation variables." (p51)


ATI research covers a broad range of aptitudes and instructional variables; it has been used to explore new teaching strategies and curriculum design, especially in mathematics and reading.


Snow (1989) states that the best supported ATI effect involves treatments that differ in the structure and completeness of instruction and high or low "general" ability measures. Highly structured treatments (e.g., high level of external control, well-defined sequences/components) seem to help students with low ability but hinder those with high abilities (relative to low structure treatments).


1. Aptitudes and instructional treatments interact in complex patterns and are influenced by task and situation variables.

2. Highly structured instructional environments tend to be most successful with students of lower ability; conversely, low structure environments may result in better learning for high ability students.

3. Anxious or conforming students tend to learn better in highly structured instructional environments; non-anxious or independent students tend to prefer low structure.


Cronbach, L. & Snow, R. (1977). Aptitudes and Instructional Methods: A Handbook for Research on Interactions. New York: Irvington.

Snow, R. (1989). Aptitude-Treatment Interaction as a framework for research on individual differences in learning. In P. Ackerman, R.J. Sternberg, & R. Glaser (ed.), Learning and Individual Differences. New York: W.H. Freeman.

Snow, R., Federico, P., & Montague, W. (1980). Aptitude, Learning, and Instruction, Vols 1 & 2. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

More about ATI research can be found at:

Anchored Instruction (John Bransford and the CTGV)


Anchored instruction is a major paradigm for technology-based learning that has been developed by the Cognition & Technology Group at Vanderb ilt (CTGV) under the leadership of John Bransford. While many people have contributed to the theory and research o f anchored instruction, Bransford is the principal spokesperson and hence the theory is attributed to him.

The initial focus of the wo rk was on the development of interactive videodisc tools that encouraged students and teachers to pose and solve complex, realistic problems. The video materials serve as "anchors" (macro-contexts) for all subsequent learning an d instruction. As explai ned by CTGV (1993, p52): "The design of these anchors was quite different from the design of videos that were typically used in education...our goal was to create interesting, realistic contexts that encouraged the active construct ion of knowledge by l earners. Our anchors were stories rather than lectures and were designed to be explored by students and teachers. " The use of interactive videodisc technology makes it possible for students to easily explore the content.

Anchored instruction is close ly related to the situated learning framework (see CTGV, 1990, 1993) and also to the Cognitive Flexibility theory in its emphasis on the use of technology-based learning.


Th e primary application of anchored instruction has been to elementary reading, language arts and mathematics skills. The CLGV has developed a set of interactive videodisc programs called the "Jasper Woodbury Problem Solving Series". These programs involve adventures in which mathematical concepts are used to solve problems . However, the anchored instruction paradigm is based upon a general model of problem-solving (Bransford & Stein (1993).


One of the early anchored instruction activit ies involved the use of the film, "Young Sherlock Holmes" in interactive videodisc form. Students were asked to examine the film in terms of causal connections, motives of the characters, and authenticity of th e settings in order to understand the natu re of life in Victorian England. The film provides the anchor for an understanding of story-telling and a particular historical era.


1. Learning and teaching activities should be designed around a "anchor" which should be some sort of case-study or problem situation.

2. Curriculum materials should allow exploration by the learner (e.g., interactive videodisc programs).

For more about anchored instruction, visit the web sites of John Bransford or the Jasper Woodbury project at Vanderbilt University.


Bransford, J.D. et al. (1990). Anchored instruction: Why we need it and how technology can hel p. In D. Nix & R. Sprio (Eds), Cognition, education and multimedia. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum Associates.

Bransford, J.D. & Stein, B.S. (1993). The Ideal Problem Solver (2nd Ed). New York: Freeman.

CTGV (1990). Anchored instruction and its relationshi p to situated cognition. Educational Researcher, 19 (6), 2-10.

CTGV (1993). Anchored instruction and situated cognition revisted. Educational Technology, 33 (3), 52- 70.



Knowles' theory of andragogy is an attempt to develop a theory specifically for adult learning. Knowles emphasizes that adults are self-directed and expect to take responsibility for decisions. Adult learning programs must accommodate this fundamental aspect.

Andragogy makes the following assumptions about the design of learning: (1) Adults need to know why they need to learn something (2) Adults need to learn experientially, (3) Adults approach learning as problem-solving, and (4) Adults learn best when the topic is of immediate value.

In practical terms, andragogy means that instruction for adults needs to focus more on the process and less on the content being taught. Strategies such as case studies, role playing, simulations, and self-evaluation are most useful. Instructors adopt a role of facilitator or resource rather than lecturer or grader.


Andragogy applies to any form of adult learning and has been used extensively in the design of organizational training programs (especially for "soft skill" domains such as management development).


Knowles (1984, Appendix D) provides an example of applying andragogy principles to the design of personal computer training:

1. There is a need to explain why specific things are being taught (e.g., certain commands, functions, operations, etc.)

2. Instruction should be task-oriented instead of memorization -- learning activities should be in the context of common tasks to be performed.

3. Instruction should take into account the wide range of different backgrounds of learners; learning materials and activities should allow for different levels/types of previous experience with computers.

4. Since adults are self-directed, instruction should allow learners to discover things for themselves, providing guidance and help when mistakes are made.

(See computers for further discussion of this topic).


1. Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.

2. Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for learning activities.

3. Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance to their job or personal life.

4. Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented.


Knowles, M. (1975). Self-Directed Learning. Chicago: Follet.

Knowles, M. (1984). The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species (3rd Ed.). Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing.

Knowles, M. (1984). Andragogy in Action. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Relevant Web Sites:

For more about Knowles and his work, see:



Landa's theory is concerned with identifying mental processes -- conscious and especially unconscious -- that underlie expert learning, thinking and performance in any area. His methods represent a system of techniques for getting inside the mind of expert learners and performers which enable one to uncover the processes involved. Once uncovered, they are broken down into their relative elementary components -- mental operations and knowledge units which can be viewed as a kind of psychological "atoms" and "molecules". Performing a task or solving a problem always requires a certain system of elementary knowledge units and operations.

There are classes of problems for which it is necessary to execute operations in a well structured, predefined sequence (algorithmic problems). For such problem classes, it is possible to formulate a set of precise unambiguous instructions (algorithms) as to what one should do mentally and/or physically in order to successfully solve any problem belonging to that class. There are also classes of problems (creative or heuristic problems) for which precise and unambiguous sets of instructions cannot be formulated. For such classes of problems, it is possible to formulate instructions that contain a certain degree of uncertainty (heuristics). Landa also describes semi-algorithmic and semi-heuristic problems, processes and instructions.

The theory suggests that all cognitive activities can be analyzed into operations of an algorithmic, semi-algorithmic, heuristic, or semi-heuristic nature. Once discovered, these operations and their systems can serve as the basis for instructional strategies and methods. The theory specifies that students ought to be taught not only knowledge but the algorithms and heuristics of experts as well. They also have to be taught how to discover algorithms and heuristics on their own. Special emphasis is placed on teaching students cognitive operations, algorithms and heuristics which make up general methods of thinking (i.e., intelligence).

With respect to sequencing of instruction, Landa proposes a number of strategies, the most important of which is the "snowball" method. This method applies to teaching a system of cognitive operations by teaching the first operation, then the second which is practiced with the first, and so on.


While this is a general theory of learning, it is illustrated primarily in the context of mathematics and foreign language instruction. In recent years, Landa has applied his theory to training settings under the name "Landamatics" (Educational Technology , 1993)


Landa (1976) provides the following example of an algorithm for teaching a foreign speaker how to choose among the English verbs "to offer", "to suggest" and "to propose":

Check to see whether something that one presents to another person is a tangible object or viewed as tangible. If yes, use "offer". If no, it is an idea about some action to be performed. Check to see if this idea is presented formally. If yes, use "propose", otherwise use "suggest".

Applying the snowball method would involve teaching the student the action of checking the first condition and then the action of checking the second condition followed by practice that requires both conditions to be checked. Landa explains that after sufficient practice the application of the algorithm would become automatic and unconscious.


1. It is more important to teach algo-heuristic processes to students than prescriptions (knowledge of processes); on the other hand, teachers need to know both.

2. Processes can be taught through prescriptions and demonstrations of operations.

3. Teaching students how to discover processes is more valuable than providing them already formulated.

4. Break processes down into elementary operations of size and length suitable for each student (individualization of instruction).


Educational Technology (1993). Landamatics ten years later. Educational Technology, 33(6), 7-18.

Landa, L. (1974). Algorithmization in Learning and Instruction. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Landa, L. (1976). Instructional Regulation and Control: Cybernetics, Algorithmization, and Heuristics in Education. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Relevant Web Sites:

For more about Landa and his work, see:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

'HIV Medics' Training Program from IGNOU and AHF

Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and AHF/ India Cares
Partner in Groundbreaking AIDS Care Training Initiative in Delhi

NEW DELHI (July 11, 2008) Indian, US Partners to Train Community Members as `HIV Medics'—Healthcare Workers in the Fight against AIDS HIV Medics are paraprofessional healthcare workers trained to assist clinicians in the provision of antiretroviral therapy (ART) for people living with HIV.

India's Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the US' largest HIV/AIDS organization, which operates free AIDS treatment clinics in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia, (including two clinics in India—Delhi and Mysore) are pleased to announce the formation of a new partnership through which AHF—India Cares will work closely with the University to promote and implement training and education programs for people working in the field of HIVAIDS.

The partners will work together on educational training programs such as AHF's innovative HIV Medics program, through which AHF medical staff train lay people to work as treatment extenders in the burgeoning, yet often understaffed field of HIV/AIDS care in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world.

"It is a great privilege for us to join together with Indira Gandhi
National Open University to bring AHF's HIV Medic education and
training program to India, which is world repute in providing quality
education through distance learning" said Dr. Chinkholal Thangsing,
Asia/Pacific Bureau Chief for AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which
operates AHF—India Cares.

"This new partnership marks the first time an AHF HIV Medics training program will take place outside of Africa, and we are deeply honored that India will be among the first countries in the Asia Pacific region to benefit from this groundbreaking program.

The need for access to HIV/AIDS medical care and treatment throughout India remains great; we sincerely believe this collaboration will help ease that burden by training qualified HIV Medics to assist in the delivery of care and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS."

AHF's HIV Medics are community health workers who perform routine, but time-consuming tasks such as taking a patient's blood pressure and medical history, thereby freeing up valuable time for doctors and nurses to see and treat many more patients. Since 2004, AHF has conducted four HIV Medic training programs; two each in Uganda and Zambia, training over 100 HIV Medics.

The formal signing of the memorandum of understanding between IGNOU and AHF/India Cares took place in a ceremony yesterday at the Embassy of the United States, American Center Office, Kasturba Gandhi Marg, New Delhi, India.

"IGNOU has achieved the distinction of becoming the largest University in the world with 1.8 million students on its rolls" said Prof. V. N. Rajasekharan Pillai, Vice-Chancellor, Chairman, Distance Education Council, IGNOU. He had all the praise for AHF India Cares collaboration with IGNOU and extended support to HIV Medics programme to integrate with the programmes offered by IGNOU.

Under this MoU, IGNOU and AHF India Cares would jointly prepare the curriculum and provide the training on a face to face mode. IGNOU would prepare a module on `Social, Ethical and Educational aspects pertaining to HIVAIDS' while AHF would share their expertise on `Medical and Clinical aspects including hands on training'.

"Service to people at large is service to the nation. IGNOU is fortunate to associate with AHF India Cares who are providing access to medical support, education and training to the needy. By
collaborating with AHF India Cares the objective of IGNOU to reach the unreached will be fulfilled to some extent," said K. Laxman, Registrar, IGNOU after signing the MoU.

"The establishment of this new HIV Medic training partnership in India is truly a major milestone for both organizations," said Mary Adair, PA-C, AHF Director of Global Training, who has conducted and overseen all previous Medic Training programs for AHF in Africa and will also
lead the first Medic Training program in India later this fall.

"This collaboration should also serve as a beacon of hope for many people living with HIV/AIDS in India, as it will ultimately allow medical providers—doctors, nurses, and physicians assistants—the ability to expand and scale up the provision medical care and services, including the delivery of lifesaving anti-retroviral treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS in India."

"Bringing the HIV Medics program to India should ultimately help usher more HIV positive Indians and those already living with AIDS into care and treatment," said Michael Weinstein, AIDS Healthcare Foundation's resident. "We look forward to our collaboration with our partners at Indira Gandhi National Open University and thank all who were involved in securing this exciting new training partnership."

HIV Medics are paraprofessional healthcare workers trained to assist linicians in the provision of antiretroviral therapy (ART) for people living with HIV. AIDS Healthcare Foundation first developed the program to address the shortage of healthcare workers in resource-constraine d countries.

HIV Medics provide initial patient screenings, complete patient istories and refer patients to physicians for physical exams and initiation of ART. They also draw blood, dispense medications and provide medication adherence counseling and HIV testing.

Shifting of these aforementioned tasks to the HIV Medics frees up physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals for more complex tasks and enables them to see more patients. These factors contribute to the overall goal of increasing the number of people receiving ART and improving the quality and continuity of care.

The HIV Medic training is designed for students with no prior medical training or experience. The training program is intensive and covers 12 weeks of full-time study. HIV Medic students must have a high-school equivalent education, read and write English and be able to commit to the full 12 weeks of training in order to enter the training program. In addition, HIV Medics are often HIV-positive themselves.

According to a United Nations-sanctioned report that was released by ndian Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss in July 2007, India is thought to have nearly 2.47 million living with HIV/AIDS today. With a population of over 1.1 billion, India's HIV prevalence is still considered relatively low; however only a small fraction of those people living with the disease have access to lifesaving care and medical treatment. It is expected that the HIV Medics trained by this partnership between AHF/India Cares and Indira Gandhi National Open University will help lessen the burden on Indian care providers and increase the numbers of those on care and treatment throughout India.

About AHF:
Additional information is available at
About AHF/India Cares In India, under the aegis of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, AHF/India Cares was established to carry forward the mission and goals of AHF and implement programs as AHF/India Cares. AHF/India Cares and operates antiretroviral treatment programs in Indian cities of New Delhi and Mysore.

AHF provides ART treatment and care services to 4,423 people infected with HIV/AIDS throughout the country. The AHF India Cares Clinic in New Delhi, the Centre of Excellence, opened in October 2006, and offers testing, psychosocial support and ART services, including pediatric treatment. The goal of the center is to provide ART services to 2,000 patients over a period of five years.



Dr Chinkholal Thangsing
Asia Pacific Bureau Chief
AIDS Healthcare Foundation
S-7 Panchsheel Park,
New Delhi 110017
+91 11 41745541/42
+91 11 41745543[Fax]
+91 98 18270687

K. Laxman

Administration Division
Indira Gandhi National Open University, Maidan Garhi,
New Delhi 110068
+91 11 29532098 [work]
+91 11 26493982 [res.]