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Comparing Canadian and United States High School Students on Cognitive Dissonance Test Scores.

Comparisons on scores for the Cognitive Dissonance Test were made between 243 Canadian and 1275 United States high school students. Some gender differences were found for the two groups and in general, the United States male high school students showed greater cognitive dissonance than did the females. The Canadian students were shown to have both significantly lower dissonance scores and lie scores than their United States counterparts. The structure of the two societies might have contributed to the difference.

The present study sought to make comparisons on scores for The Cognitive Dissonance Test (DISS) (Cassel et al., 2000) between Canadian and United States high school students. DISS seeks to assess the nature and degree of cognitive dissonance (feeling of discomfort) present, which is often hidden deep in the unconscious, and sometimes causes serious health problems. These feelings tend to interfere with effective learning and human productivity. When people are made aware of the presence and nature of cognitive dissonance, they can take action to eliminate it.

Groups Involved

There were 243 students from three high schools in rural Northern Ontario, Canada, ranging in age from 13 to 27 years of age, with a mean age of 16.58, and with a standard deviation of 1.49 years. There were 146 females and 97 males. The United States high school group was from several urban high schools and had 1275 members ranging in age form 14 to 20, with a mean age of 16.18, and with a standard deviation of 1.37 years. There were 651 females and 624 males.

Gender Differences

A t-statistic was computed between the DISS mean scores for both the Canadian and United States students in relation to gender. For the Canadian high school students, there was no significant difference in scores for the different ages, and only two of the eight part scores showed a statistical difference for gender: (1) the Personal Adjustment score with a statistical significance of 0.034, with females showing the greater cognitive dissonance; and (2) the School and Learning score with a significance of 0.041, with males showing the greater cognitive dissonance. For the United States high school students the following scores showed statistically significant differences for gender as follows: the Home and Family score was significantly different at the 0.003 level, with greater cognitive dissonance for females; the School and Learning score was significant at the 0.038 level, with the greater cognitive dissonance for males; Social and Affiliation showed a difference at the 0.016 level, with the greater cognitive dissonance for males; and Survival and Power showed a difference at the 0.001 level, with the greater cognitive dissonance for males. As a group, the United States male high school students showed greater cognitive dissonance than did the females.

Differences Between the Two High Schools

A t-statistic was computed between the DISS mean scores for the Canadian and United States high schools as depicted in Table 1 below. Every one of the DISS scores showed a statistically significant difference at the 0.001 level with lower scores for the Canadian students. The Canadian students were 1.44 years older than the United States students, which may account in part for the lower cognitive dissonance mean scores. Except for Home and Family, all Canadian standard deviations were larger than comparable deviation scores for the United States students. Many of the Canadian students had low cognitive dissonance on the eight DISS part scores, but none of the United States students had such low cognitive dissonance scores. The LIE scores were significantly lower for the Canadian students showing greater understanding than their American counterparts. In spite of the referenced lower LIE score, 90 Canadian students failed to indicate either their age or their gender, and were dropped from the study.
Table 1
A t-Statistic Between DISS Means for Two High School Groups
(Canada=243 & US=1275)

DISS Canadian States Diffe- t- Proba-
Scores Students Students rence Statistic bility

Home &
 M 26.63 34.72 8.09 6.058 0.001
 SD 18.98 19.08
 M 34.93 41.04 6.11 4.443 0.001
 SD 20.82 19.40
 M 38.83 43.79 4.96 4.173 0.001
 SD 19.13 16.53
Health &
 M 42.62 43.78 1.16 0.893 0.001
 SD 20.56 18.20
Internal &
 M 143.26 162.95 19.69 4.706 0.001
 SD 68.20 58.02
School &
 M 32.63 40.32 8.79 6.493 0.001
 SD 18.00 16.68
Social &
 M 31.91 39.96 8.05 7.095 0.001
 SD 17.55 15.91
Survival &
 M 34.89 45.22 10.33 8.337 0.001
 SD 19.53 17.30
 M 30.07 44.80 14.73 11.650 0.001
 SD 19.37 17.77
External &
 M 129.25 170.73 41.48 10.452 0.001
 SD 62.21 55.58
 M 272.10 331.65 59.55 7.665 0.001
 SD 117.51 109.71
 M 7.59 9.58 1.99 9.315 0.001
 SD 3.36 2.98


The Canadian high school students clearly had less cognitive dissonance than did the students from the United States. Their significantly lower LIE score shows plainly that they read and understood the items of the test, and answered them in an honest manner. These differences were likely the results of the fact that these Canadian students, though a bit older, were from rural areas whereas their United States counterparts were from urban areas.

A multiple regression analysis on the Canadian scores was used to determine what effect age had on each one of the major Cognitive Dissonance Test scores, and on different combinations of the part scores. As shown in Table 2 below, no statistically significant findings were obtained. This suggests that the cognitive dissonance present in the Canadian high school students did not change in relation to either age or grade, since age and grade are correlated phenomena. It is clear that cognitive dissonance is not something that increases or decreases with age alone, and that corrective action must be taken to deal with it. The first step in dealing with any problem is to become aware of its presence and nature, and then to take appropriate action to deal with it. The Cognitive Dissonance Test (DISS) was designed to alert individuals of the presence and nature of cognitive dissonance they are currently experiencing.
Table 2
Multiple Regression Analysis on Age

DISS Correlated Multiple Adjusted
Scores Variable R R Squared Probability

IPTOT AGE 0.030 0.000 n.s.
EITOT AGE 0.011 0.000 n.s.
IPTOT+EITOT AGE 0.032 0.000 n.s.
SCH+SOC+SUR+LIF AGE 0.198 0.006 n.s.
DISTOT AGE 0.023 0.000 n.s.


Cassel, R.N., Chow, P., DeMoulin, D.F., and Reiger, R.C. (2000). The Cognitive Dissonance Test (DISS). Chula Vista, California; Project Innovation.

Festinger, L. (1957). A Theory. of Cognitive Dissonance. New York: Harper and Row.

Part of this research was funded by the Nipissing University Internal Research Grant to the first author.

Peter Chow and Wendy Wood, Psychology Department, Nipissing University, North Bay, Ontario.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Peter Chow, Psychology Department, Nipissing University, North Bay, Ontario, Canada.
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Article Details
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Author:Wood, Wendy
Publication:Journal of Instructional Psychology
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2001
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