Effort Justification

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Effort Justification refers to the tendency to attribute greater value to outcomes that one put effort into achieving. It is an idea in social psychology stemming from psychologist Leon Festinger’s theory of ‘Cognitive Dissonance,’ which explains changes in people’s attitudes or beliefs as the result of an attempt to reduce a dissonance (discrepancy) between contradicting ideas or cognitions. In the case of effort justification, there is a dissonance between the amount of effort exerted into achieving a goal or completing a task (high effort – high ‘cost’) and the subjective reward for that effort (lower than was expected for such an effort). By adjusting and increasing one’s attitude or subjective value of the goal, this dissonance is resolved.

This theory is clearly implicated in the effect of rites of passage and hazing rituals on group solidarity and loyalty. The hazing rituals, prevalent in military units, sports teams and Academic fraternities and sororities, often include demanding and/or humiliating tasks which lead (according to dissonance theory) the new member to increase the subjective value of the group. This contributes to his/her loyalty and to the solidarity of the entire group.

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