Whether it’s reacting to unwanted invasion of our personal space (Khan & Kamal, 2010) or creating interpersonal warmth using physical touch (Williams & Bargh, 2008), our interactions with others affect us every day. But how will you feel toward a stranger that you voluntarily let invade your personal space? Cognitive dissonance states that our behaviors will dictate our attitudes instead of the other way around (Festinger, 1957) and is typically studied within an individual. The current study investigates cognitive dissonance between two people. To test the hypothesis that physical touch would change two strangers’ perception of “closeness,” we manipulated three different poses (neutral, familial, and romantic) and three gender combinations (male-male, female-female, and male-female) in a photograph, and interpersonal closeness was assessed before and after the photograph to measure pre-post change. Results indicate that both pose and participant gender caused significant change in perception of closeness. Male-male interactions are the least conducive to generating closeness while male-female interactions are the most conducive. Female-female interactions generated significant closeness in the neutral pose. The findings imply that physical touch alters our attitudes, thus creating a reduction of dissonance toward strangers.
Bond, Melissa and Shears, Connie, "Come Closer: Cognitive Dissonance Between Strangers" (2015). Student Research Day Abstracts and Posters. 103.