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He earned his Bachelor's degree from Brandeis University in 1954, his Master's degree from Wesleyan University in 1956 and Ph.D. from Stanford University. His doctoral advisor and mentor was Leon Festinger.
One of Aronson's key areas of interest and research has been the theory of cognitive dissonance. Aronson is credited with refining the theory, which posits that when attitudes and behaviors are inconsistent with one another that psychological discomfort results. This discomfort motivates the person experiencing it to either change their behavior or attitude so that consonance is restored.
Aronson is famous for the Jigsaw Classroom experiment conducted in 1971. The experiment was aimed at identifying methods of reducing prejudice in the newly desegregated Austin school system. Classrooms using traditional individual competitive learning techniques were compared to those requiring cooperative learning in race-integrated groups. The cooperative learning groups were referred to as Jigsaw Groups and required that students rely on one another to succeed on exams. The results showed that compared to traditional classrooms, Jigsaw classroom students had lower levels of prejudicial attitudes and negative stereotyping. Group participants demonstrated higher self-confidence, lower absenteeism, and higher academic achievement than students in the competitive classrooms.
- Aronson, E. (1976) The Social Animal, San Francisco: W.H. Freeman
- Aronson, E. and Osherow, N. (1980) Co-operation, prosocial behaviour, and academic performance: experiments in the desegregated classroom. In: L, Bickerman (ed.) Applied Social Psychology Annual, Beverley Hills: Sage.
- Aronson, E, and Linder, D. (1965) Gain and loss of esteem as determinants of interpersonal attractiveness, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 1: 156-71.
- Aronson, E., Willerman, B. and Floyd, J. (1966) The effect of a pratfall on increasing interpersonal attractiveness, Psychonomic Science 4: 227-8.
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