At the moment I am busying myself with the research design for my fieldwork and I have come across some interesting theories that I want to share.
Cognitive Dissonance Theory (Festinger 1957)
It is based on the insight that:
1. People can tell when their beliefs about what ought to be don’t match their perception of how things really are; and,
2. This causes an uncomfortable feeling.
This feeling is called cognitive dissonance.
Basically, when people have inconsistent beliefs, or when they perceive things in the real world to be out of sync with their ideas of how things should be, they feel discomfort and strive naturally towards cognitive consonance.
Following from this theory, cultural consonance explains the degree to which people’s lives mirror a widely shared set of beliefs about what lives should look like. What makes a successful life varies from culture to culture but in most cultures there is a shared list of what indicates a success.
In experiments, William Dressler – a medical anthropologist – found that people who have more of these things from the list (whose lives are in consonance with the cultural model) have lower stress levels and fewer blood pressure problems than do people whose lives lack cultural consonance.
This is similar to Deprivation Theory which is based on the insight that people compare themselves to specific peer groups, not to the world at large.
Of course, these theories need further explanations with empirical insight but they are useful starting points for research and have certainly given me some food for thought.
(Information from Research Methods in Anthropology by H. Russell Bernard)