An excerpt from a film-analysis paper

This excerpt was taken from a student who took the class last semester. The student was writing about the movie Schindler’s List (which is not one of your options). We have provided this to you so that you get an idea of the depth of analysis that we expect for an A paper.
This is just an except that shows one of the concepts (cognitive dissonance) that this student used. Remember that you need to analyze the film using 3 concepts, and that you should have a brief introduction and conclusion.

     The attitude change that Oscar Schindler underwent is dramatic. At the beginning of the film, he behaved in the same way as other Nazi German officials and had no pity for the Jews, but this attitude was completely reversed at the end of the movie. Many factors might have led to this gradual yet drastic attitude change, and I will analyze the role of cognitive dissonance in causing this change. Initially, Oscar Schindler recruited Jews to his factory because he thought that the Jews provide him with cheap labor. He appointed Isaac Stern to recruit able-bodied Jews but Stern exploited his power and started to recruit the weak and elderly Jews that would have otherwise been sent to concentration camps. Eventually, Schindler became aware that his factory was nicknamed the “safe haven” for Jews. 

    I argue that this situation aroused cognitive dissonance—an aversive feeling that is aroused by holding two or more inconsistent cognitions (Festinger, 1957; cited from Aronson, Wilson, Akert, 1998). According to Festinger, people are motivated by a desire for cognitive consistency and therefore, when discrepancy arise, people are motivated to reduce it. For example, in an experiment by Festinger and Carlsmity (1959; cited from Aronson, Wilson, Akert, 1998), participants were asked to lie to a confederate that the upcoming experiment was extremely interesting.  They were paid either a small or large sum of money. Participants who were paid a small sum of money experience cognitive dissonance because the hold the inconsistent cognitions of  “I just said that the experiment was interesting” and “I really think the experiment was boring.” They did not have sufficient external justification because they were only paid $1 for telling the lie. To reduce the dissonance, they changed their original attitude toward the experiment and subsequently rated it as quite interesting. In contrast, participants paid a large sum of money did not experience dissonance because there was sufficient external justification ($20) for engaging in the dishonest behavior. Therefore they could add the new cognition “It is OK to tell a small lie for a lot of money” to resolve the dissonance.

     Schindler’s initial behavior of employing young  and able-bodied Jews did not lead to cognitive dissonance because his cognitions “Jews are inferior” and “I employ Jews” were supplemented by a third cognition “I am employing Jews to maximize my own profit”. The third cognition provided sufficient external justification, similar to what was experienced by participants in the $20 condition of Festinger and Carlsmith’s (1959) study. However, when Schindler found out that Stern had recruited the weak and the elderly into the factory to offer them shelter and protection, dissonance arose because the external justification of profit maximization no longer applied. This dissonance was made especially prominent when an one-armed elderly man went to Schindler’s office to thank Schindler for giving him a chance in the factory. Schindler was enraged and reprimanded Stern for his recruitment of handicapped and invalid “workers”.  In this situation, his dissonant cognitions of “my factory houses disabled and weak Jews”, and “Jews are inferior people” were in direct confrontation. This dissonance would cause an aversive state of arousal, which could be a possible source of his anger. 

     When people are in a state of dissonance, the cognitive dissonance theory (Festinger, 1957; cited from Aronson, Wilson, Akert, 1998) suggests that people are motivated to reduce the dissonance in three ways. They could change their attitude discrepant behavior, change their original cognitions, or add consonant cognitions. To reduce the dissonance that he felt, Schindler thus could have fired all the weak employees (change behavior), reduce his prejudice toward Jews (change attitude), or find some other way to justify why housing the unproductive Jews could still be profitable (add consonant cognition). After his encounter with the one-armed elderly man, Schindler warned Stern that he should stop making the factory into a safe haven, but yet he neither fired the elderly man, nor made an effort to screen all his employees for competence and fire the unproductive ones. He might have initially tried to justify his behavior by adding the consonant cognitions that these weaker members of his workforce was still productive and profit making, as demonstrated by his exchange with Nazi officers after they have killed the one-arm elderly man, emphasizing that this man was his “essential skilled worker”.  However, to claim that the disabled and slow workers were “essential” was not a strong external justification because Schindler was probably aware that the productivity of these workers could not have rivaled the younger and able-bodied workers. With the weakened external justification, Schindler ultimately resolved his dissonance by gradual attitude change. Many scenes in the film showed how he started to show more concern for the lives of the Jews. For example, he was visibly emotionally disturbed when he observed the emptying of the ghetto. Eventually, he started to use his personal wealth, such as his gold lighter and watch to “buy” lives of more Jews. At this point, it was clear that he no longer justified employing Jews as cheap labor to maximize his own profit because he was intentionally engaging in behaviors that would reduce his profit. The only motivation behind his behavior was that his prejudiced attitudes were changed and that he became genuinely concerned about the welfare of the Jews.