The experiment of Dutton and Aron revealed a theory of misinterpretation of arousal. It is one of the greatest classics of psychology. It relates to the affection between two people and helps us understand how surprising the human brain can be.
Affection and love are complex emotions that include emotions, upbringing, and attitudes. However, there is more to them: hormones and brain neurotransmitters.
The experiment of Dutton and Aron shows how misleading the butterflies we know in the stomach can be. The truth is that affection is sometimes conditioned more by brain chemistry than personal taste.
The theory of misinterpretation of arousal is a derivative of the attribution theory proposed in 1958 by the Austrian psychologist Fritz Heider. This led Lee Ross to make a fundamental theory of attribution error as well as Leon Festinger to make a cognitive dissonance theory. In a way, Dutton and Aron re-examined these theories and used them as a basis for their famous experiment.
Fritz Heider developed attribution theory. According to it, we tend to draw everyday conclusions about the reasons for the events / changes we have witnessed. In other words, we are interested to know why people do the way they do and why everything happens. We do it automatically. The point is, we don’t stop for a second and think about how accurate these qualities really are.
The theory of misinterpreting arousal shows that we oversize the inner space of people to know how to act. For example, paying attention to personality rather than other external factors. Instead, when we explain our own behavior, we give more value to external factors than to internal motivations.
The phenomenon of cognitive dissonance also expresses this. Let us now consider this by way of example. If we sometimes find ourselves in a situation where our two beliefs or behaviors conflict, we tend to come up with reasons to harmonize them.
The experiment of Dutton and Aron
The experiment by Donald Dutton and Arthur Aron is commonly known as the Capilano Suspension Bridge study. As the name already suggests, these two psychologies used two bridges to prove their views. The first bridge was small, rugged and modern. The other, in turn, was located in Capilon Canyon 70 meters above the ground. It was an old bridge swaying in the wind and vibrating at every step.
There were two groups of men. Dutton and Aron asked both groups to cross the other of the bridges. Both groups met a very charming woman in the middle of the bridge. He told them he was just watching the scenery and it was a good excuse to ask them to describe what he saw. Eventually, he gave the men his phone number in a flirtatious way.
What was the end result? The men who crossed the short and safe bridge practically did not look at the woman twice. However, the men who crossed the dangerous bridge called the woman and felt interest in her. What lies behind these two different behaviors?
The theory of misinterpretation of arousal
This experiment led us to prove that sometimes the brain can be very deceptive. Men who crossed the dangerous bridge felt more adrenaline than those who crossed the safe bridge. So we can assume that finding a charming woman in the middle of the trip affected them in a very positive way. This in turn tricked the real reason why they felt the charm of that woman.
Cognitive dissonance theory is perfectly applicable to this case. The feeling of fear met the stimulation brought by the charming woman.
The volunteers who participated in the experiment experienced mixed feelings: the dose of adrenaline and the woman’s flirtatious attitude led to a strong affection for her. In short, the two sensory sensations came together and led to this conclusion.
It has been proven that people tend to make more sympathetic connections with others nearby in risky situations. This, of course, refers to managed risks, not extreme ones. When the situation is appalling or causes panic, the opposite is true. The individual sees those around him as a threat and is prone to combat them.