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Leon Festinger

Leon Festinger

Leon Festinger was a well-known American social psychologist. Born on 8th May, 1919, he was the pioneer of social comparison and cognitive dissonance theory. He has the honor of establishing the experimentation techniques in social psychology to an advanced level. He is also very well-known for developing social theory for the proximity effect. Kurt Lewin influenced Leon Festinger as he studied psychology under his supervision at the University of Iowa. Leon Festinger graduated from there in 1941. However, he developed a keen interest in psychology after becoming a faculty member at the Lewin’s Research Center for Group Dynamics based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1945. Although, he was a scholar of high superiority in social psychology, Festinger switched over to research in visual perception. Despite high accomplishments in social psychology, Leon Festinger left this field to seek intellectual stimulation by pursuing different fields of study including the likes of archeology and history.

Leon Festinger has contributed significantly in the field of social psychology. He gave the idea of propinquity which is regarded as one of the vital factors forming the basis for interpersonal interaction. According to the study conducted by Festinger and his team, Propinquity is the foundation for the theory behind proximity effect. According to the concept behind proximity effect, the physical connection between people living close together determines the bond of relationship ties between them. Leon Festinger and his team observed that people who come in contact regularly by travelling together or living on the same floor of an apartment develop long lasting friendships.

One of Festinger’s most effective works also includes the formulation of social comparison theory. According to social comparison theory, social realities are relied upon to a great extent for evaluating various opinions and attitudes according to the social capabilities of an individual. Festinger developed the postulate that people often analyze their attitudes and behaviors by comparing themselves with others whom they consider of equal status. Festinger also wrote a paper on informal social communication in which he postulated that uniformity present in a group gives way to force start communication. According to his theory, uniformity in a group arises from group locomotion and social reality. Leon Festinger also argued that social reality had a significant impact on the formation of opinions and attitudes in people. This phenomenon is known as subjective validity. The social comparison theory presented by Festinger claimed that people continually compare themselves with their compatible for altering their attitudes and behaviors to the highest level possible.

One of the significant works by Festinger is developing the theory of cognitive dissonance. The theory of cognitive dissonance was developed through studying a series of rumors followed by an earthquake in India in 1934. The hypothesis of cognitive dissonance was that a person will try to achieve consistency or consonance when he faces psychological uncomfort  as in cognitive dissonance. Leon Festinger was a true legend in the field of social psychology. He died on February 11th, 1989 in New York City.

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