Theorist Biography

Leon Festinger, (1919 – 1989), was born to Russian-Jewish immigrants Alex Festinger and Sara Solomon Festinger in Brooklyn, New York. Leon Festinger went to Boys’ High School and acquired a bachelor’s degree in science at City College, New York in 1939. He did his PhD in psychology from the University of Iowa in 1942, the same year, he married pianist Mary Oliver Ballou with whom he had three children (Catherine, Richard and Kurt).

He is well known for his theories of “Cognitive Dissonance and Social Comparison”. He is also responsible for the discovery of relevance of propinquity (Close relationship) on the formation of social ties and bonds. We could find many of this social psychologist’s theories and contributions in the study of social sciences.


The mental clash or tension resulting from the processes of acquiring knowledge or understanding through the senses is called cognitive dissonance. In simple the clash of mind when we have to choose from the choices is can be called cognitive dissonance. This is the feeling of discomfort from two conflicting thoughts, it may increase or decrease according to the following factors

  1. The relevance of subject to us
  2. How solid the choices or thoughts are
  3. The capability of our mind to choose, rationalize or explain the thoughts.

The theory suggests that our mind have a tendency to avoid such clashes and tensions through various methods and attain harmony.  The dissonance will be on it highest on the matters regarding the self-image. The theory states that we are possessed with a powerful drive to maintain cognitive steadiness and reliability which may sometimes become irrational. The mind will attain its harmony by the following steps

  1. Altering cognitions: Changing the attitude or behavior
  2. Changing cognitions: Rationalize our behavior by changing the differing cognitions
  3. Adding cognitions: Rationalize our behavior by adding new cognition.

This is the reason why we human beings have the tendency to justify ourselves. The theory says that the tendency of changing beliefs when we couldn’t complete something is because of this. This theory is subjective in nature because we cannot physically observe cognitive dissonance so that we cannot obtain any objective measurements. It has a sort of vagueness in its nature because it is not sure whether people will act or think according to the theory. Every people will have their individual differences always.


In a class all the students are good at photography except X. No matter how much he tried but he kept failing in all his attempts. After passing through mental dissonance he came in the conclusion that photography cannot do any good to him for his life. He tends to believe that photography is boring and time wasting. And he came at the conclusion that rather not to waste anymore of his time for photography.  Here X couldn’t perform something or he couldn’t attain what he wished for so his mind went through cognitive dissonance and finds a solution as the theory explain.

Another example for this theory can be found in the stories of Aesop, which is a story of fox who wanted the grapes. The fox failed to reach the grapes when he jumps; he tried again and failed miserably. At last he reached at the conclusion that the grapes are not sweet, they taste sour. That reduced the anxiety of the fox and it went away.

In the story of fox we could find how someone can come up with some cognition that helps him to attain mental harmony. Making excuses is a kind of rationalization that we does to reduce our mental dissonance. Making excuses is the best example for this theory and we are very well known for our ability to make excuses.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

ANGANILE MWAKATUMA November 30, 2012 at 10:32 am

That is true,every like to see what he/she thinking is better than of other,but the important here is to test our thought with the experience of others and praying wisdom from God.

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Evans SAGALA October 27, 2016 at 5:46 pm

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Josua November 16, 2016 at 8:09 pm

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