In the early 1950s, the Behavioral Sciences Division of the Ford Foundation gave Leon Festinger a grant, which was part of the program of the Laboratory for Research in Social Relations.
In the early 1950s, the Behavioral Sciences Division of the Ford
Foundation gave Leon Festinger a grant, which was part of the program
of the Laboratory for Research in Social Relations. From this grant,
he was able to write his first document on “Social Comparison Theory” and
published it in the Journal of Human Relations in 1954. Leon Festinger, who
was born on 8 May 1919 and died on 11 February 1989, was an American social psychologist, best known for “cognitive dissonance” and the “Social Comparison Theory” just mentioned. His theories and research are credited with renouncing the previously dominant behaviorist view of social psychology. In the whole of this article I shall use the American spelling
of “behavior” rather than the British “behaviour”.
Behaviorism or behavioral psychology is a theory of learning based on the idea that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning. Conditioning occurs through interaction with the environment.
Behaviorists believe that our responses to environmental stimuli shape our actions.
According to this school of thought, behavior can be studied in a systematic and observable manner regardless of internal mental states.
Basically, only observable behavior should be considered: cognitions,
emotions, and moods are far too subjective. Strict behaviorists believe that
any person can potentially be trained to perform any task within the limits of their physical capabilities, regardless of genetic background, personality traits, and internal thoughts. What is required is only the right conditioning. Behaviorism was formally established in 1913 with the publication of John B. Watson’s classic paper, “Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It.” Watson, who is often considered the “father” of behaviorism, stated: “Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I will guarantee to take any one at random and train him
to become any type of specialist I might select: a doctor, lawyer, artist, merchantchief and, yes, even a beggar-man and a thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and the race of his ancestors.” Strict behaviorists believe that all behaviors are the result
of experience. Any person, regardless of his or her background, can be trained to act in a particular manner given the right conditioning. From about 1920 through the mid-1950s, behaviorism grew to become the dominant school of thought in psychology. Some suggest that the popularity of behavioral psychology grew out of the desire to establish psychology
as an objective and measurable science.
Researchers were interested in creating theories that could be clearly described and empirically measured, but also used to make contributions that might have an influence on the fabric of everyday
Any person can be trained to act in a particular way given the right conditioning. There are two major types of conditioning. The first is
classical conditioning. Like many great scientific advances, classical
or Pavlovian conditioning was discovered accidentally. During the
1890s, the Russian physiologist, Ivan Pavlov was researching
salivation in dogs in response to being fed. He inserted a small
test tube into the cheek of each dog to measure saliva when the dogs were fed with a powder made from meat. Pavlov predicted the dogs would salivate in response to the food placed in front of them, but he noticed that his dogs would begin to salivate whenever they heard the footsteps of his assistant who was bringing them the food. Classical conditioning is a
technique frequently used in behavioral training in which a neutral stimulus (the sound of the footsteps) is paired with a naturally occurring stimulus (the food in front of the dogs). Eventually, the neutral stimulus comes to evoke the same response as the naturally occurring stimulus, even without the naturally occurring stimu l us.