/ The propinquity effect is the tendency for people to form friendships or romantic relationships with those whom they encounter often, forming a bond between subject and friend. Occupational propinquity based on a person’s career, is also commonly seen as a factor in marriage selection. Workplace interactions are frequent and this frequent interaction is often a key indicator as to why close relationships can readily form in this type of environment.In other words, relationships tend to form between those who have a high propinquity. It was first theorized by psychologists Leon Festinger, Stanley Schachter, and Kurt Back in what came to be called the Westgate studies conducted at MIT (1950). The typical Euler diagram used to represent the propinquity effect is shown below where U = universe, A = set A, B = set B, and S = similarity:
The sets are basically any relevant subject matter about a person, persons, or non-persons, depending on the context. Propinquity can be more than just physical distance. Residents of an apartment building living near a stairway, for example, tend to have more friends from other floors than those living further from the stairway. The propinquity effect is usually explained by the mere exposure effect, which holds that the more exposure a stimulus gets, the more likeable it becomes.
In a study on interpersonal attraction (Piercey and Piercey, 1972), 23 graduate psychology students, all from the same class, underwent 9 hours of sensitivity training in two groups. Students were given pre- and post-tests to rate their positive and negative attitudes toward each class member. Members of the same sensitivity training group rated each other higher in the post-test than they rated: members of the other group in both the pre- and post-test, and members of their own group in the pre-test. The results indicated that the 9 hours of sensitivity training increased the exposure of students in the same group to each other, and thus they became more likeable to each other.
Propinquity is one of the effects used to study group dynamics. For example, there was a British study done on immigrant Irish women to observe how they interacted with their new environments (Ryan, 2007). This study showed that there were certain people with whom these women became friends much more easily than others, such as classmates, workplace colleagues, and neighbours as a result of shared interests, common situations, and constant interaction. For women who still felt out of place when they began life in a new place, giving birth to children allowed for different ties to be formed, ones with other mothers. Having slightly older children participating in activities such as school clubs and teams also allowed social networks to widen, giving the women a stronger support base, emotional or otherwise.