History of Social Psychology
Being a racing enthusiast and desiring to learn what caused these different race times, he devised the first social scientific experiment. In this study, he asked children to quickly wind line on a fishing reel either alone or in the presence of other children performing the same task. As he had predicted, the children wound the line faster when in the presence of other children. Published in 1 897, this study is credited with introducing the experimental method into the social sciences.
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Despite the significance of this study, it took a full generation for researchers to understand the social psychological dynamics underlying Triplet’s findings (see the chapter 10 discussion of social facilitation). Despite this accomplishment, Triplett did nothing to establish social psychology as a distinct subfield of psychology. Credit for this achievement goes to the first authors of textbooks bearing that title, namely, English psychologist William McDougall and American sociologist Edward Ross, who each published separate texts in 1908.
Consistent with the contemporary perspective in psychological social psychology, McDougall considered the individual to be the principal unit of analysis in this new science, while Ross, true to the contemporary sociological social psychology perspective, highlighted groups. Despite the inauguration of this new subfield within psychology and sociology, social psychology still lacked a distinct identity. How was it different from the Other spinelessness within the two larger disciplines? What Were its methods of inquiry?
In 1924 a third social psychology text, published by Floyd Lopper (older brother of Gordon Lopper), went a long way in answering these questions for psychological social psychology. Reading his words today, you can see the emerging perspective that would one day permeate the psychological branch of the field: believe that only within the individual can we find the behavior mechanisms and consciousness which are fundamental in the interactions between individuals…. There is no psychology of groups which is not essentially and entirely a psychology of individuals…. Psychology in all its branches is a science of the individual. Lopper, 1924, p. 4) Lopper’s conception of social psychology was proposed eleven years after John Watson ushered in the behaviorism era in American psychology. Lopper’s brand of social psychology emphasized how the person responds to stimuli in the social environment, with the group merely being one of many such stimuli. Beyond this emerging individualist and behaviorism stamp, Lopper further shaped the identity of American social psychology by extolling the virtues of the experimental method in studying such topics as conformity, nonverbal communication, and social facilitation.
The pursuit of social psychological knowledge through carefully controlled experimental procedures would increasingly characterize the field in the coming years. As Lopper’s conception of social psychology gained American adherents, German social psychology was being shaped by the Gestalt perspective, which rejected both the existing European-inspired notion of a group mind and the American individualist stand that groups were not real in themselves.
Instead, Gestalt social psychologists contended that the social environment is made up not only of individuals, but of relations between individuals, and these relationships have important psychological implications. Thus, Gestalt social psychologists promoted an understanding of groups as real social entities, which directly led to the tradition of group processes and group dynamics that still exists today. These two schools of thought within psychological social psychology, one in America and the other in Germany, which were developing independent of one another, would soon be thrust together due to events on the world scene.
The Coming of Age: 1936-1945 During the first three decades of the twentieth century, Lopper’s conception of social psychology emphasized basic research, with little consideration given to addressing specific social problems or broader issues bearing on reform. However, by the mid-1 sass, the discipline was poised for further growth and expansion. The events that had the greatest impact on social psychology at this critical juncture in its history were the Great Depression in the United States and the social and political upheavals in Europe generated by the First and Second World Wars.
Following the stock market crash of 1 929, many young psychologists were unable to find or hold jobs. Experiencing firsthand the impact of societal forces, many of them adopted the liberal ideals of the Roosevelt “New Dealers” or the more radical left-wing political views of the socialist and unionism parties. In 1 936 these social scientists formed an organization dedicated to the scientific study of important social issues and the support for progressive social action (Stagger, 1986).
This organization, known as the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SEPSIS), contained many social psychologists who were interested in applying their newly developed theories and political activism to real-world problems. One Of the important contributions of SEPSIS to social psychology was, and contain uses to be, the infusion of ethics and values into the discussion of social life. Its immediate impact on social psychology in the sass was to infuse a more applied character to research.
New areas of research spawned during this decade were intercrop relations, leadership, propaganda, organizational behavior, voting behavior, and consumer behavior. In other countries, world events triggered changes that further didst anguished American social psychology from its scientific cousins abroad. For example, the communist revolution in Russia at the end of the First World War led to a purging of individualist-oriented research and theorizing, a development that stood in stark contrast to the increasing focus on the individual within American social psychology.
In 1 936, the Soviet Union’s Communist Party forbids the use of psychological tests in various applied settings, which effectively prohibited the study of individual differences. At the same time, the rise of fascism in Germany, Spain, and Italy created a strong anti-intellectual and anti-Semitic atmosphere in these countries. To escape this persecution, a number of Rupee’s leading social scientists, such as Frizz Hider, Gustavo Cheesier, Kurt Lenin, and Theodore Adorn, immigrated to America.
When the United States entered the war, many social psychologists?both American and European? applied their knowledge of human behavior in a wide variety of wartime programs, including the selection of officers for the Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency) and the undermining of enemy morale (Hoffman, 1992). The constructive work resulting from this collaboration demonstrated the practical usefulness of social psychology. During this time of global strife, one of the most influential social psychologists was Kurt Lenin, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany.
Lenin was instrumental in founding SEPSIS and served as its president in 1941. He army believed that social psychology did not have to make a choice between being either a pure science or an applied science. His oft-repeated maxim, “No research without action, and no action without research” continues to influence social psychologists interested in applying their knowledge to current social problems (Ash, 1992). By the time of his death in 1947 at the age of 57, Lenin had provided many of social psychology defining characteristics (Lenin, 1 936; Lenin et al. , 1939).
With the end of the war, prospects were bright for social psychology in North America. Based on their heightened stature in the scientific community social psychologists established new research facilities, secured government grants, and, most important, trained graduate students. These future social psychologists were predominantly white, male, and middle class. Many of their mentors were the European scholars who had fled their native countries and then remained in America following the war. Yet, while social psychology was flourishing in this country, the devastating effects of the world war virtually destroyed the discipline overseas.
In this postwar period, the United States emerged as the unchallenged world power, and just as it exported its eternal goods to other countries, it exported its social psychology as well. This brand of social psychology reflected the political ideology of American society and the social problems encountered within its boundaries (Afar, 1996). Rapid Expansion: 1 946?1969 With its infusion of European intellectuals and the recently trained young American social psychologists, the maturing science of social psychology expanded its theoretical and research base.
To understand how a civilized society like Germany could fall under the influence of a ruthless demagogue like Doll Hitler, Theodore Adorn and his colleagues (Adorn et al. 1950) studied the psychological parameters of the authoritarian personality. Some years later, Stanley Malaria (1963) extended this line of research in his now famous obedience experiments, which examined the conditions that make people more likely to obey destructive authority figures. Social psychologists also focused their attention on the influence that the group had on the individual (Sash, 1 956) and of the power of persuasive communication (Havilland et al. 1949). Arguably the most significant line of research and theorizing during this period was Leon Fastening’s theory of cognitive assonance (Festering, 1957). This theory asserted that people’s thoughts and actions were motivated by a desire to maintain cognitive consistency. The simplicity of the theory and its often surprising findings generated interest and enthusiasm both inside and outside of social psychology for many years. Social psychology’s concern with societal prejudice continued to assert itself during the sass. For example, the 1954 U.
S. Supreme Court decision to end the practice of racially segregated education was partly based on Kenneth Clark and Miami Phipps Clack’s research indicating that segregation actively affected the self-concept of Black children. In that same year, Gordon Lopper (brother of Floyd Lopper) provided a theoretical outline for how desegregation might reduce racial prejudice. What came to be known as the contact hypothesis was a social psychological blueprint for reducing hostility between groups by manipulating situational variables.
This perspective toward understanding and “fixing” prejudice better fit the behaviorism social psychology practiced in America than the earlier developed authoritarian personality approach. The decade of the sass was a time of turmoil in the United States, with the entry caught in the grip of political assassinations, urban violence, social protests, and the Vietnam War. People were searching for constructive ways to change society for the better.
Following this lead, social psychologists devoted more research time to such topics as aggression, helping, attraction, and love. The groundbreaking research of Elaine Hatfield and Ellen Birched (Birched & Hatfield, 1 969; Hatfield et al. , 1966) on interpersonal and romantic attraction, for example, was not only important in widening the scope of social psychological inquiry, but it also generated considerable controversy outside the field. A number of public officials and ordinary citizens thought social scientists should not try to understand the mysteries of romance.
Less controversial was the bystander intervention research conducted by Bibb LATA© and John Dearly (1968), which was inspired by the 1984 murder of Kitty Geneses in New York City. Despite the wariness of some, during the 1 sass the federal government expanded its attempts to cure societal ills with the guidance of social scientists. Within this cultural context, the number of social psychologists rose dramatically. Among these new social scientists were an increasing number ii omen and, to a lesser degree, minority members.
Whole new lines of inquiry into social behavior commenced, with an increasing interest in the interaction of the social situation with personality factors. The multitude and diversity of these lines of research would continue into the following decades (Pinion et al. , 1996). Crisis and Reassessment: 1970-1984 When social psychology first emerged from World War II and embarked on its rapid expansion, one of the pioneers in the field, Theodore Newcomer (1951 expressed concern that expectations were greater than anything that could be delivered in the near future.
By the 1 adds when solutions to societal problems were no closer to being solved, and as the usefulness and ethics of experimental research came under increased scrutiny, a “crisis of confidence” emerged (Elms, 1975). When this disappointment and criticism was followed by accusations from women and minorities that past research and theory’ reflected the biases Of a white, male-dominated view Of reality, many began to reassess the field’s basic premises. Fortunately, out of this crisis emerged a more vital and inclusive field of social psychology.
More rigorous ethical standards were established, and although experiments remained the method of choice, researchers began conducting more correlation studies, as well as employing other methods. Regarding accusations of racial and gender bias, social psychology began moving toward more responsible positions, but such biases have yet to be eliminated from the discipline (Graham, 1 992; Tester & ABA, 2002). Another important development during this time period was the importing of ideas from cognitive psychology in explaining social behavior. This “cognitive revolution” (see p. 0) greatly enhanced theory and research in all areas of social psychology, and its impact persists today. Accompanying the social cognitive emphasis was renewed interest in the concept of the self, which previously had been the focus of only sociological social psychologists. However, with the waning influence of behaviorism, psychological social psychologists rediscovered the insights of founding social scientists such as William James, John Dewey, Charles Horton Cooley, and George Herbert Mead. Soon the self became a central concept within psychological social psychology.
An Expanding Global and Interdisciplinary View of Social Psychology: 1985-present By the 1 sass, both European and Latin American social psychological associations had been founded, and in 1995, the Asian Association of Social Psychology was formed. The social psychology that developed overseas placed more emphasis on intercrop and societal variables in explaining social behavior than did its American cousin. In the mid-1 sass, this overseas influence began to reshape the discipline, as social psychologists throughout the world actively exchanged ideas and collaborated on multinational studies (Fiske et al. 1998; Vela et al. , 1996). Many of the new ideas about social behavior were generated by scholars from collectivist cultures who were eased within societies that have a very different perspective on the relationship between the individual and the group than that within the societies of traditional social psychologists. Subsequent cross-cultural research found that certain social beliefs and behaviors that were previously considered universal were in actuality specific to the colonization practices of individualist cultures.
Based on these findings, considerable research attention was devoted to determining which aspects of human behavior are culture specific–due to conditions existing within a particular culture–and which ones are due to humans shared evolutionary heritage. Although social psychology’s “professional center of gravity” still resides in the United States, European and Third World social psychology offers the entire field opportunities to escape what some consider the limitations of this “gravitational pull” to perceive new worlds of social reality (Shania, 2003; Tam et 2003).
This multicultural perspective will continue to guide research in the coming years. Contemporary social psychologists have also continued the legacy of Kurt Lenin and SEPSIS by applying their knowledge to a wide arena of everyday life, such as law, health, education, politics, sports, and business (Ellsworth & Amour, 1998; Kinder, 1998; Salvoes et al. , 1998). This interest in applying the principles and findings of social psychology is a natural outgrowth of the search for understanding.
Despite the dominance of social cognition in the sass, some social psychologists raised concerns about the relative lack of focus on emotions and motives in explaining social thinking. These critics of existing social cognitive theories argued that to think of motives and affect as merely end products in a central processing system was to euthanize social psychology. In the early 1 sass, a number of social psychologists sought to establish a more balanced view by blending the traditional hot and cold perspectives into what some have termed the Warm Look.
These revised social-cognitive theories proposed that people employ multiple cognitive strategies based on their current goals, motives, and needs. Theorists typically developed dual-process models, meaning that social thinking and behavior is determined by two different ways of understanding and responding to social stimuli. One mode of information processing?related to the cold perspective legacy–is based on forceful, reflective thinking, in which o action is taken until its potential consequences are properly weighed and evaluated.
The alternative mode of processing information?related to the hot perspective legacy?is based on minimal cognitive effort, in which behavior is impulsively and unintentionally activated by emotions, habits, or biological drives, often below the “radar” of consciousness. Which of the two avenues of information processing people take at any given time is the subject of ongoing research.