Social Psychology

Student Learning Program

Chapter 1: Historical trends and current themes in social psychology (pp. 814)

Ask Yourself?

In this topic

  1. Social Psychology Becomes an Empirical Science (pp. 89)
  2. Social Psychology Splits from General Psychology Over What Causes Behavior (pp. 910)
  3. The Rise of Nazism Shapes the Development of Social Psychology (pp. 1012)
  4. Growth and Integration (pp. 1214)
    1. Integration of cognitive and social processes
    2. Integration of basic science and social problems
Social Psychology Becomes an Empirical Science

The study of the human condition was considered to be the domain of philosophy until the field of social psychology was born in the late 19th century.

Norman Triplett (1898), one of the first social psychologists, demonstrated that performance on tasks is improved in the presence of others.

However, Ringelmann (1913) showed that people put in less effort when they worked together.

The difference between these two studies can be explained by differences in the ease with which individual contributions can be identified.

Social Psychology Splits from General Psychology Over What Causes Behavior

The behaviorist perspective believed external stimuli influence behavior, and denied the influence of thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Social psychologists split from general psychology by maintaining an emphasis on important effects of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

The Rise of Nazism Shapes the Development of Social Psychology

The rise of Nazism shaped the development of social psychology as a result of the immigration of European researchers to North America, and raised questions about the roots of prejudice. In addition, social psychologists helped in the search for solutions to practical problems (see SP p. 10).

The work of one famous social psychologist, Kurt Lewin (1936), embodied the themes that characterized the discipline. He stated that all behavior depends on the individual's life space. Life space is defined as a subjective map of the individual's current goal and his or her environment.

Kurt Lewin (1947) also demonstrated that active participation in discussion groups is more effective than listening to lectures on a topic.

Growth and Integration

By the 1970s the movement toward integration had begun.

Integration of cognitive and social processes

Cognitive themes, theories, and research techniques gained attention, which led to theoretical and methodological convergence. Scientific understanding of the way social and cognitive processes work together to influence behaviors has benefited from integrating European and North American social psychology.

Integration of basic science and social problems

Social psychology research is simultaneously basic and applied; social psychologists work on theoretical issues, and apply knowledge to practical problems at the same time.

Case study: The history of social psychology

So what does this mean?

The study of the human condition was considered to be the domain of philosophy until the field of social psychology was born in the late 19th century. Social psychologists split from general psychology by maintaining an emphasis on important effects of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The rise of Nazism shaped the development of social psychology as a result of the immigration of European researchers to North America, and raised questions about the roots of prejudice. In addition, social psychologists helped in the search for solutions to practical problems. By the 1970s the movement toward the integration of cognitive and social processes, and of basic science and social problems, had begun.

Next topic

How the approach of this book reflects an integrative perspective

In this chapter

  1. Chapter 1 introduction
  2. A definition of social psychology
  3. Historical trends and current themes in social psychology
  4. How the approach of this book reflects an integrative perspective
  5. Fill-in-the-blanks
  6. Multiple-choice questions