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Social Cognitive Theory , iSALT Team Minnesota State University - Mankato

Social Cognitive Theory , Isalt Team

Isalt resources: theories, concepts, and measures.

No abstract provided.

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How Men And Women Differ: Gender Differences In Communication Styles, Influence Tactics, And Leadership Styles , Karima Merchant Claremont McKenna College

How Men And Women Differ: Gender Differences In Communication Styles, Influence Tactics, And Leadership Styles , Karima Merchant

Cmc senior theses.

This paper lays the historical background for why women and leadership is an important topic today in order to discuss gender differences in communication styles, influence tactics, and leadership styles. This paper also outlines barriers women face when trying to attain and succeed in leadership positions. The analysis should provide a greater understanding of how men and women differ, especially in leadership and management positions, and what companies can do to help women overcome gender bias and discrimination in the workplace.

The Impact Of Social Media On The Self-Esteem Of Youth 10–17 Years Old: A Review Of The Literature , Jasmine M. Daniels National Louis University

The Impact Of Social Media On The Self-Esteem Of Youth 10–17 Years Old: A Review Of The Literature , Jasmine M. Daniels


The world of technology has expanded quickly and vastly since its inception. The creation of social media sites and applications has changed the ways in which youth interact, connect, and share with one another. As the number of social media sites and applications increases, so does their use by adolescents. During adolescence, youth are undergoing the process of identity development and self-esteem is an important part of this development. During this developmental period, adolescents’ self-esteem is likely to be affected by the feedback they receive online through social media sites. There is limited research available that specifically evaluated the impact …

Happiness Index Methodology , Laura Musikanski, Scott Cloutier, Erica Bejarano, Davi Briggs, Julia Colbert, Gracie Strasser, Steven Russell Happiness Alliance

Happiness Index Methodology , Laura Musikanski, Scott Cloutier, Erica Bejarano, Davi Briggs, Julia Colbert, Gracie Strasser, Steven Russell

Journal of sustainable social change.

The Happiness Index is a comprehensive survey instrument that assesses happiness, well-being, and aspects of sustainability and resilience. The Happiness Alliance developed the Happiness Index to provide a survey instrument to community organizers, researchers, and others seeking to use a subjective well-being index and data. It is the only instrument of its kind freely available worldwide and translated into over ten languages. This instrument can be used to measure satisfaction with life and the conditions of life. It can also be used to define income inequality, trust in government, sense of community and other aspects of well-being within specific demographics …

Challenging Filipino Colonial Mentality With Philippine Art , Francesca V. Mateo University of San Francisco

Challenging Filipino Colonial Mentality With Philippine Art , Francesca V. Mateo

Master's theses.

For 350 years, the Philippines was colonized by Spain and the United States. The Philippines became a sovereign nation in 1946 yet, fifty years later, colonial teachings continue to oppress Filipinos due to their colonial mentality (CM.) CM is an internalized oppression among Filipinos in which they experience an automatic preference for anything Western—European or U.S. American—and rejection of anything Filipino . Although Filipinos show signs of a CM, there are Filipinos who are challenging CM by engaging in Philippine art. Philippine art is defined as Filipino-made visual art, literature, music, and dance intended to promote Philippine culture . This …

Social Cognitive Career Theory As Applied To The School-To-Work Transition , Mary E. Kelly Seton Hall University

Social Cognitive Career Theory As Applied To The School-To-Work Transition , Mary E. Kelly

Seton hall university dissertations and theses (etds).

Depression, Anxiety, And Stress Severity Impact Social Media Use And Tiktok Addiction , Skylar L. Maguire, Hollie Pellosmaa University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Depression, Anxiety, And Stress Severity Impact Social Media Use And Tiktok Addiction , Skylar L. Maguire, Hollie Pellosmaa

Chancellor’s honors program projects.

The Relationship Between Social Media And Empathy , Franklin M. Collins Georgia Southern University

The Relationship Between Social Media And Empathy , Franklin M. Collins

Electronic theses and dissertations.

The relationship between social media and empathy has not been explored extensively. Research on the expression of emotion and the association with empathy displayed on social media websites have been minimally explored. This study sought to support findings that chatting online leads to expressions of empathy (Rosen, 2012) and a positive relationship exists between conversing with others online and empathic expression (Ivcevic & Ambady, 2012. Empathic concern was hypothesized to show a positive relationship with one’s likelihood to chat, time on Facebook, and emotional connection to Facebook or Facebook usage. Empathic concern also was predicted to be greater among computer …

Body Positivity Movement: Influence Of Beauty Standards On Body Image , Alissa Chiat St. Catherine University

Body Positivity Movement: Influence Of Beauty Standards On Body Image , Alissa Chiat

Antonian scholars honors program.

Throughout history, there has always been an idealized depiction of beauty. In each culture the ideal varies but the concept of exclusion is universal. The westernized portrayal of beauty is prevalent throughout and has become ingrained into the fabric of American society. In adolescence, the development of an individual’s body influences their sense of self. With the growing prevalence of social media usage young adults are being introduced to a barrage of images celebrating westernized ideals of beauty. Currently, three out of every four young adults ages 18-24, use at least one social media platform (Perrin & Anderson, 2019). Recently, …

Para-Romantic Love And Para-Friendships: Development And Assessment Of A Multiple-Parasocial Relationships Scale , Riva Tukachinsky Chapman University

Para-Romantic Love And Para-Friendships: Development And Assessment Of A Multiple-Parasocial Relationships Scale , Riva Tukachinsky

Communication faculty articles and research.

Parasocial-relationships (PSR) are viewers' imaginary relationships with media personae. Despite the growing body of research on PSR, the field is still lacking a clear conceptualization and precise measure of this phenomenon. The present study suggests a novel theorization of PSR as para-friendship and para-love. Study 1 demonstrates construct validity of a new Multiple-PSR scale using the logic of a multi-trait multi-method approach. Study 2 replicates the factorial solution using confirmatory factor analysis. Finally, Study 3 provides evidence for the criterion validity of the scales. Together, these findings suggest that PSR encompass several types of relationships that might mediate different media …

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Fantasia On A Theme Of Purpose: Using A Music-Guided Scribble Technique To Support Meaning-Making In Older Adult Retiree Musicians , Sophia R. Smith 2024 Dominican University of California

Fantasia On A Theme Of Purpose: Using A Music-Guided Scribble Technique To Support Meaning-Making In Older Adult Retiree Musicians , Sophia R. Smith

Art therapy | master's theses.

Within the population of older adults, overall well-being corresponds with the ability to self-actualize and seek meaning, but age-related changes combined with ageism and isolation can negatively impact this capacity to maintain a sense of purpose, especially following retirement. It may be that retired musicians are especially vulnerable to this experience later in life due to a loss of the primary method of creative engagement and community that is facilitated by musical performance in a group setting. Integrating phenomenological and ethnographic approaches, this study utilized a qualitative design to understand how music-guided art-making incorporating the scribble technique could support a …

Transgender And Gender-Nonconforming Peoples' Views On Masculinity: A Literature Review & Meta Analysis , Alyx Loney 2023 Portland State University

Transgender And Gender-Nonconforming Peoples' Views On Masculinity: A Literature Review & Meta Analysis , Alyx Loney

University honors theses.

The perception and performance of masculinities in the United States has been a topic that, on its own, has garnered relatively little research attention in existing literature. Only in recent years have we seen an increase in attention given towards the study and understanding of masculinities and their role in American society. Even among the study of masculinities, the viewpoints of transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals on masculinity have received little to no attention. With this literature review and meta analysis, we seek to develop a greater understanding of transgender and gender-nonconforming peoples’ views on masculinity as they are currently depicted …

"Well You Know...": Parents' Perceptions Of Morality In Aaa Youth Ice Hockey , Zachary McCarver, Danielle Wong Vickland, Megan B. Stellino 2023 University of Northern Colorado

"Well You Know...": Parents' Perceptions Of Morality In Aaa Youth Ice Hockey , Zachary Mccarver, Danielle Wong Vickland, Megan B. Stellino

The qualitative report.

Parents’ involvement patterns serve as a catalyst to their children’s moral development (Bandura, 1991). Yet, sport culture may convolute parents’ authentic ability to socialize their children’s moral development within a compliant structure focused on performance excellence (Hughes & Coakley, 1991). The purpose of the current study was to examine how parents conceptualize morality while entrenched in a conformity-driven elite youth ice hockey environment. The following research question was explored: how do parents ascribe meaning to, and learn the behavioral representations of, moral and immoral behaviors in youth ice hockey? Parents’ ( N = 8, M age = 53.13) perspectives of …

Mrs. Dalloway As A Window For Understanding Life , Kristen Venegas 2023 Chapman University

Mrs. Dalloway As A Window For Understanding Life , Kristen Venegas

English (ma) theses.

Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway may be dismissed as fiction, and fiction consequently is dismissed as fantasy. However, the novel enables readers to practice an intellectual exercise of meta-awareness that extends beyond the pages and onto real world phenomena. Under a cognitive neuroscience perspective, Mrs. Dalloway is a literary masterpiece due to its hyper- realistic execution of the intimacies of life. Through the narrative style of free-indirect discourse, Woolf illustrates what occurs in the minds of characters as they develop their own perceptions of reality and identity, exposes the fear and inadequacies of mankind’s distress in times of chaos and disorder …

Psychological Effects Of Immigration: A Comprehensive Review Exploring Social Identity, Acculturation And The Effects Of Cultural Attitudes And Systemic Factors On The Well-Being Of Immigrants , Huda Abu Nasab 2023 University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Psychological Effects Of Immigration: A Comprehensive Review Exploring Social Identity, Acculturation And The Effects Of Cultural Attitudes And Systemic Factors On The Well-Being Of Immigrants , Huda Abu Nasab

Honors theses.

Immigration is a life-altering experience that can greatly affect an individual's identity, sense of belongingness, and well-being. The United States is known as a nation of immigrants; however, many immigrants have faced challenges related to assimilation and the development of their social identities in a new society. For example, immigration challenges often include adapting to a new culture, learning a different language, and navigating unfamiliar healthcare and educational systems. There are many factors that influence how immigrants adjust in their host country, such as acculturation challenges, cultural attitudes towards immigrants, and the availability of essential resources. This literature review aims …

Greater Traditionalism Predicts Covid-19 Precautionary Behaviors Across 27 Societies , Theodore Samore, D. M. T. Fessler, A. M. Sparks, C. Holbrook, L. Aaroe, Norman P. LI, Kai Lin Lynn TAN, et al 2023 University of California, Los Angeles

Greater Traditionalism Predicts Covid-19 Precautionary Behaviors Across 27 Societies , Theodore Samore, D. M. T. Fessler, A. M. Sparks, C. Holbrook, L. Aaroe, Norman P. Li, Kai Lin Lynn Tan, Et Al

Research collection school of social sciences.

People vary both in their embrace of their society’s traditions, and in their perception of hazards as salient and necessitating a response. Over evolutionary time, traditions have offered avenues for addressing hazards, plausibly resulting in linkages between orientations toward tradition and orientations toward danger. Emerging research documents connections between traditionalism and threat responsivity, including pathogen-avoidance motivations. Additionally, because hazard-mitigating behaviors can conflict with competing priorities, associations between traditionalism and pathogen avoidance may hinge on contextually contingent tradeoffs. The COVID-19 pandemic provides a real-world test of the posited relationship between traditionalism and hazard avoidance. Across 27 societies (N = 7844), we …

Prevalence Of Anxiety In College And University Students: An Umbrella Review , Gabriel Xing Da TAN, Xun Ci SOH, Andree HARTANTO, Adalia Yin Hui GOH, Nadyanna M. MAJEED 2023 Singapore Management University

Prevalence Of Anxiety In College And University Students: An Umbrella Review , Gabriel Xing Da Tan, Xun Ci Soh, Andree Hartanto, Adalia Yin Hui Goh, Nadyanna M. Majeed

The pervasiveness of anxiety has been increasing progressively over the years, becoming one of the most critical concerns among colleges and universities. With implications extending towards poorer academic performance and overall student mental health, there is an urgent need to address this growing concern. As such, we conducted an umbrella review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses to summarize data in the literature on the overall prevalence of anxiety among college and university students. Moreover, this umbrella review also considered the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and assessed potential moderators through distinct subgroup analyses. A systematic search was carried out across …

Unmasking And Addressing Burnout In The Mental Health Profession , Sara Edwards 2023 Portland State University

Unmasking And Addressing Burnout In The Mental Health Profession , Sara Edwards

Burnout poses a significant challenge among mental health workers, impacting both the well-being of practitioners and the outcomes for their patients. The key inquiries guiding this literature review are: what factors contribute to burnout, and what interventions are essential for treating and preventing burnout in mental health professionals? The findings reveal that factors such as level of experience, lack of quality supervision, vicarious trauma, working conditions, and personal beliefs significantly contribute to burnout. Effective prevention and treatment measures for mental health workers vulnerable to burnout encompass self-monitoring, participation in support groups, additional training, and organizational interventions. These insights could serve …

Collective Autonomy Restriction: A Theoretical Model And Empirical Investigations , Adrian Rivera-Rodriguez 2023 University of Massachusetts Amherst

Collective Autonomy Restriction: A Theoretical Model And Empirical Investigations , Adrian Rivera-Rodriguez

Doctoral dissertations.

Collective autonomy refers to a group’s freedom to define and practice their own cultural and social identity without interference from other groups. According to the “threat and defense” hypothesis of collective autonomy restriction, group members are motivated to defend their collective autonomy from outside restriction. However, the psychological processes that influence advantaged vs. disadvantaged group members perceptions of collective autonomy, as well as the specific strategies they use to protect collective autonomy, have yet to be articulated. This dissertation presents three manuscripts that examine the social conditions and psychological processes that shape advantaged and disadvantaged group members’ perceptions of collective …

Exploring How Covid-19 Impacts Relationship Dynamics Among Cohabitating Heterosexual And Female Same-Sex Couples , Mishele Kaplan 2023 Western University

Exploring How Covid-19 Impacts Relationship Dynamics Among Cohabitating Heterosexual And Female Same-Sex Couples , Mishele Kaplan

Electronic thesis and dissertation repository.

This qualitative study investigates the experiences of cohabitating heterosexual (n=10) and female same-sex couples (n=8) during the COVID-19 pandemic. It explores how these couples utilized dyadic coping and relational resilience to manage pandemic-related stressors and how their gender identities influenced their responses. Employing a phenomenological approach informed by feminist, queer, and dyadic coping theories, the study reveals that couples strengthened their bonds during the pandemic through intentional communication and novel activities. The findings of the study also highlight that societal perceptions of gender roles continue to exert pressure on individuals, but female same-sex couples demonstrated greater adaptability by challenging these …

Evaluating The Rates Of Opioid Overdose By County In Middle Tn , Khanh Nguyen, Isha Kapoor, Sarah West 2023 Belmont University

Evaluating The Rates Of Opioid Overdose By County In Middle Tn , Khanh Nguyen, Isha Kapoor, Sarah West

Science university research symposium (surs).

Opioid misuse presents a well-documented and substantial threat to human health, with potentially life-threatening issues. Improved access to healthcare and increased social support are believed to contribute to better health outcomes for individuals in higher socioeconomic classes (McMaughan et al. , 2020). Conversely, individuals in lower socioeconomic classes may experience poorer health and engage in more hazardous occupations (Ravesteijn et al. , 2013). These disparities are thought to be linked to factors such as limited access to quality healthcare and greater exposure to non-prescription opioid drugs among those in lower socioeconomic classes. Data was obtained from mySidewalk. Specific variables of …

Analyzing The Prophylactic And Therapeutic Role Of Inoculation To Facilitate Resistance To Conspiracy Theory Beliefs , Alicia Mason, Josh Compton, Emerson Tice, Brooklyn Peterson, Isaac Lewis, Tanner Glenn, Tricia Combs 2023 Pittsburg State University

Analyzing The Prophylactic And Therapeutic Role Of Inoculation To Facilitate Resistance To Conspiracy Theory Beliefs , Alicia Mason, Josh Compton, Emerson Tice, Brooklyn Peterson, Isaac Lewis, Tanner Glenn, Tricia Combs

Faculty submissions.

Conspiracy theories pose a variety of social and psychological consequences for individuals and society, and research suggests that around half of the U.S. population believes at least one. A two-phase inoculation experiment was conducted. Inoculated participants reported more negative general attitudes toward conspiracy theories and lower Phase II generic conspiracist beliefs, which are both indicators of harm-reduction and the beneficial healing impacts of therapeutic inoculation. The addition of therapeutic inoculation as a harm-reduction or healing technique in practitioners’ stakeholder response toolkit is a valuable contribution to both theory and practice.

Book Review: Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths: From Alexander To Hitler To The Corporation , Tim Bakken 2023 United States Military Academy at West Point

Book Review: Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths: From Alexander To Hitler To The Corporation , Tim Bakken

Genocide studies and prevention: an international journal.

The book Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths is a survey of a vast amount of human wrongdoing. It lays bare the motivations of aggressors who wish to subjugate nations or groups of people and corporate executives and government bureaucrats who make discretionary decisions that harm people. Along with cataloging mass killings by despots and soldiers, the book includes stories about Ponzi-schemers and the deaths of automobile drivers and passengers who were killed by vehicle defects known to the manufacturer. The book posits that “[p]owerful, elite forces are trying to force us backward toward a non-democratic state, one where power, wealth, and prerogative …

How Attachment Styles Affect Our Perception Of Daily Activities , Hannah Foley, Harry Lackey, Ella Marks, Wyatt Swaim, Maddie Rowe 2023 Belmont University

How Attachment Styles Affect Our Perception Of Daily Activities , Hannah Foley, Harry Lackey, Ella Marks, Wyatt Swaim, Maddie Rowe

Existing research indicates that social functioning (i.e., emotional motives, social interaction, relationships, interpersonal goals) is associated with personal attachment style (Locke, 2008) and avoidance in emerging adults. Furthermore, attachment styles of individuals can predict daily activities and personal motives (Springstein et al., 2023). While evidence has pointed to interpersonal risk (i.e., physiological safety versus threat) and a sense of security, research has yet to explore these variables in the relationship between attachment styles and helping other individuals in social settings in university students. For our research, we wanted to expand on this past research and test the effects of daily …

Effects Of Framing, Nomenclature, And Aversion To Tampering With Nature On Consumer Acceptance Of Cultivated Meat In Singapore , Mark CHONG, Angela K. Y. LEUNG, Tricia M. FERNANDEZ, Shu Tian NG 2023 Singapore Management University

Effects Of Framing, Nomenclature, And Aversion To Tampering With Nature On Consumer Acceptance Of Cultivated Meat In Singapore , Mark Chong, Angela K. Y. Leung, Tricia M. Fernandez, Shu Tian Ng

Research collection lee kong chian school of business.

This paper comprises a qualitative (Study 1) and a quantitative phase (Study 2). Study 1 aimed to find out what frames and nomenclature would appeal most to meat eaters – including consumers who have eaten cultivated chicken – in Singapore. It also aimed to discover whether perceptions of cultivated meat's naturalness varied across different age groups. Study 2 assessed which message frame and nomenclature were most effective in fostering consumer acceptance of cultivated meat. In addition, it investigated if age was related to the perception of cultivated meat's naturalness and acceptance, and whether aversion to tampering with nature was negatively …

Perceived Stress And Religious Coping Among Pakistani-Origin Emerging Muslim Adults Living In Pakistan And The United States: A Cross-Cultural View , Amna Khan, Kiran Bashir Ahmed 2023 Bahria University Karachi Campus, Institute of Professional Psychology, Karachi, Pakistan

Perceived Stress And Religious Coping Among Pakistani-Origin Emerging Muslim Adults Living In Pakistan And The United States: A Cross-Cultural View , Amna Khan, Kiran Bashir Ahmed

Journal of mind and medical sciences.

This study explored the relationship between Perceived Stress and Religious Coping levels among Muslim emerging adults of Pakistani origin living in Pakistan and Muslim emerging adults of Pakistani origin living in the United States (US). Participants (Pakistani Origin Muslims Living in Pakistan, n= 103; and Pakistani Origin Muslims Living in the US, n=50) were between 18-25 years old. The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-10) and Brief R-Cope scale were administered using an online format. Results indicated that negative religious coping strategies were associated with higher perceived stress in both groups while positive religious coping strategies showed a weaker association with lower …

The Profits Of (The Critique Of) Patriarchy: On Toxic Masculinity, Feminism, & Corporate Capitalism In The Barbie Movie , Bryant W. Sculos 2023 The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

The Profits Of (The Critique Of) Patriarchy: On Toxic Masculinity, Feminism, & Corporate Capitalism In The Barbie Movie , Bryant W. Sculos

Class, race and corporate power.

This article explicates the political, social, economic, and cultural contribution of Barbie (2023). Through a critical and normative analysis of four different prominent reviews of the film, this essay explores the quality of discourse surrounding Barbie , with particular emphasis on its feminist critique of toxic masculinity and lack of a coherent criticism of capitalism.

Evaluating Sud/Oud Treatment Outcomes Related To Vocational Success For Previously Incarcerated Persons: A Review , DorisAnn MM McGinnis, Saba Rasheed Ali 2023 University of Iowa

Evaluating Sud/Oud Treatment Outcomes Related To Vocational Success For Previously Incarcerated Persons: A Review , Dorisann Mm Mcginnis, Saba Rasheed Ali

Psychology from the margins.

The United States criminal justice system’s (CJS) primary purpose is for the rehabilitation of the individuals within it, which calls for a comprehensive evaluation and critique of its effectiveness. Though there are many variables of the CJS that can be evaluated, for those who are battling a substance or opioid use disorder, accessing treatment is particularly difficult. Further, upon release from the jail/prison system, such persons are often expected to maintain certain parameters such as holding a job. The complex interaction between all three of these variables (incarceration history, substance use history, and employment status) have not yet been evaluated …

Survivor Experiences Of Male Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Literature Review , Elizabeth Burch B.S., Joseph T. Kenneally Psy.D., Stephanie Zepeda PhD 2023 Our Lady of the Lake University

Survivor Experiences Of Male Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Literature Review , Elizabeth Burch B.S., Joseph T. Kenneally Psy.D., Stephanie Zepeda Phd

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes childhood sexual abuse (CSA) as a global health issue. CSA is a human violation that affects both female and male children and has a stronger detrimental impact on mental health than other traumatic childhood experiences. Despite a growing awareness of male survivors of CSA, male survivors are a marginalized group as most CSA research focuses on females. In addition, masculine norms can keep male adults from disclosing further, which can delay support and increase mental health issues. This meta- analysis reviews the current literature on this group of marginalized people and concludes with a …

A Culturally Informed Treatment For The Black Community: Using Rap Therapy And Belief Systems Analysis Together , Aaron Bethea 2023 University of Akron

A Culturally Informed Treatment For The Black Community: Using Rap Therapy And Belief Systems Analysis Together , Aaron Bethea

Rap therapy and Belief Systems Analysis are both culturally sensitive treatment approaches that were developed to treat African Americans. Both of these treatment approaches were developed out of strategies that African Americans have used as means of being resilient in the face of oppressive circumstances. These treatment approaches can be used conjointly to help enhance the well-being of African American clients. Both approaches help clients develop more positive, healthier outlooks and perspectives. Rap therapy can be very helpful in establishing rapport, and helping clients have a comfortable means of expressing their thoughts and feelings. Belief Systems Analysis can provide a …

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Social Psychology Research Paper

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In an early appraisal of American social psychology, Albion Small (1916) traced the springs of that intellectual enterprise to the Civil War, when people “whose thought-world had been stirred to its depths by the war found themselves in 1865 star-gazing in social heavens that had never looked so confused nor so mysterious” (p. 724). The war had dispelled American’s naive beliefs that “a constitution and laws enacted in the pursuance thereof would automatically produce human welfare,” thus forcing recognition “that work was ahead to bring American conditions into tolerable likeness of American ideals” (pp. 724–725). Social psychology, according to Small, was born of those social conditions, a maturation of intellectual consciousness, including a growing independence from European thought and, as his astronomical metaphor intimates, an appreciation of the “social” as a phenomenon appropriate to scientific study. Another early historical appraiser, Fay Karpf (1932), wrote that only with these preconditions “did an American intellectual selfconscientiousness begin to assert itself in the fields directly of significance for social psychology” (p. 213).

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This wide-angled perspective on the history of social psychology appreciates the multiple and diverse efforts undertaken in at least a half a dozen disciplines to render rational, coherent explanations of social action and the relations between the individual and society. It is a history that ultimately must attend to classic texts as varied in their rendition of the social world as, for example, Edward Ross’s (1901) Social Control, William I. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki’s (1920), The Polish Peasant in Europe and America, George Herbert Mead’s (1934) Mind, Self, and Society, and William James’s (1890) Principles of Psychology . With an even more comprehensive gaze, historians also need to register more recent “extracurricular” social psychology, which includes texts as wide ranging as Richard Sennet’s (1974) Fall of Public Man, Betty Friedan’s (1963) The Feminine Mystique, and Lewis Thomas’s (1974) Lives of a Cell . On another plane, that of discipline boundaries, historical accounting must measure social psychology’s multiplicity: its nascent emergence across the social sciences and its eventual blossoming in sociology and psychology (Karpf, 1934; Loy, 1976). This prospective inclusive history would consider, too, the numerous blueprints for systematic theory, including pragmatism, behaviorism, psychoanalysis, cognition, discourse, symbolic interaction, social learning, evolution, phenomenology, dramaturgy, balance, and gestalt. In one sense this would yield a historical telling that reverberates with setting the distinctly psychological terms of modernity, principally the discipline’s detection and naming of what comes to be taken as the “psychological” in the social life of Americans. In another sense social psychology’s story, broadly told, would contribute to explicating late-twentieth-century America’s shift from belief in a distinctly modern individual to a postmodern subject.

This transition involves the scientific inscription of multiple social selves, cybernetic loops between self and other, and a reworking of psychology’s subject. Perhaps it was in recognizing these civilian engagements of social psychology—its contributions to defining psychological personhood—that Gordon Allport revised his initial history of social psychology with the opening claim that “Social psychology is an ancient discipline. It is also modern—ultramodern and exciting” (1985, p. 1).

In recognizing the material and political influences on the intellectual conceptions of the social and individual, such historical understanding comprehends how “the history of social psychology is inseparable from much of the political history of the twentieth century and from argument about power, justice, freedom and obligation” (Smith, 1997, p. 747). Social psychology’s evolution must be understood, therefore, as plural, multisited, and morally and politically inspired. Such a historical perspective situates social psychology as one, albeit crucial, project to understand human nature through scientific method, and ultimately, to apply that scientific knowledge to the enhancement of human welfare.

Contrasted with this situated historical perspective is a narrative accounting of social psychology that charts the field’s rise and contributions on progressive terms (Allport, 1954; Jones, 1985). In this progressive history crucial laboratory experiments are named to serve as pivotal points in social psychology’s development as scientific. Disregarded in these scientifically internalist accounts are political and moral as well as disciplinary conditions that compelled particular models of the individual and the social. Similarly eschewed are empirical projects initiated but abandoned, alternative models and research practices, and challenges to the scientific status quo. In preparing this research paper, we were at once pulled in one direction by the need to trace fruition of these progressive intellectual commitments within experimental work, and tugged in another by the desire to generate an earnest account of the sociopolitical dynamics and the vibrant intellectual enterprises that yielded multiple, sometimes controversial conceptions of social psychology. Without giving the paper over to one or the other historical narrative, we seek to chart those culminating forces in social psychology’s subject matter, its continuing struggles over research methods, and its stronghold in the public imagination of twentieth-century American life. Factors influencing social psychology’s emergence, development, and paradigmatic commitments, considered in conjunction with the social identity and demeanor of the social psychologist, frame our review, as does social psychology’s broader concern with the nature of what is taken as the individual and the social.

The first section begins this charting of emergences in a variety of proposals published in the final decade of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth. Factors that shaped the contours of social psychology, choices that delimited ideal methods, the nature of what is taken as social, and the demeanor of the social psychologist are reviewed in the second section. In the third part, several classic projects undertaken prior to and during World War II are described: These cases illuminate the interdependence of science, culture, and politics, charting the postwar emergence of a society yearning to be understood in psychological terms (Herman, 1995) and of a field increasingly self-aware of its reflexive entanglements with the very subjects it sought to study. The final two sections describe social movements and intellectual endeavors from the 1960s to the end of the century, highlighting cybernetic influences and wider Western intellectual debates on the nature of knowledge as well as more specific theories that ultimately served to transform time and again social psychology’s subject.

Social Heavens and the New Century

If the social confusions rent by the Civil War prompted new observations of the “social heavens,” as Small conjectured, then subsequent social changes certainly heightened the sense that the “social” urgently needed to be observed, understood, and even corrected or improved. Stirring the social order, too, were heightened industrialization, urbanization, and immigration along with dramatic economic swings during the final decades of the nineteenth century. In heeding such enormous changes, “the role of knowledge must be seen as potentially crucial, not only in bringing about social change, but in defining identities appropriate to a changed reality” (Rosenberg, 1979, p. 443). Social phenomena as wide-scale as economic trends and international wars, along with those as minute as smiling behaviors and marital relations, captured the attention of political scientists, sociologists, economists, and psychologists alike. As researchers proceeded to generate novel theories and elaborate prolegomena for research programs, their energies were dedicated to locating the causes of social processes and cataloging their variations.

In America the social scientific mission, while displaying a theoretical pluralism, nevertheless shared several premises about society and individuals as social beings. These projects drew upon new notions of human nature inspired by evolutionary theory, studies of the unconscious, and major reconceptualizations of the physical universe. No longer was it assumed that human nature could be understood using notions of the autonomous individual, moral sentiments, rational cognitions, and the unilinear causality of human action. In recognizing that human nature was more complex than these classic notions supposed, social scientists came to understand human action as not inherently moral, rational, autonomous, or self-conscious but rather socially interdependent, multicausal, nonrational, and amoral (Haskell, 1977). Religion, morality, and philosophy consequently became inadequate for explaining human nature; however, although human nature was seen as complex, it was not deemed unknowable, and the second premise of the new social scientific projects entailed an unconditional belief that scientific method alone could produce valid knowledge about the social world. Finally, the discovery of the complex and partially subterranean currents of human nature along with faith in scientific rationality were, in the minds of most American social scientists, inextricably intertwined with commitments to social reform and human betterment (Leary, 1980; Morawski, 1982). For John Dewey (1900), then newly elected president of the American Psychological Association, the promise of a science of the laws of social life was inseparable from social change. He wrote that social psychology itself “is the recognition that the existing order is determined neither by fate nor by chance, but is based on law and order, on a system of existing stimuli and modes of reaction, through knowledge of which we can modify the practical outcome” (p. 313). For William McDougall (1908) social psychology would produce the “moralisation of the individual” out of the “creature in which the non-moral and purely egoistic tendencies are so much stronger than any altruistic tendencies” (p. 18). Two decades later Knight Dunlap (1928) essentially identified the field with social remediation, calling social psychology “but a propadeutic to the real subject of ameliorating social problems through scientific social control” (p. xx).

American social science, including what was to take form as social psychology, stepped onto a platform built of a sturdy scientific rationality and a curiously optimistic anticipation of scientifically guided social control. As J. W. Sprowls reflected in 1930, “American politics, philanthropy, industry, jurisprudence, education, and religion have demanded a science of control and prediction of human behavior, not required by similar but less dynamic institutional counterparts in other countries” (p. 380). The new understandings of human nature as complex, amoral, and not entirely rational, however, could have yielded other intellectual renderings. Many European scholars constructed quite different theories, self-consciously reflecting upon the complexities of the unconscious and the implications of nonlinear causality and refusing to set aside two challenging but fundamental manifestations of human sociality: language and culture. They directed their science of social phenomena toward the aims of historical and phenomenological understanding, notably toward hermeneutics and psychoanalysis (Bauman, 1978; Steele, 1982).

By contrast, purchased on a stand of positivist science and optimistic reformism, American intellectuals confronted the apparent paradox of championing the rationality of progressive democratic society while at the same time asserting the irrationality of human action (see Soffer, 1980). These scientists consequently faced an associated paradox of deploying rational scientific procedures to assay the irrationality of human conduct. Despite these paradoxes, or maybe because of them, American social psychologists engineered their examinations of the microdynamics of social thought and action by simultaneously inventing, discovering, and reproducing social life in methodically regulated research settings. The paradoxes were overwritten by a model of reality consisting of three assertions: the unquestionable veracity of the scientific (experimental) method, the fundamental lawfulness of human nature, and the essential psychological base of human social life.

The early psychological perspectives on the social dynamics of human nature were neither universally nor consistently tied to these three premises about human nature, and for that reason many of these bold pilot ventures are omitted from conventional textbook histories of psychology’s social psychology. Given that the individual was a central analytic category in their discipline, psychologists were drawn toward understanding the nature of the social in terms of its fundamental relations to the individual. By the last decade of the nineteenth century they began to generate a variety of theoretical perspectives, alternatively defining the social dimensions of the individual as mental functions, consciousness, evolutionary products (or by-products), human faculties, or historically emergent properties. A sampling of these psychological conceptions advanced around the turn of the century illustratestheremarkablevarietiesofintellectualoptionsavailable for developing a psychological social psychology.

The Social as Dynamic and Moral: James and Baldwin

For William James, whose 1890 landmark introductory psychology textbook, The Principles of Psychology, offers provocative treatises on the social, humans are intrinsically gregarious. This fundamental sociality includes “an innate propensity to get ourselves noticed, and noticed favorable by our kind” (James, 1890, I, p. 293).Although evolutionary theorists already had postulated a biological basis of sociality in terms of selection and survival, James interjected a radical addendum into that postulate. While he, too, defined the social self as a functional property, his social was not a singular self but rather plural selves: “Properly speaking, a man has as many social selves as there are individuals who recognize him and carry an image of him in their mind” (p. 294). When he added that “To wound any one of these images is to wound him,” plurality became the essence of the individual. James claimed, for instance, that the personal acquaintances of an individual necessarily result in “a division of the man into several selves; and this may be a discordant splitting, as where one is afraid to let one set of his acquaintances know him as he is elsewhere; or it may be a perfectly harmonious division of labor, as where one tender to his children is stern to the soldiers or prisoners under his command” (p. 294). James’s social self is complex, fragile, interdependent, and diachronic: The social self is “a Thought, at each moment different from that of the last moment, but appropriative of the latter, together with all that the latter called its own” (p. 401). The social self constitutes an object that is not readily accessible to scrutiny using scientific methods or explicable in simple deterministic laws of action.

James’s mercurial, complex social psychological actor bearsstrikingsimilaritiestoJamesMarkBaldwin’s(1897)social individual rendered just 7 years later in Social and Ethical Interpretations in Mental Development: A Study in Social Psychology. Baldwin asserted the fundamental nature of the individual and posited that psychological phenomena could be explained only in relation to the social. In other words, the individual self can take shape only because of and within a social world. Baldwin’s conceptualized “self” at once has agency to act in the world as well as being an object of that world. Delineating a “dialectic of personal growth” (p. 11), wherein the self develops through a response to or imitation of other persons, Baldwin challenged late-nineteenth-century notions of an authentic or unified self and proposed, instead, that “ A man is a social outcome rather than a social unit. He is always in his greatest part, also some one else. Social acts of his—that is, acts which may not prove anti-social—are his because they are society’s first; otherwise he would not have learned them nor have had any tendency to do them” (p. 91).

Baldwin’s self was more deeply rooted in society than was James’s; yet, they shared an overriding distrust of society and consequently created a central place for ethics in their social psychologies.And like James, Baldwin was a methodological pluralist, insisting that social psychology demanded multiple methods: historical and anthropological, sociological and statistical, and genetic (psychological and biological). Baldwin ultimately held that individual psychology is, in fact, social psychology because the individual is a social product and could be understood only by investigating every aspect of society, from institutions to ethical doctrines. It is in this broader conception of the individual as a fundamentally social being that Baldwin differs most strikingly from James: His model directly suggested psychology’s social utility through its enhanced knowledge of the individual in society, and in this sense he shared closer kinship with John Dewey in the latter’s call for a practical social psychology (Collier, Minton, & Reynolds, 1991). However, in a gesture more nineteenth century than twentieth, Baldwin placed his intellectual faith in human change not in psychology’s discovery of techniques of social regulation but rather in a Darwinian vision of the evolution of ethics.

Scientific Specificity and the Social

James’s and Baldwin’s theories of the social self were embedded in their respective programmatic statements for psychology more generally. Other psychologists prepared more modest treatises on the social self. Among the studies contained in psychology journals of the last decade of the century are various studies depicting social psychology as anthropological-historical, as evolutionary and mechanistic, and as experimental science. For instance, Quantz (1898) undertook a study of humans’ relations to trees, describing dozens of myths and cultural practices to demonstrate the virtues of a social evolutionary explanation of customs, beliefs, and the individual psyche. Using historical and anthropological records, he theorized that humans evolved to use reason except under certain social circumstances, where we regress to lower evolutionary status. Such historical researches were held to inform human conduct; for instance, understanding how social evolution is recapitulated in individual development leads us to see how “an education which crowds out such feelings, or allows them to atrophy from disuse, is to be seriously questioned” (p. 500). In contrast to Quantz’s descriptive, historical approach but in agreement with his evolutionary perspective, Sheldon (1897) reported a study of the social activities of children using methods of quantification and standardization to label types of people (boys and girls, different social classes) and forms of sociality (altruism, gang behavior). Incorporating both a mechanistic model of control and evolutionary ideas about social phenomena (sociality), Sheldon detected the risks of social-psychological regression to less evolved forms and, consequently, strongly advocated scientifically guided social regulation of human conduct. Soon after, Triplett’s (1898) study of competition bore no obvious evolutionary theorizing (or any other theory) but advanced an even stronger mechanistic model and scientific methodology. With its precise control, manipulation, and measurement of social variables, Triplett’s experiment compared a subject’s performance winding a fishing reel when undertaking the task alone or in competition with others. His experimental report offers no theoretical appreciation of the concepts of “social” or the relation of the individual to society; instead, what is social is simply operationalized as the residual effect when all other components of an action are factored out. Triplett baldly concluded, “From the above facts regarding the laboratory races we infer that the bodily presence of another contestant participating simultaneously in the race serves to liberate latent energy not ordinarily available” (p. 533). Here the social has no unique properties, appears to abide by determinist laws, and requires no special investigative methods or theories.

The research projects of Quantz, Sheldon, and Triplett along with the theoretical visions of James and Baldwin serve not to register some distinct originating moment in psychology’s social psychology but rather to exemplify the diversity of theories and methodologies available as the new century commenced. Evolution, ethics, history, and mechanics supplied viable theoretical bases for social psychology, and historical, observational, and experimental techniques likewise furnished plausible methods of inquiry. These promising foundations of a discipline were engaged in the investigation of varied social phenomena, but these protosocial psychologists were especially attentive to two objects: the crowd or “mob” mind and “suggestion,” a hypothesized property that purportedly accounted for considerable social behaviors.

A decade later the field had garnered enough scholarly interest to become the subject of two textbooks. William McDougall’s (1908) Introduction to Social Psychology engaged Darwinian theory to propose the idea of the evolution of social forms and, more specifically, the construct of instincts or innate predispositions. According to McDougall, instincts— “the springs of human action” (p. 3)—consist of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral components that have evolved to constitute the fundamental dynamics of social behaviors and interactions. The same year, Edward A. Ross’s (1908) Social Psychology, taking a more sociological orientation, proffered an interpretation of society as an aggregate of individual social actions. Ross called his combination of sociological and psychological precepts a “psycho-sociology.”

Numerous accounts record 1908, the year of the textbooks, as the origin of the discipline. In fact, the first two decades of the century witnessed a proliferation of studies, theories, and pronouncements on the field. Some historians consequently labeled this interval of social psychological work as the age of schools and theories; they list among the new theory perspectives those of instinct, imitation, neo-Hegelian or Chicago, psychoanalytic,behaviorist,andgestalt(Faris,1937;Frumkin, 1958; Woodard, 1945). Others have depicted the era as conflictual, fraught with major controversies and theoretical problems (Britt, 1937a, 1937b; Deutsch & Krauss, 1965; Faris, 1937; Woodard, 1945). As one historical commentator remarked, “Itwasaround 1911 or 1912 that things really began to happen. The second decade of the century witnessed all kinds of ferment” (Faris, 1937, p. 155). George Herbert Mead’s inventive theory of the social self and Charles Horton Cooley’s conceptualization of groups mark the ingenuity circulating throughout this ferment (Karpf, 1932; Meltzer, 1959; Scheibe, 1985).

For many, eventual resolution of these varied perspectives materialized with a metatheoretical conviction that social psychology was essentially reductive to psychology. In the words of one commentator, there emerged “a settled conviction that patterns as matters of individual acquisition will explain all psychological phenomena, social and individual. As investigation proceeds, the once widely accepted notion that individual psychology is one thing, and social psychology another, has found a place in the scrapheap of exploded psychological presuppositions” (Sprowls, 1930, p. 381). Along with the benefits of a largely established niche within universities and colleges, the discipline of psychology afforded would-be researchers of social life a set of scientific practices that positioned them at the forefront of the social science’s search for objective methods and purportedly value-free discourse (Ross, 1979).

A Social Psychology to Serve Psychology and Society

In the years surroundingWorldWar I and the more prosperous 1920s, many of these innovative ideas about social psychologydid,infact,endupinascrapheap,replacedbythebelief that psychology provided an appropriate and rich home for social psychology. Psychology offered tantalizing research methods—objective methods. More importantly, psychology manifested a conviction that through this scientific perspective, mental life could be explained as deterministic and lawful (O’Donnell, 1979). By this time psychology was relatively well established as a professional discipline with a progressive scientific association, journals, textbooks, and independent departments in many colleges and universities (Camfield, 1969; Fay, 1939; O’Donnell, 1985). Professional security, however, was just one resource that psychology offered social psychological inquiry. Figuring more prominently among its investigative resources was psychology’s overarching conception of the individual and the potential utility of scientific knowledge.

By the 1920s the discipline of psychology had generated a program for interrogating human nature that coupled the late-nineteenth-century recognition that humans were at once more complex and less rational than previously was believed with a growing sense that both individuals and society needed scientific guidance. Moral sentiments, character, individual autonomy, and self-reliance now seemed inadequate for the social scientific task of understanding the dynamics, complexity, and interdependence of human thought and actions (Haskell, 1977; Ross, 1979). American psychologists were proposing something distinctly more modern about mental life: The functionalist idea of individual adaptations to a continually changing environment, an idea nurtured by evolutionary theory, promised a coherent model for penetrating beyond proximate causes, perceiving dynamic action rather than static structures, and observing complex connectedness rather than unilinear causation. In turn, this functionalist viewpoint opened a conceptual place for behaviorism with its hypothesized mechanisms for explaining microscopic processes of adaptation within the individual. Using a double discourse of the natural and the mechanistic (Seltzer, 1992), psychology afforded a rich, if sometimes contradictory, conception of the individual as at once a natural organism produced through evolution and as operating under mechanistic principles. This “mechanical man” of behaviorism (Buckley, 1989) was promising both as an object of scientific scrutiny and as a target of social control despite the fact that it seemed at odds with the white middle-class sense of psychological complexity: Americans were envisioning self as personality realized through presentation of self, consumption, fulfillment, confidence, sex appeal, and popularity (Lears, 1983; Morawski, 1997; Susman, 1985). The popularization of psychoanalysis promoted understandings of the self as deep, dynamic, and nonrational and, consequently, heightened anxieties about managing this self (Pfister, 1997).

The apparent tensions between deterministic notions of mental life and a dynamic if anxious conception of often irrational human tendencies, however, proved productive for the social and political thinking in the first three decades of the century. The Progressive Era, spanning 1900 to 1917, yielded a series of social reforms marked by firm beliefs in the possibility of efficient and orderly progress and equality—in social betterment (Gould, 1974; Wiebe, 1967) and the centrality of scientific guidance of social and political life (Furner, 1975; Haber, 1964; Wiebe, 1967). Although World War I caused considerable disillusionment about the possibility of rational human conduct, it also provided concrete evidence of both the efficacy and need for scientific expertise to design social controls—to undertake “social engineering” (Graebner, 1980; Kaplan, 1956; Tobey, 1971). Even the acrimonious social commentator Floyd Dell (1926) lauded the new scientific professionals who “undertake therapeutically the tasks of bringing harmony, order and happiness into inharmonious, disorderly and futile lives” (p. 248). Psychologists’ active involvement in the war effort, largely through construction and administration of intelligence tests, demonstrated their utility just as it provided them with professional contacts for undertaking postwar projects (Camfield, 1969; Napoli, 1975; Sokal, 1981; Samelson, 1985). It was in this spirit that John Dewey (1922), an early proponent of psychological social psychology, announced that ensuring democracy and social relations depended on the growth of a “scientific social psychology” (p. 323). Likewise, Floyd Allport (1924) devoted a major part of his famous textbook, Social Psychology, to “social control,” which he believed essential for the “basic requirements for a truly democratic social order” (p. 415). Knight Dunlap (1928) pronounced that social psychology was “but a propadeutic to the real subject” of ameliorating social problems through techniques of control, and Joseph Jastrow (1928), another psychologist interested in social psychology, urged psychologists studying the social to join “the small remnant of creative and progressive thinkers who can see even this bewildering world soundly and see it whole. Such is part of the psychologist’s responsibility” (p. 436). Social psychology, then, would examine precisely those dimensions of human life that were critical to matters of social control and, if investigated at the level of individual actors, would prescribe circumscribed remedies for pressing social problems.

What distinguished the emerging social psychology from earlier propositions was a set of assumptions materializing within scientific psychology more generally: a belief in the irrational, amoral bases of human nature; a mechanistic, reductionist model of human thought and behavior; the scientific aspirations to prediction and control; and a firm conviction that the resultant scientific knowledge would provide an ameliorative guide to social practice .  Reductionist and mechanistic models conceptualized social phenomena as events at the level of the individual, while the associated scientific aspirations to prediction and control prescribed the use of experimental methods of inquiry. Notably absent from this umbrella program were construals of moral agency, dynamic selfhood, culture, and the dialectic relations between the individual and society that were theorized just a short time earlier.

This rising social psychology, however, harbored several complications and paradoxes. First, psychologists, including the newly self-defined social psychologists, recognized a dilemma of their own complicity: They too inhabit a social world and sometimes act in irrational, emotional ways, but scientific expertise demanded something different, primarily rationality and emotional detachment (Morawski, 1986a, 1986b). Second, the idea of having superior understandings of the social world and the specific knowledge of what constitutes optimal social relations and institutions are unequivocally evaluative claims; yet these claims stood alongside an earnest belief that science is value free, disinterested, and objective.  Twinning these latter two incompatible commitments yielded a conflict between utopian or “Baconian” morality, where science serves as an instrument of human improvement, and a “Newtonian” morality, where science serves the rational pursuit of true understandings of nature (Leary, 1980; Toulmin, 1975). Third, the commitment to rigorous, predictive science demanded that discrete variables be investigated under assiduously controlled conditions (typically in the laboratory). Ironically, these experimental conditions actually produced new social phenomena (Suls & Rosnow, 1988), and “The search for precise knowledge created a new subject matter isolated from the wider society; but the justification for the whole research was supposedly its value to this wider world” (Smith, 1997, pp. 769–770). Experimental social psychology, explaining social phenomena in terms of the individual, was soon to dominate the field but did not entirely escape these three tensions; they would continue to surface intermittently. While triumphant, the experimental psychological program for social psychology was not without its critics, some of whom would propose alternative scientific models.

Social Psychology During the Interwar Years

Progressive science.

Evolutionary notions of social instinct and mechanical notions of radical behaviorism were entertained by social psychologists and the laity alike through the 1920s, albeit with considerable disagreement about their appropriateness. By World War II social psychology comprised a productive research program that in relatively little time had yielded credible models of how individuals interact with others or function in the social world. Appropriating the behaviorist worldview that was rapidly ascending in psychology, Floyd Allport defined social psychology as “ the science which studies the behavior of the individual in so far as his behavior stimulates other individuals, or is itself a reaction to their behavior; and which describes the consciousness of the individual in so far as it is a consciousness of social objects and social relations ” (1924, p. 12). Many scholars have deemed Allport’s Social Psychology foundational for an experimental social psychology that emphatically took the individual to be the site of social phenomena. (For an account of the discipline’s “origin myths,” including Allport’s work, see Samelson, 1974, 2000.) This “asocial” social psychology followed its parent, psychology, in its ever-growing fascination with experimentation and statistical techniques of investigation (Danziger, 1990; Hornstein, 1988; Winston, 1990; Winston & Blais, 1996), increasing considerably after World War II (Stam, Radtke, & Lubek, 2000). Allport’s text was largely one of boundary charting for the researchers who explored the new field. However, it also is important to see that during the interwar period Allport’s introduction comprised but one scientific stream in “a set of rivulets, some of them stagnating, dammed up, or evaporating . . . and others swept up in the larger stream originating elsewhere, if still maintaining a more or less distinctive coloration” (Samelson, 2000, p. 505).

One of these rivulets flowed from the Progressive Era desiderata that social scientific experts devise scientific techniques of social control and took more precise form through the rubric of the individual’s “personal adjustment” to the social world (Napoli, 1975). Linking social psychology to the emerging field of personality (Barenbaum, 2000) on the one hand, and to industrial psychology with its attendant commercial ventures on the other, the idea of personal adjustment undergirds substantial research on attitudes, opinions, and the relations between individual personality and social behavior. Employing the first scale to measure masculinity and femininity, a scale that became the prototype for many such tests, for instance, Terman and Miles (1936) were able to observe the relations between an individual’s psychological sex identification and problems in their social functioning such as marital discord (Morawski, 1994). Another example of such adjustment research is seen in what has come to be called the “Hawthorne experiment” (purportedly the first objective social psychology experiment in the “real world”), which investigated not individual personality but the individual’s adjustment within groups to changes in workplace conditions. The experiment is the source of the eponymous “Hawthorne effect,” the reported finding that “the workers’ attitude toward their job and the special attention they received from the researchers and supervisors was as important as the actual changes in conditions themselves, if not more so” (Collier, Minton, & Reynolds, 1991, p. 139).Archival examination of the Hawthorne experiments indicates a rather different history: These “objective” experiments actually entailed prior knowledge of the effects of varying workplace conditions, suppression of problematic and contradictory data, and class-based presumptions about workers, especially female employees, as less rational and subject to “unconscious” reactions (Bramel & Friend, 1981; Gillespie, 1985, 1988). Such unreported psychological dynamics of the experimental situation, dynamics later to be called “artifacts” (Suls & Rosnow, 1988), went undocumented in these and other experimental ventures despite the fact that some psychologists were describing them as methodological problems (Rosenzweig, 1933; Rudmin, Trimpop, Kryl, & Boski, 1987).

In 1936 Muzafer Sherif extended social psychology to psychologists themselves, who, he suggested, are “no exception to the rule about the impress of cultural forces.” Sherif admonished social psychologists for such disregard—for their “lack of perspective”—arguing that “Whenever they study human nature, or make comparisons between different groups of people, without first subjecting their own norms to critical revision in order to gain the necessary perspective, they force the absolutism of their subjectivity or their community-centrism upon all the facts, even those laboriously achieved through experiment” (p. 9).

Making and Finding Social Relevance

Another stream of research entailed the study of “attitudes,” which in 1935 Gordon Allport called “the most distinctive and indispensable concept in American social psychology” (p. 798). Scientific study of attitudes shared kinship with Progressive ideals to scientifically assess beliefs and opinions of the populace and ultimately was to have political and commercial uses, especially in advertising and marketing (Lears, 1992). It is through controlled, quantitative attitude studies that social psychologists significantly refined their experimental techniques of control and numeric exactitude, notably through development of sampling techniques, psychometric scales, questionnaire formats, and technical approaches to assessing reliability and validity (Katz, 1988). In his 1932 review of social psychology L. L. Bernard wrote, “Scale and test making is almost a science in itself utilized by social psychologists in common with the educationists [ sic ], the industrial and business management people, and in fact by most of the vocational interests in the United States” (p. 279). Bernard detected the wide-scale market value of these psychological technologies, especially their compatibility with and rising ethos of quantification: “There is a strong tendency in this country to find a method of measuring all forms of behavior and nothing is regarded as a demonstrated fact in social psychology or elsewhere until it has been measured or counted and classified” (p. 279).

In the 1930s social psychology’s original aim of aiding social welfare, albeit muted by intensive efforts to realize the challenging goal of experimentation on social processes, became more pronounced. Throughout the remainder of the century social psychology would exhibit similar swings back and forth between worldly or political aspirations and scientific ones (Apfelbaum, 1986, p. 10). Aswing was indeed occurring in this decade: Psychologist-turned-journalist Grace Adams (1934) chided psychologists for their failure to predict the stock market crash of 1929 culminating in worldwide depression, but soon after social psychologists persevered in probing the depression’s complex social effects. The commitment to investigations that more or less directly serve social betterment grew wider in the 1930s and 1940s. However visible these reformist efforts, historians disagree about the political philosophy underlying the research: Whereas some scholars assume the philosophical basis was simply objective science applied to nonlaboratory conditions, others see a more engaged politics, including a benignly democratic, elitist “democratic social engineering” or “New Deal” liberalism (Graebner, 1980; Richards, 1996; van Elteren, 1993). The political atmosphere certainly included a sense of professional survival as evidenced by psychologists’ mobilization to create an organization devoted to studying social problems, the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (Finison, 1976, 1979; Napoli, 1975).

Aggression was a prime social problem identified in the 1930s, and the researchers who formulated what was to become a dominant view in aggression research, the frustrationaggression hypothesis, retrospectively produced a list of events that precipitated the research. In addition to the depression, the list included the Spanish Civil War, racism and the caste system of the South, anti-Semitism in Germany, and labor unrest and strikes. Combining the odd bedfellows of behavior theory and Freudian psychoanalysis, a group of Yale University psychologists hypothesized “that the occurrence of aggressive behavior always presupposes the existence of frustration and, contrariwise, that the existence of frustration always leads to some form of aggression” (Dollard, Doob, Miller, Mowrer, & Sears, 1939). Extended to studies of concrete situations—frustrated laboratory rats, poor southerners, unemployed husbands, and adolescents—the frustration-aggression hypothesis constituted a truly “sociallyrelevant” social psychology.The hypothesis pressed a view of the social individual as notalwaysaware of his or her actions, as motivated by factors about which he or she was not fully conscious.

Political and professional affairs inspired social psychologists to engage more directly in social-action-related research; also influencing such research was the formation of a more ethnically diverse research community, including Jewish émigrés who had fled Germany and whose backgrounds entailed dramatically different personal experiences and intellectual beliefs. Franz Samelson (1978) has suggested that these new ethnic dimensions, including researchers more likely sensitized to prejudice, were influential in shaping research on racial prejudice, discrimination, and stereotypes and the consequential move away from American psychology’s biologicallybasednotionofracedifference.InthecaseofKurtLewin, heralded by many as the most important social psychologist of the century, his own experiences, coupled with the influence of European socialism, shaped his studies of labor conditions that considered foremost the perspective of the workers and attended to the broader context in which events, including labor, transpire (van Elteren, 1993). The influence of émigré social psychologists is evident in the scientific investigations of the psychology of fascism and anti-Semitism; most notable of this socially responsive work is the authoritarian personality theory (Samelson, 1985), discussed more in a later section.

Some streams of intellectual activity, to extend Samelson’s metaphor of the field’s watercourse, eventually evaporate or are dammed. Despite economic scarcity or perhaps because of it, the 1930s proved a fertile period of innovations, although most of these noncanonical ideas did not survive long. Katherine Pandora (1997) has recovered and documented one such innovative gesture in the interwar work of Garner Murphy, Lois Barclay Murphy, and Gordon Allport through which they “rejected the image of the laboratory as an ivory tower, contested the canons of objectivity that characterized current research practice, and argued against reducing nature and the social worlds to the lowest possible terms” (1997, p. 3). They also questioned the prevailing conceptions of democracy and the moral implications of social scientific experts’ interest in adjusting individuals to their social environment. These psychologists’differences with the status quo were sharp, as witnessed by Gordon Allport’s claim that “To a large degree our division of labor is forced, not free; young people leaving our schools for a career of unemployment become victims of arrested emotional intellectual development; our civil liberties fall short of our expressed ideal. Only the extension of democracy to those fields where democracy is not at present fully practiced—to industry, education and administration, and to race relations for examples—can make possible the realization of infinitely varied purposes and the exercise of infinitely varied talents” (Allport, quoted in Pandora, 1997, p. 1). His stance on the relation of the individual to society, and on the state of society, stands in stark contrast to the elitist models of social control, personal adjustment, and democratic social engineering that inhered in most social psychology. Their dismissal of the dominant meaning of the two central terms of social psychology, the “individual” and “social,” as well as their critiques of conventional laboratory methods, enabled them to propose what Pandora calls “experiential modernism”: the historically guided “search for scientific forms of knowing that would unsettle conventional ways of thinking without simultaneously divorcing reason from feeling, and thus from the realm of moral sentiments” (p. 15).

Another attempt to alter mainstream social psychology is foundinKurtLewin’sendeavorstoreplacethediscipline’sindividualist orientation with the study of groups qua groups, to apply gestalt principles instead of thinking in terms of discrete variables and linear causality, and to deploy experiments inductively (to illustrate a phenomenon) rather than to use them deductively (to test hypotheses) (Danziger, 1992, 2000). Other now largely forgotten innovations include J. F. Brown’s (1936; Minton, 1984) proposal for a more economically based and Lewinian social psychology, and Gustav Icheiser’s phenomenological theories along with his social psychology of the psychology experiment (Bayer & Strickland, 1990; Rudmin, Trimpop, Kryl, & Boski, 1987). By the time of the United States’entrance into World War II in 1941, social psychology had acquired both a nutrient-rich professional niche within psychology and a set of objective techniques for probing individuals’ thoughts and actions when interacting with other individuals. While social psychology’s ability to generate scientific knowledge still was regarded suspiciously by some psychologists, social psychologists nevertheless became actively involved in war-related research. They confidently took the helm of government-sponsored studies of propaganda, labor, civilian morale, the effects of strategic bombing, and attitudes. The war work proved to have so strengthened social psychologists’ solidarity that one participant claimed, “The Second World War has brought maturity to social psychology” (Cartwright, quoted in Capshew, 1999, p. 127). After the war psychological experts were challenged to generate both relevant and convincingly objective research and form alliances with those in positions of power (Harris, 1998). However promising to the field’s future, that organizational gain was achieved at the cost of damming up some of the field’s investigative channels, narrowing further the acceptable options for theory and methods alike. This scientific service experience also permeated the core conceptions of human kinds, and during the postwar years the conception of the individual–social world relation would evolve significantly from the Progressive and interwar scenario of more or less mechanical actors needing adjustment to efforts to refine the machinery of society.

Social Psychology From Post–World War II and Post-Mechanism to Post-Positivism

World war ii era.

For many historians of social psychology, the two world wars often bracket significant shifts within the discipline. Both world wars brought with them pronounced expansions of psychology, ones that eventually found their way into nearly every facet of daily life (Capshew, 1999; Herman, 1995). In reflecting on changes wrought by the war years to social psychology, Kurt Lewin (1947/1951) speculated that new developments in the social sciences might prove “as revolutionary as the atom bomb” (p. 188). What he seemed to have in mind is how the social sciences informed one another in treating social facts as a reality as worthy of scientific study as are physical facts. He also observed developments in research tools and techniques and a move among the social sciences away from classification systems to the study of “dynamic problems of changing group life” (p. 188). What Lewin could not have imagined at the time, however, were those very depths to which the “atomic age” would rearrange sociopolitical life and the field of social psychology. In his own time Lewin’s optimism for social psychology counterbalanced Carl Murchison’s more gloomy tone in the 1935 edition of The Handbook of Social Psychology : “The social sciences at the present moment stand naked and feeble in the midst of the political uncertainty of the world” (p. ix). The turnaround in these intervening years was so dramatic that Gardner Lindzey was moved to declare in the 1954 Handbook that Murchison’s edition was not simply “out of print” but “out of date.” Lindzey measured out social psychology’s advance by the expansion of the handbook to two volumes. But more than quantity had changed. Comparing the table of contents over these years is telling of social psychology’s changing face. In 1935 natural history and natural science methods applied to social phenomena across species; the history of “man” and cultural patterns were strikingly predominant relative to experimental studies. By 1954 social psychology was given a formal stature, deserving of a history chapter by Gordon Allport, a section on theories and research methods in social psychology, and a second volume of empirical, experimental, and applied research.

On many counts, during and after World War II experimental social psychology flourished like never before under military and government funding and a newfound mandate of social responsibility, which, in combination, may have served to blur the line between science and politics writ large, between national and social scientific interests (Capshew, 1999; Finison, 1986; Herman, 1995). Questions turned to matters of morale (civilian and military), social relations (group and intergroup dynamics), prejudice, conformity, and so on (Deutsch, 1954; Lewin, 1947/1951), and they often carried a kind of therapeutic slant to them in the sense of restoring everyday U.S. life to a healthy democracy. To quote Herman (1995), “Frustration and aggression, the logic of personality formation, and the gender dynamics involved in the production of healthy (or damaged) selves were legitimate sources of insight into problems at home and conflicts abroad” (p. 6). Psychologists’ work with civilians and the military, with organizations and policy makers, parlayed into new relations of scientific psychological practice, including those between “scientific advance, national security, and domestic tranquility” and between “psychological enlightenment, social welfare, and the government of a democratic society” (Herman, 1995, p. 9). As Catherine Lutz (1997) writes, military and foundation funding of social psychological research, such as Hadley Cantril’s on foreign and domestic public opinion or the Group Psychology Branch of the Office of Naval Research, once combined with the “culture and political economy of permanent war more generally, shaped scientific and popular psychology in at least three ways—the matters defined as worthy of study, the epistemology of the subject that it strengthened, and its normalization of a militarized civilian subjectivity” (pp. 247–248).

New Ways of Seeing Individual and Social Life

Amongst historians there exists fair consensus on a reigning social psychology of this moment as one of an overriding sensibility of social engineering or a “psychotechnology” in the service of a “liberal technocratic” America (e.g., Graebner, 1986; Rose, 1992; also seeAsh, 1992). But such an exclusive view overlooks how certain theoretical influences that in concert with the times helped to shape the terms of the subject matter, the field itself, and how the individual–social world relation was to be construed. For Solomon Asch (1952), for example, subject matters, such as conformity, were sites revealing of the “intimate unity of the personal and social” in a single act of yielding or asserting one’s independence (p. 496). Elsewhere the personal and social became reworked through Kenneth B. Clark’s research on race and segregation, work that was vital to the decision in Brown v. Board of Education; and, GordonAllport’s (1954) The Nature of Prejudice revealed how prejudice, hatred, and aggression rippled out across the personal and situational to the social and national. Another significant case is found in what has come to be called the authoritarian personality. Early Marxist-Freudian integrations in the study of political passivity or “authoritarian character” structure in Germany by Reich and Fromm and subsequently in America by Horkheimer and the “Berkeley group” yielded the 1950 edited volume The Authoritarian Personality (Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson, & Sanford, 1950). Even though “Reich’s original problem” was refitted to “a liberal, empiricist, individual-psychology framework” (Samelson, 1985, p. 200), study of authoritarian personality, like other examples mentioned, made visible the equation of “politics and psychology and the convergence of personal and social analysis” (Herman, p. 60). The “authoritarian episode,” writes Graham Richards (1997), “was an expression of a complex but fundamental set of ideological conflicts being waged within and between industrialised white cultures: capitalism vs. communism, democracy vs. totalitarianism, liberalism vs. puritanism” (pp. 234–235). Insofar as authoritarian personality hinged individual personality to political ideologies and national character to intergroup and international tensions (including racism in the United States and leadership studies in small groups), then Lewinian small group research’s physical and mathematical language of space, field, forces, and tensions served to link public and private spheres of home and work with liberal ideals of a technocraticAmerica (Deutsch, 1954; Gibb, 1954; Ash, 1992; van Elteren, 1993). Together, these levels of analysis (the individual, group, etc.) and social psychological phenomena offered different ways to conceive of the traffic between the individual and the social world. They also functioned to remap how the social was construed to reside in or be created by the individual, as well as the function of these new ways of seeing individual and social life for all.

Still, once entered into, social psychology offers no Ariadne’s thread to guide historians through its disciplinary passageways of subject matters, epistemological shifts, and changing notions of subjectivity. Just as cultural, social, economic, and political life in the United States was in flux, so the more familiar and routine in social psychology was being tossed up and rearranged. Gender and race rearrangements during and after the war in the division of work, in labor union negotiations, and in domestic affairs signal incipient counterculture and social movements ready to burst through the veneer of a culture of “containment” (Brienes, 1992; May, 1988). Much as some historians broaden out this moment’s sensibility as “not just nuclear energy that had to be contained, but the social and sexual fallout of the atomic age itself” (May, p. 94), so others add that the “tide of black migration, coupled with unprecedented urban growth and prosperity, reinvigorated African American culture, leading to radical developments in music, dance, language and fashion” (Barlow, 1999, p. 97). American life was being recreated, with the tug of desires for stability—cultural accommodation and civil defense—exerting as much force as the drive for change—cultural resistance and civil rights. Margot Henriksen (1997) writes of this tension as one between consent and dissent wherein for blacks “Western powers’ racism and destructiveness came together explicitly in the Holocaust and implicitly in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki” (p. 282). These entanglements of postwar anxieties, struggles, and dreams reverberated in America’s popular imagination, such as Frank Capra’s early postwar film It’s a Wonderful Life, Frank Conroy’s characterizations of 1950s America as “in a trance” and young Americans as the “silent generation,” Salinger’s age of anxiety in The Catcher in the Rye, the new science fiction genre film The Day the Earth Stood Still, the rebel “beat generation” of Jack Kerouac, bebop jazz, and a “wave of African American disc jockeys introduc[ing] ‘rhyming and signifying’” (Barlow, p. 104; Breines, 1992; Henriksen, 1997).

Social psychological works appealed for new approaches to leadership and peace, group relations (at home and work), cohesiveness, ways to distinguish good democratic consensus (cooperation) from bad (compliance, conformity, and the more evil form of blind obedience), prejudice, trust, and surveillance (as, for example, in research by Allport, Asch, Gibb, Milgram, Thibaut, and Strickland). Tacking back and forth between social and cultural happenings marking this era and the field’s own internal developments, social psychology did not simply mirror back the concerns of the age but rather was carving out its place in American life as it translated and built psychological inroads to America’s concerns of the day.

Approaching problems of the day provoked as well crossdisciplinary interchange for many social psychologists, such as Kurt Lewin, Solomon Asch, Leon Festinger, Gordon Allport, and Theodore Newcomb. One way this need was formalized for small group research was through centers, such as those at Harvard University, MIT, or the University of Michigan. Another way interdisciplinary interchange became influential within social psychology was through the Macy Foundation Conferences, which brought together researchers from, for example, mathematics, anthropology, neuropsychology, and social psychology for discussion on communication and human relations, which came to be regarded as the area of cybernetics (Fremont-Smith, 1950). Amongst researchers attending the Macy Conferences were those who, such as Alex Bavelas, Gregory Bateson, and Margaret Mead, would come to construe social psychology’s small group concepts and dynamics through cybernetic notions of communication patterns, the flow of information and human relations (Heims, 1993). Together, the concerns of the day urged along disciplines on questions of moral certainty and epistemological truth as military technologies of information theory and communication began to give rise to the cybernetic age and its corresponding challenges to notions of human subjectivity.

Cold War, Cybernetics, and Social Psychology

When SolomonAsch (1952) well noted the very conditions of life and beliefs in society as part and parcel of the “historical circumstances [under which] social psychology [made] its appearance” in midcenturyAmerica (p. 4), he might have added how the culmination of these forces made for a profound overhaul of psychology’s object—the human. The Macy Foundation Conferences, for example, incited talk of “electronic brains” and fantasies of robots, as well as of “communication,” “cybernetics,” and “information,” all of which assumed their collective place in social psychology’s imagination of the human subject for decades to come (Bayer, 1999a; also see Heims, 1993). This makeover is about assessing how, as John Carson (1999) argues of psychology’s object, the human mind, social psychology’s object of the individual becomes “fashioned into different investigative objects” (p. 347). By the mid-1950s, “Information theory and computer technology, in addition to statistical methods, suggested a new way to understand people and to answer the question of the mind’s relation to matter” (Smith, 1997, p. 838). The older mechanistic notion of man-as-machine was giving way to one of man-asan-information-processor in which the human becomes a composite of input-output functions understood as a “homeostatic self-regulating mechanism whose boundaries were clearly delineated from the environment” (Hayles, 1999, p. 34; also see Bayer, 1999a; Edwards, 1996; Smith, 1997). Seen as forged out of a combination of cognitive psychology, behaviorism, gestalt, information theory, mathematics, and linguistics, this version of the nature of “man” allowed for “man” and machine (computer) to go beyond metaphors of mechanical man into the realm of relations between man and machine (Edwards). Cybernetics was thus “a means to extend liberal humanism” by “fashioning human and machine alike in the image of an autonomous, self-directed” and “selfregulating” individual (Hayles, p. 7). Movement between man and machine was eased by the idea of communication denoting relation, not essence; indeed, relation itself came to signify the direction of social psychology—interpersonal, group, intergroup—as much as in communication studies (Hayles, p. 91; Samelson, 1985). This transformation of social psychology’s object also entailed a change to small groups as its unit of study (Heims, p. 275; also see Back, 1972; Danziger, 1990), an idea resonant with an emerging idealized notion of open communication in small communities.

Within small group laboratories, cybernetics and information theory brought men and machines together by including each in the loop of communication-control-commandinformation (C 3 I) interactions. Robert Bales, for example, translated Parson’s sexual division of labor into a language of communication codes of instrumental and expressive interactions such that together in the context of small groups they functioned as a “mutually supporting pair” serving “stabilizing” or “homeostatic like functions” (Bales, 1955, p. 32). For Alex Bavelas (1952) messages carried information about status and relationship to the group and patterns of communication about networks, efficiency, and leadership. Bavelas’s work thus marks the beginning of the sea change from Lewin’s “Gestalt psychology to . . . ‘bits’ of information” (Heims, 1993, p. 223).

That human and machine could interface via information codes or messages in small groups eased the way as well to using certain technologies as message communicators, such as Crutchfield’s (1955) vision of an electronic communication apparatus for small group research, featuring a system of light signals with a controlling switchboard allowing the experimenter to control and communicate messages among group members. Electronic apparatuses “stood in” for other experimental group participants, creating the impression of the presence of other participants sending messages to one another in a small group. But, just as significantly, these apparatuses helped to fashion a human-as-informationprocessor subjectivity (Bayer, 1998a). Such electronic devices, along with a host of other technologies, such as audio recordings and one-way mirrors, began to characterize small group laboratory research as the outer world of everyday social life was increasingly recreated inside the social psychology laboratory (Bayer & Morawski, 1992; Bayer, 1998a). Simulated laboratory small groups offered at least one way to reconcile small group research with social psychology’s demands for scientific experimental rigor and to serve as a kind of laboratory in which to reconstrue communication as a social psychology of social relations (Graebner, 1986; Pandora, 1991).

In retrospect, small group research of the 1950s to the 1990s seemed deeply invested in mapping a “contested terrain of the social relations of selves” (Bayer & Morawski, 1991, p. 6), for which the language of communication and control served as much to set the terms of management relations as it did to masculinize communication in corporate culture, or the thinking man’s desk job (Bayer, 2001). Bales’s research, for example, tailored the gender terms of social psychology’s communication, control, and command interchanges by converting Parsonian sex roles into communication labor that sorted group members’ contributions into either the “best liked man” or the “best ideas man”—a mutually supporting pair in corporate management. That the typical instrumental gender role moved between private and public life was in keeping with a Parsonian view of normal social arrangements. Less routine here was the translation of social-emotional relations, the work expected of women and thought to be suited to domestic life, into a kind of communication labor needed in masculine corporate culture. Despite small group researchers’ reliance at times on women, as in Lewin’s work with women and nutrition during times of scarcity or Parson’s familial gender division, small group research in the field and the laboratory tended, in the early decades, to study the group life of men in the public domain (Bayer & Morawksi, 1991). Over subsequent decades, however, small group research became a site of gender-difference testing, almost serving as a barometer of the gender politicization of work spaces and women’s movement into them (e.g., Eagly, 1987; Eagly, Karau, & Makhijani, 1995).

Cybernetics and the “Inside-Outside Problem” in Times of Suspicion and Surveillance

While the cybernetic age clearly had a hand in renewed study of boundaries between inner and outer, or the “inside-outside” problem (Heider, citing F. Allport, 1959, p. 115; Edwards, 1996; Hayles, 1999), equally mediating were postwar and McCarthy times in U.S. life heightening a psychological sensibility around inner-outer spaces. This period was itself, to quote M. Brewster Smith (1986), marked by a “crescendo of domestic preoccupation with loyalty and internal security” (p. 72). Drawing on the work of Paul Virillo, Hayles writes that “in the post–World War II period the distinction between inside and outside ceased to signify in the same way,” as “cybernetic notions began to circulate . . . and connect up with contemporary political anxieties” (p. 114). Worries over the “inability to distinguish between citizen and alien, ‘loyal American’and communist spy” (Hayles, p. 114) are concerns about distinguishing between appearances and reality, between self and other, between surface and depth, outer and inner realms. Whereas David Riesman (1969) wrote that this period resulted in a shift from inner to an other-directed society, Richard Sennett (1974/1976) later countered with observations that in fact the reverse order characterized midcentury American selves. American society had become increasingly marked by its stress on inner-directed conditions, by what he saw as a “confusion between public and intimate life” (p. 5). Side by side, these interpretations tell of a magnified concern by social psychologists and citizens alike around borders and boundaries. Rearrangements in social divisions of private and public life, of inner- and other-directedness in postwar America, had at their heart a reconfiguring of inner-outer boundaries.

The Case of Balance Theories

It may be of little surprise, given the above, that balance or consistency theories garnered a fair bit of social psychological attention at this time.Theindividual–socialworldrelationwas depicted as a kind of juggling of internal states and external conditions, or personal versus situational attributions played off of one another.Against the backdrop of social and political upheaval, then, psychological balance theories offered a feeling of equipoise at some level, whether of one’s own inner and outer life or one’s relation to others or to surrounding beliefs, during this heated mix inAmerica of politics, sex, and secrets. Balance theories may thus be thought of as exerting a kind of intuitivedouble-hold—first through the cybernetic revisionof homeostatic mechanisms and second through an everyday social psychology that sought perhaps to balance the day-to-day teeter-tottering of psychological security and insecurity. Arguably outgrowths of cybernetics and wider cultural preoccupations, cognitive consistency theories, such as Leon Festinger’s cognitive dissonance theory, Frtiz Heider’s balance theories, and John Thibaut and Harold Kelley’s social exchange theories, held out a subjectivity of rational control in a time of the country appearing out of control.

It is possible to regard social psychology’s mix of balance theories and cybernetic influences during the period 1945 to the 1960s as reflecting not quite competing versions of the human. On the one hand, as Hayles outlines them, there circulated the notion of “man” as a “homeostatic self-regulating mechanism whose boundaries were clearly delineated from the environment and, [on the other], a more threatening, reflexive vision of a man spliced into an informational circuit that could change him in unpredictable ways” (Hayles, 1999, p. 34; also see Bayer, 1999b). The former version resonates with early balance or consistency theories for how they tried to reconcile psychological life with observable reality. The latter, more reflexive version carried within it the beginnings of a critique of objectivist epistemology. Such reflexive notions of the subject helped to recast behaviorist notions of simple, reductionist input-output mechanisms and other correspondence theories of the subject in which representations of the world were assumed to map neatly onto internal experience. Instead, experience itself was thought to organize or bring into being the outside—or social—world (Hayles, 1999). That attributions might arise out of common cultural beliefs without objective or empirical real-world referents gestures toward a more constructionist intelligibility in social psychology, as found in theory and research on self and social perception work by Daryl Bem and Harold Kelly in his attribution research. By the 1970s Gergen was to note that had works such as these been “radically extended,” they would have posed a “major threat to the positivist image of human functioning” (1979, p. 204). One could add to this research on sense-making the high drama of laboratory simulations, including Milgram’s 1960s experiments on obedience (and his film Obedience ) and Zimbardo’s 1970s prison study that augmented—however inadvertently—views of social roles as performative.

From Rational Calculator to Error-Prone Subject

One might usefully think of the influence of computers, cybernetic notions, and laboratory simulation techniques as technologies of the social psychological subject. That is, as Gerd Gigerenzer (1991) argues, researchers’tools function as collaborators in staging versions of human nature or the human mind, what he called tools-to-theory transformations. Looking at the case of the institutionalization of the statistic ANOVA (Analysis of Variance) and Kelley’s attribution theory, for example, Gigerenzer demonstrated how the statistic became a version of human as an “intuitive statistician.” Across these tool-to-theory transformations relying on computers, statistics, and information theory—cybernetics— notions of the human as a rational calculator were one side of the coin of the social psychological subject. On its flip side was an opposing version arising in the 1970s when political events and social history conspired to make known man as a fallible information processor. Irving Janis’s analyses of the Pearl Harbor and Bay of Pigs fiascos, for example, cast a stone into the seeming calm waters of group cohesion by revealing its downside—groupthink (Janis & Mann, 1977). By the 1970s “man” was virtually awash in characterizations as an error-prone decision maker who fell victim to a host of biases and heuristics, such as in research by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Prior to the 1970s, as Lola Lopes (1991) found, most of the research depicted a rather good decisionmaking subject. By the 1980s, however, when Time magazine named the computer “Man of the Year,” “man” himself would be characterized in Newsweek as “woefully muddled information processors who often stumble along ill-chosen shortcuts to reach bad conclusions” (Lopes, p. 65; Haraway, 1992). This rhetoric of irrationality caught on inside the discipline as well, reframing areas such as social perception, influence, and prejudice wherein miscalculation, misperception, and other social psychological information errors were taken to be the devil in the details of daily interactions. Overlooked here as with the overemphasis on internal causes in attribution research was, as Ichheiser argued, the power of the American ideology of individualism in predisposing individuals and social psychologists to look for personal rather than social-historical causes (Bayer & Strickland, 1990). This oversight was in fact a crucial one, especially in light of the penetrating challenges to social psychology’s subject matters, its reigning positivist epistemology, and notions of subjectivity from various social movements.

Social Movements and Movements for Change in Social Psychology

Individual–social world dualism revisited.

Changes in social psychology’s vision of man, including ways to conceptualize the individual, social relations, and the “ensuing riddle of their relationship”—or, “the endless problem of how the individual stood vis-à-vis the world”—would meet additional challenges from social movements such as second wave feminism, black civil rights, and gay and lesbian rights, as well as from war protests (Riley, 1988, p. 15; Richards, 1997). That social psychology suffered theoretically and research-wise on the social side of its psychological equation was a significant part of the storm social psychology would have to weather in the 1970s. But, the problem went beyond the nature of the relation of this dualism’s polar opposites. Instead, the dualism itself, as that of the naturenurture divide, would eventually be undermined (Henriques, Hollway, Urwin, Venn, & Walkerdine, 1984/1998; Richards, 1997; Parker & Shotter, 1990).

Whence the Social?

For some social psychologists, the desire for a social social psychology formed out of what was considered the disappearing “social” in social psychology, which, even in the case of small group research, seemed to have collapsed into the individual. Ivan Steiner (1974) posed the disappearance of “the social” as a conundrum given that social movements of the 1960s might have led one to expect a more “groupy” social psychology. In examining dissonance theory, attribution theory, attitude research, and self-perception theory, Steiner found even further evidence of social psychology’s individualistic orientation. Not only had the social moved inside the individual, but social psychology appeared to have lost sight of its compass, all of which, he thought, might account for the “gloomy” “self-reproach” and near “despair” among social psychologists (Steiner, p. 106). It is curious that social psychology’s object, the human, had become, at least in some experimental quarters, a rather gloomy-looking soul too— error prone and, if not alienated from himself, given to failures in helping (e.g., Darley & Latane, 1968).Against various “denunciations of laboratory research to damning criticisms of the ethical and methodological qualities of . . . investigative strategies, and even to suggestions that [social psychologists] forsake . . . scientific tradition in favor of participation in social movements,” however, Steiner initially held out hope (p. 106). He saw signs of change in social movements; the new decision-making research, such as that of Irving Janis’s concept of groupthink; Eliot Aronson’s interest in T-groups; and, the faint rustle of reviving interest in Hadley Cantril’s 1941 The Psychology of Social Movements (in which mental and social context formed the crucial framework for chapters on, for example, the lynch mob, the kingdom of father divine, the Oxford group, the Townsend plan, and the Nazi party). These signs were read as indicative of a rising tide of “collective action” that might displace the “selfreliant individualism” of the 1960s (Steiner, 1974)—only to be regrettably reinterpreted a decade later as a mis reading of the power of the individualist thesis (Steiner, 1986).

Whence the Real-World Relevance?

Inside the discipline, critical voices grew increasingly strong on the shortcomings of group research and experimental methods in social psychology, as well as concern over social psychology’s impoverished theoretical status. Experimental set-ups that grew out of information theory and translated into laboratory simulations came to be regarded as overly contrived, relying on “button pressing, knob turning, note writing, or telephonic circuits loaded with white noise” (Steiner, 1974, p. 100). The very invented nature of experimental laboratory groups was described in the 1960s as “a temporary collection of late adolescent strangers given a puzzle to solve under bizarre conditions in a limited time during their first meeting while being peered at from behind a mirror” (Fraser & Foster, 1984, p. 474). These groups came to be referred to as “nonsense” groups (Barker, cited in Fraser & Foster), and laboratory experiments as “experiments in a vacuum” (Tajfel, 1972). Alternative approaches to groups began to gather their own critical reviews, both for their ultimately individualistic focus and for a rather narrow cognitive emphasis. Even Henri Tajfel’s alternative of Social Categorization Approach and Social Identity Theory, while proposed as putting the “social” back into the study of groups, began to reveal itself as part of the information-processing model in which “error becomes a theoretical catch-all for what cannot be explained within individual-society dualism: the absence of the ‘correct’ response” (Henriques et al., 1984/1998, p. 78). In this framework, racial prejudice, for example, wound up being treated as a problem in information processing without “addressing either the socio-historical production of racism or the psychic mechanism through which it is reproduced in white people’s feelings and their relations to black people” (p. 78).

Crisis—What Crisis?

These criticisms of social psychology’s individualistic thesis and nonsense laboratory groups combined with fierce debate about social psychology’s laboratory uses of deception and its positivist scientific practices for a full blown disciplinary self-analysis—or crisis of knowledge in social psychology, as it has come to be known. For some, social psychology’s laboratory of “zany manipulations,” “trickery,” or “clever experimentation” was regarded as ensuring the “history of social psychology . . . [would] be written in terms not of interlocking communities but of ghost towns” (Ring, 1967, p. 120; see also, for example, Kelman, 1967; Rubin, 1983). For others, experimental artifacts appeared almost impossible to contain as the laboratory increasingly revealed itself as a site wherein social psychological meanings were as likely to be created in situ as to reveal wider general laws of individual and social life (Suls & Rosnow, 1988; also see Rosenzweig, 1933). In a wider sense, the field was regarded as having gone through several phases of development as a science to arrive at what Kurt Back (1963) identified as a “unique position” of being able to encompass a “social psychology of knowledge as a legitimate division of social psychology,” which would take into account “the problem of the scientist, of his shifting direction, his relation to the trends of the science and of society, and his assessment of his own efforts is itself a topic of social psychology” (p. 368).

A Social Psychology of Social Psychology

Not quite mirroring one another, social psychology’s troubles around its individual–social world relation were becoming as fraught as the internal–external divide constituting the imagined interior of its subject. Julian Henriques (1984/1998), for one, argues that “for psychology the belief in rationality and in perfect representation come together in the idea of scientific practice” such that with an individual subject prone to errors “the path is set for empiricist science to intervene with methodologies which can constrain the individual from the non-rational as, for example, Allport has social psychology protecting individuals against the lure of communist misinformation and society against subversion” (p. 80). Other analyses had begun to show in different ways problems with social psychology’s individual–social world and person–situation dualisms. With these problems came the appearance of splinters in social psychology’s positivist desires for knowledge outside history, culture, and time. Social psychology’s image of positivist “man” was further uncovered to be commensurate with the Western ideology of possessive individualism, an “important ingredient of political liberalism” and “predominant ideology of modern capitalism,” as Joachim Israel (1979) and others traced out (e.g., Sampson, 1977) in dissonance theory, level of aspiration work, and social comparison group research. “Dominationrecognition” struggles provided another case in point, regarding which Erika Apfelbaum and Ian Lubek (1976) asked whether social psychology played a repressive role. Their concern was that social psychology detracted attention from identity processes, such as those among women and blacks, and so eclipsed recognition of those relational spaces where power shapes a group’s chances for visibility and its capacity to claim an identity of its own (also see Apfelbaum, 1979/1999). Other critical historical studies elaborated this central critique of social psychology’s subjects and subject matters, such as Lita Furby’s (1979) and Karen Baistow’s (2000) examination of the cultural, historical, and political particulars of the concept of locus of control.

The Case of Locus of Control

Furby and Baistow both recognize several main features of concepts articulated through notions of internal psychological control, such as locus of control, level of aspiration, learned helplessness, and self-efficacy. First, emphases on internal control reflect the discipline’s class-based interests in “maintaining a prevailing control ideology that is as internal as possible” (Furby, p. 180) and contributed to a fashioning of a “self-management subject” (Baistow). Second, emphases on self-determinism fit well with prevailing Protestant ethic beliefs in the value of internal control, an integral ingredient of capitalist ideology. Third, while for Furby this promulgation of a self-determining subject indicates a repressive role of psychology’s social control interventions, Baistow takes this one step further to show a more productive potential of psychology’s self-control ideologies. Drawing on Nikolas Rose’s (1992) extension of Foucauldian analysis to psychology, Baistow (2000) shows how, for example, increased senses of internality could eventuate in challenges to the status quo, such as black civil rights protests and the rise of black militancy. In these cases, increasingly widespread notions of locus of control introduced as solutions to problems of disadvantaged groups may have helped to make possible empowerment talk, now “commonplace in political rhetoric in the USAand the UK in recent years and a seemingly paradoxical objective of government policy and professional activities” (p. 112). Contrary, then, to being overly individualized and depoliticized psychological notions of control, locus of control discourses became instead politicized through their use in collective action to transform being powerless into empowerment (Baistow, 2000).

“Social Psychology in Transition”

Reconnecting the dots between the personal and the political.

In addition to these critical histories of central social psychological concepts were those entered by women, feminist, and black psychologists who provided detailed appreciations and evidence on the social, cultural, historical, and political contingencies of social psychology’s production of knowledge on the one hand, and of social psychological life on the other. Where many of these works dovetailed was on the fallacy of attributing to nature what was instead, in their view, thoroughly social. Psychologist Georgene H. Seward’s 1946 book Sex and the Social Order, for example, revealed the historical contingencies of distinct sex-typed roles for women and men by showing how these distinctions often dissolved in times of economic or political turmoil. Just years later, philosopher Simone de Beauvoir (1952) published The Second Sex, whose central tenet, “woman is made, not born,” struck a chord with Seward’s argument as well as those who followed in subsequent decades. Betty Friedan’s (1963) The Feminine Mystique rendered the “woman question” anew through its language of humanistic psychology identifying sex-role typing as stunting women’s growth while forgoing a language of rights in favor of postwar cultural discourse that neither wholly eschewed domesticity nor wholly endorsed a single-minded pursuit of careers for women (see Meyerowtiz, 1993). Dorothy Dinnerstein, a student of Solomon Asch, published the feminist classic The Mermaid and the Minotaur in 1976, a book she had been working on since the late 1950s and that stemmed from her thinking through the “pull between individuality and the social milieu.” The nature of her questions and concerns carried clear cold war preoccupations as well as feminist ones, influenced by de Beauvoir and Norman Brown, in her attempts to “resolve the contradictions between the Freudian and the Gestalt vision of societal processes” (p. xii) and those of gender arrangements. Kenneth B. Clark’s (1966a, 1966b) research on psychological hurt and social-economicpolitical oppression of blacks, like his writing on civil rights, and the dilemma of power and the “ethical confusion of man” brought together the psychological and political. By the late 1960s the black psychology movement voiced concern over the discipline’s ethnocentrism and internal racism (Richards, 1997).

In her social psychology textbook, Carolyn Wood Sherif (1976) acknowledged both movements, asking if there could indeed be a valid social psychology that neglected social movements, for social movements and social change surely transform social psychological phenomena. By now, Naomi Weisstein, as Sherif (1979/1987) reflected in her chapter on bias in psychology, had “almost a decade ago . . . fired a feminist shot that ricocheted down the halls between psychology’s laboratories and clinics, hitting its target dead center” (p. 58). Weisstein (1971) showed that psychology’s understanding of woman’s nature was based more in myth than in fact—and patriarchal myth at that. She argued further that without attention to the social context and knowledge of social conditions, psychology would have little to offer on the woman question. For, if anything, decades of research on experimental and experimenter bias had repeatedly demonstrated that instead of offering an unfettered view of the nature of womanhood, laboratory experiments had themselves been revealed as sites of social psychological processes and phenomena in-the-making.

It is interesting that the forces of feminist and black psychologistswouldcombinewithresultsfromthesocialpsychology of laboratory experiments for what by the 1970s became known within the discipline as a full-blown crisis. This period of intense self-examination from the ground of social psychology’s paradigm on up is all too readily apparent in hindsight to be about social psychology’s transition from the height of its modernist commitments in midcentury America to what is often now called postmodernism.

Social Psychology Transiting the Modern to Postmodern Era

A number of markers can be identified to indicate this transition of social psychology from the age of modernism into postmodernism, a transition that is still very much a part of U.S. culture, politics, and daily life. In wider Western social psychology endeavors one of the markers of this passage would most likely be the conference organized by Lloyd Strickland and Henri Tajfel, held at Carleton University and attended by psychologists from Europe, the U.K., and North America, and from which was published the 1976 book Social Psychology in Transition . Disciplinary parameters considered to be in transition included the view of social psychology’s subjects and topics as historically constituted (e.g., Gergen, 1973) and of the laboratory as out-of-sync with notions of an “acting, information-seeking, and informationgenerating agent” (Strickland, 1976, p. 6). Others tackled more epistemological and ontological matters facing social psychology, querying everything from what constituted science in social psychology to more ontological concerns. In addressing priorities and paradigms, the conference volume accorded with then current views on Kuhnian notions of paradigm shifts and with a more profound concern about what constituted the human. Additional signposts are found in works addressing psychology as a “moral science of action” (e.g., Shotter, 1975), revisiting phenomena through frameworks of the sociology of knowledge, as discussed in an earlier section (e.g., Buss, 1979), and critically engaging the reflexive nature of the field—that is, how “psychology helps to constitute sociopsychological reality [and] . . . is itself constituted by social process and psychological reality” (Gadlin & Rubin, 1979, pp. 219–220). The field’s growing recognition of its cultural and historical relativity pointed time and again to how social psychologists need to contend with a subject and with subject matters that are for all intents and purposes more historical, cultural, social, and political than not (e.g., Strickland, 2001).

One could think of these shifts in social psychology as working out the critical lines of its crisis, from a focus on “bias” through to the sociology of social psychological knowledge and social construction to more recent formulations of a critical sociohistorical grounding of social psychological worlds. But this would be a mistake. Questions of the human, science, epistemology, the social, and the psychological each opened in turn appreciation of how the “crisis” resided less inside of psychology than with practices and institutions of “western intellectual life” (Parker & Shotter, 1991). In what followed, the scientific laboratory in psychology as in other sciences was revealed to be anything but ahistorical, contextless, or culture free—the place of a “culture of no culture” (Haraway, 1997), as were notions of scientific objectivity as a “view from nowhere” (Nagel, 1986). One consequence of these examinations has been an increase in epistemological exploration almost unimagined during crisis conversations, ones as much concerned with how to warrant our claims to social psychological knowledge as with how to think through what counts as human and “for which ways of life” (Haraway, 1997; Smith, 1997; see also Bayer, 1999a).

Of course, these very rethinkings and redoings of the science of psychology have often served as lightening rods within the field for acting out contentious views and divisiveness. But when they are constructive interchange, they offer productive signs of hope. Particularly interesting is how these very reworkings find their way, though often unacknowledged and modified, across this great divide, evidencing their influence and implied presence as more central to social psychology’s conventional directions than consciously wished.

Shelley Taylor (1998), for example, addresses variations on the “social being in social psychology” and advances made in social psychology in past decades. On the social being, Taylor attends to social psychology’s more diverse subject pool beyond a database of college students (e.g., Sears, 1986), and the area’s more complex views of persons who “actively construe social situations” and of social contexts as themselves invariably complex. While the changes she notes seem more consonant with social construction than with positivist assumptions, Taylor nonetheless pursues the conventionalist line, albeit morphing it to accommodate ideas on “context,” “social construction,” “multiple effects,” and “multiple processors.” One cannot help but hear influences from postmodernist debate on the nature of the “subject,” including an implied reflexive relation ostensibly not amenable to quantification (Hayles). Seemingly at odds with positivist assumptions and with liberal humanist notions of the subject, Taylor’s review everywhere evidences how science in social psychology undergoes transformation itself. Her view of scientific social psychology contrasts as much with earlier overviews of social psychology in which the methodology was assumed unchanged and unaltered by cultural historical conditions even as social psychology’s “insights” were to “gradually work their way into our cultural wisdom” (Jones, 1985, p. 100) as it does with feminist and critical psychologists who explicitly engage “transformative projects” (Morawski, 1994). As Morawski writes, such “everyday histories of science, especially of psychology, presume that empiricism means much the same thing as it did fifty, or one hundred fifty, years ago” (p. 50), relying, as they do, on linear, transhistorical “narratives of progression or stability.” But changes in the language of these narratives and of the views of the subject as of science, culture, and so on betray the storyline of these narratives. As we have attempted to show, the history of social psychology, its scientific practices, and reigning views of the human have been anything but stable, linear or progressive, or science-as-usual for those who claim the conventional or alternative practices of social psychological research.

It is well worth keeping Morawki’s words on history and historiographical practices in mind as they hold across our theoretical, methodological, epistemological, and ontological differences. Whether practitioners of social construction (e.g., Gergen, 1994); discourse social psychology (e.g., Potter & Wetherell, 1987; Wilkinson & Kitzinger, 1995); feminist social psychology (Wilkinson, 1996; Sherif; Morawski; Bayer); Russian/Soviet social psychology (Strickland, 1998); or conventional social psychology, we are engaged in what is most usefully thought of as transformative projects. Ian Hacking (1999) writes of this in the sense of a “looping effect”— “classifications that, when known by people or by those around them, and put to work in institutions, change the ways in which individuals experience themselves—and may even lead people to evolve their feelings and behavior in part because they are so classified” (p. 104). Ideas on looping effects hold as well for the individual–social world divide where the framing itself may show its historical wear and tear as much as Graham Richards writes in his history of race and psychology of the coherence of the “naturenurture” polarity “crumb[ling] after 1970” and that even the “‘interactionist’position must now be considered too crude a formulation” given how the “notion of them being distinguishable . . . has been undermined” (pp. 252–253). Likewise for the individual–social world dualism, which having been reformulated and remade carries its own history of social psychology, from splitting subjects off from the world through to moving the “social” more and more into our subjects’ interior life and to bringing past psychology into current phenomena (e.g., MacIntyre, 1985). Nikolas Rose (1990, 1992) reverses typical construals of the “social” in social psychology by placing psychology in the social arena, where it serves as a relay concept between politics, ethics, economics, and the human subject. Here the social is as much a part of individual subjectivity as notions of political and democratic life have themselves come to be understood in psychological ways. For Rose (1992) the matter is less about the “social construction of persons” and more attuned to how “if we have become profoundly psychological beings . . . we have come to think, judge, console, and reform ourselves according to psychological norms of truth” (p. 364).

Social psychology’s cornerstone of the individual–social world relation has itself therefore undergone remakings, ones that must be considered, especially where we are oft-tempted to line up social psychologists as falling on one or the other side of the divide, switching positions, or indeed lamenting the loss of the social in areas such as small group social psychology or the field itself. Indeed, Floyd Allport’s (1961) move to the individual–group as the “master” problem in social psychology as much as Ivan Steiner’s (1986) lament of his failed prediction of a “groupy” social psychology might usefully be rethought in terms of the changing nature of the dualism itself, signified perhaps by talk of relations, communication, information processing, and perception in years past (Bayer & Morawski, 1991), and by the terms of voice, stories, local histories, and discourses in matters of gender, race, and culture today.

Insofar as the history of social psychology is tied up in the history of this dualism, and insofar as wider critical discussions on the “crisis” have served to recast matters of epistemology within disciplines, then we might well take this one step further to consider how the timeworn narrative of a sociological social psychology versus a psychological social psychology simply no longer makes good sense—historical or otherwise. Social psychology in the twenty-first century is perhaps no more uniform than it was in the mid-1950s, or at its outset, but this diversity of interests and approaches, including discursive, feminist, sociocultural, hermeneutic, ecological, critical, narrative, and the newer technocultural studies, is part and parcel of this working out of boundaries and problematics. To overlook this history is to run into the same trouble of assuming social psychology weathered storms of debate and change, arriving in the twenty-first century stronger but basically unchanged. Or, conversely, that social psychology’s history is one of increasing emphasis on the individual, going from social to asocial, and a narrowing of defined scientific practices (Samelson). But as Franz Samelson (2000) found, neither of these histories suffices, for each eclipses the broader and more local engaging questions. And, as Jill Morawski (2000) writes in her assessment of “theory biographies,” few of psychology’s leading lights seemed to confine themselves to some hypothetical, tidy box of social psychological theory and research. Seen historically, their work addressed connections of theory and practice, theory and value, and theory and social control consequences, however intended or unintended. Equally significant is the irony Samelson finds in textbook and “success” histories’ omission of the “fact that some of their respected heroes and innovators later in life found their old approaches wanting and forswore them totally, at the same time as novices in the field were being taught to follow in the old (abandoned) footsteps” (p. 505). Such is the case of Leon Festinger, who, pursuing questions on human life, turned to historical inquiry via other fields. Further, the history of social psychology, as Smith notes, gives the lie to social psychology losing sight of or turning away from that broader project, whether expressly or not, of “larger intellectual difficulties fac[ing] the human sciences” and of being “fundamentally a political and moral as well as scientific subject” (Smith, p. 747).

Social psychology has never been quite as contained, narrow, asocial, or apolitical as construed in some of its historical narratives or reviews. Inasmuch as social psychology sought to engage its lifeworld of social meanings and doings, it can hardly be thought of as residing anywhere but in the very midst of these self- and world-making practices. Its theories, “like life elsewhere,” writes Morawski (2000), were “born of cultural contradictions, fixations, opportunities, and tensions,” and have been as much transformed as transformative in effect (p. 439). And just as there is no “going back” in our life histories (Walkerdine, 2000), so it goes for social psychology as it confronts a changing twenty-first-century world in which notions of culture, the global, and of human life itself are everywhere being debated and transformed. Epistemological matters remain as central to these questions as they did long before the formal inception of the field. Whereas much of social psychology has been wrought through industrial world terms, as have many of its critical histories, the challenge before us is about life in postindustrial times, challenges of human-technology interfaces only imagined in the 1950s, and of life-generating and lifeencoding technologies, such as cloning and the Human Genome Projects redrawing the bounds around personal, cultural, social, political, and economic life and what it means to be human (Haraway, 1997). Not unlike how social-political reorderings called social psychology into being (Apfelbaum, 1986), so we must consider how globalization, the Internet, and other technologies fundamentally change the nature of social psychology today. Protests against agencies such as the IMF and the World Bank are inviting reexamination of what is taking place in human and environmental rights as the economics and location of the workplace, not to mention judicial life, become less clearly demarcated by national boundaries. The economy of production has been morphing into one of marketing, to a “brand name” economy of obsessional corporate proportions (Klein, 2000). Time and space alterations, like those of human–technology boundaries, confront social psychology anew with matters of the body and embodiment and with changes in human-technology connections (Bayer, 1998b). Social psychology, like other human sciences, will most likely “go on being remade as long as ways of life go on being remade,” and, perhaps best regarded—and embraced— as Smith characterizes the human sciences (p. 861): “The human sciences have had a dramatic life, a life lived as an attempt at reflective self-understanding and self-recreation” (p. 870). Who knows, should social psychology take its lived historical subjects and subjectivities seriously, and should this be accompanied by recognition of the social, political, moral, and technocultural warp and woof of life lived here in what William James called the “blooming, buzzing confusion,” we may exercise the courage, as Morawski (2002) says of earlier theorists’ efforts, to not only meet the world halfway but to engage it in creatively meaningful ways. An imaginable course is suggested by Smith’s claim that the “history of human sciences is itself a human science” (p. 870). That would indeed be to make social psychology history.


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Social Psychology Research Topics

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

social psychology research paper

Emily is a board-certified science editor who has worked with top digital publishing brands like Voices for Biodiversity,, GoodTherapy, Vox, and Verywell.

social psychology research paper

Choosing topics for social psychology research papers or projects can be challenging. It is a broad and fascinating field, which can make it challenging to figure out what you want to investigate in your research.

Social psychology explores how individual thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are affected by social influences. It explores how each person's behavior is affected by their social environment.

This article explores a few different social psychology topics and research questions you might want to study in greater depth. It covers how to start your search for a topic as well as specific ideas you might choose to explore.

How to Find a Social Psychology Research Topic

As you begin your search, think about the questions that you have. What topics interest you? Following your own interests and curiosities can often inspire great research questions.

Choose a Sub-Topic

Social psychologists are interested in all aspects of social behavior. Some of the main areas of interest within the field include:

  • Social cognition : How do we process and use information about social experiences? What kinds of biases influence how we engage with other people?
  • Social influence : How do our attitudes and behavior change in response to other people?
  • Social relationships : What are the different types of social relationships? How do they develop and change over time?
  • Group dynamics : What are the patterns of behavior in groups? How do groups influence our attitudes and behavior?
  • Attitudes and persuasion : How do our attitudes develop and change?

To help ensure that you select a topic that is specific enough, it can be helpful to confine your search to one of these main areas.

Browse Past Research

After narrowing down your choices, consider what questions you might have that haven't been fully answered by previous studies. At this point, it can be helpful to spend some time browsing through journal articles or books to see some examples of past findings.

You can also find inspiration and learn more about a topic by searching for keywords related to your topic in psychological databases such as PsycINFO or browsing through some professional psychology journals.

Narrow Down Your Specific Topic

Once you have a general topic, you'll need to narrow down your research. The goal is to choose a research question that is specific, measurable, and testable. An example of a good research topic might be, “Are people more likely to conform when they are in a small group or a large group?” In this case, the topic of your paper would be how group size influences social conformity.

Review the Literature on Your Chosen Topic

After choosing a specific social psychology topic to research, the next step is to do a literature review. A literature review involves reading through the existing research and finding related to a specific topic.

You are likely to encounter a great deal of information on your topic, which can seem overwhelming at times. You may find it helpful to start by reading review articles or meta-analysis studies. These are summaries of previous research on your topic or studies that incorporate a large pool of past research on the topic.

Talk to Your Instructor

Even if you are really excited to dive right in and start working on your project, there are some important preliminary steps you need to take.

Before you decide to tackle a project for your social psychology class, you should always clear your idea with your instructor. This initial step can save you a lot of time and hassle later on.

Your instructor can offer clear feedback on things you should and should not do while conducting your research and might be able to offer some helpful tips. Also, your school might require you to present to and gain permission from an institutional review board.

Thinking about the questions you have about social psychology can be a great way to discover topics for your own research. Once you have a general idea, explore the literature and refine your research question to make sure it is specific enough.

Examples of Social Psychology Research Topics

The following are some specific examples of different subjects you might want to investigate further as part of a social psychology research paper, experiment, or project:

Implicit Attitudes

How do implicit attitudes influence how people respond to others? This can involve exploring how people's attitudes towards different groups of people (e.g., men, women, ethnic minorities) influence their interactions with those groups. For example, one study found that 75% of people perceive men to be more intelligent than women .

In your own project, you might explore how implicit attitudes impact perceptions of qualities such as kindness, intelligence, leadership skills, or attractiveness.

Prosocial Behavior

You might also choose to focus on prosocial behavior in your research. This can involve investigating the reasons why people help others. Some questions you could explore further include:

  • What motivates people to help others?
  • When are people most likely to help others?
  • How does helping others cause people to feel?
  • What are the benefits of helping other people?

How do people change their attitudes in response to persuasion? What are the different techniques that can be used to persuade someone? What factors make some people who are more susceptible to persuasion than others?

Collect a wide variety of print advertisements and analyze how​ persuasion is used. What types of cognitive and affective techniques are utilized? Do certain types of advertisements tend to use specific kinds of persuasive techniques ?

Another area of social psychology that you might research is aggression and violence. This can involve exploring the factors that lead to aggression and violence and the consequences of these behaviors. Some questions you might explore further include:

  • When is violence most likely to occur?
  • What factors influence violent behavior?
  • Do traumatic experiences in childhood lead to more aggressive behavior in adulthood?
  • Does viewing violent media content contribute to increased aggressive behavior in real life?

Prejudice and discrimination are areas that present a range of research opportunities. This can involve studying the different forms that prejudice takes (e.g., sexism, racism, ageism ), as well as the psychological effects of prejudice and discrimination. You might also want to investigate topics related to how prejudices form or strategies that can be used to reduce such discrimination.

Nonverbal Behavior

How do people respond when nonverbal communication does not match up to verbal behavior (for example, saying you feel great when your facial expressions and tone of voice indicate otherwise). Which signal do people respond to most strongly?

How good are people at detecting lies ? Have participants tell a group of people about themselves, but make sure some of the things are true while others are not. Ask members of the group which statements they thought were true and which they thought were false.

Social Norms

How do people react when social norms are violated? This might involve acting in a way that is outside the norm in a particular situation or enlisting friends to act out the behaviors while you observe.

Some examples that you might try include wearing unusual clothing, applauding inappropriately at the end of a class lecture, cutting in line in front of other people, or some other mildly inappropriate behavior. Keep track of your own thoughts as you perform the experiment and observe how people around you respond.

Online Social Behavior

Does online social networking make people more or less likely to interact with people in face-to-face or other offline settings? Create a questionnaire to assess how often people participate in social networking versus how much time they spend interacting with their friends in real-world settings.

Social Perception

How does our appearance impact how people respond to us? Ask some friends to help you by having two people dress up in dramatically different ways, one in a professional manner and one in a less conventional manner. Have each person engage in a particular action, then observe how they are treated and how other people's responses differ.

Social psychologists have found that attractiveness can produce what is known as a halo effect . Essentially, we tend to assume that people who are physically attractive are also friendly, intelligent, pleasant, and likable.

Have participants look at photographs of people of varying degrees of physical attractiveness, then ask them to rate each person based on a variety of traits, including social competence, kindness, intellect, and overall likability. Think about how this might affect a variety of social situations, including how employees are selected or how jurors in a criminal case might respond.

Social psychology is a broad field, so there are many different subtopics you might choose to explore in your research. Implicit attitudes, prosocial behavior, aggression, prejudice, and social perception are just a few areas you might want to consider.

A Word From Verywell

Social psychology topics can provide a great deal of inspiration for further research, whether you are writing a psychology paper or conducting your own psychology experiment . In addition to some of the social psychology topics above, you can also draw inspiration by considering your own questions about social behavior or even looking at social issues that you see taking place in the world around you. 

American Psychological Association.  Frequently asked questions about institutional review boards .

Storage D, Charlesworth TES, Banaji M, Cimpian A.  Adults and children implicitly associate brilliance with men more than women .  J Exp Soc Psychol . 2012;90:104020. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2020.104020

Talamas SN, Mavor KI, Perrett DI. Blinded by beauty: Attractiveness bias and accurate perceptions of academic performance . PLoS ONE . 2016;11(2):e0148284. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0148284

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

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Current Research in Social Psychology

Editors: michael lovaglia, university of iowa; shane soboroff, st. ambrose university.

Current Research in Social Psychology  ( CRISP ) is a peer reviewed, electronic journal publishing theoretically driven, empirical research in major areas of social psychology. Publication is sponsored by the  Center for the Study of Group Processes  at the  University of Iowa,  which provides free access to its contents. Authors retain copyright for their work. CRISP is permanently archived at the Library of the University of Iowa and at the Library of Congress. Beginning in April, 2000,  Sociological Abstracts  publishes the abstracts of CRISP articles.

Citation Format:  Lastname ,  Firstname . 1996. "Title of Article."  Current Research in Social Psychology  2:15-22


When Race is Not Enough: Lessons Learned Using Racially Tagged Names.

Formation of a Positive Social Identity: How Significant are Attitudes, Subjective Norms, and Perceived Similarity Concerning Group Identification?

Passive Social Network Usage and Hedonic Well-Being Among Vietnamese University Students: A Moderated Mediation Model Involving Self-Esteem and Sense of Self.

Cognitive Dissonance and Depression: A Qualitative Exploration of a Close Relationship.

Gender Differences in Support for Collective Punishment: The Moderating Role of Malleability Mindset.

Hard Feelings? Predicting Attitudes Toward Former Romantic Partners.

Perceived Control in Multiple Option Scenarios: Choice, Control, and the Make-a-Difference Metric.

Drivers of Prosocial Behavior: Exploring the Role of Mindset and Perceived Cost.

Malleability of L aïcité: People with High Social Dominance Orientation Use L aïcité to Legitimize Public Prayer by Catholics but not by Muslims.

Differences and Predictive Abilities of Competitiveness Between Motivation Levels, Contexts, and Sex.

Parental Rejection and Peer Acceptance: The Mediating Role of Cognitive Bias.

A Novel Approach for Measuring Self-Affirmation.

Ingroup Bias in the Context of Meat Consumption: Direct and Indirect Attitudes Toward Meat-Eaters and Vegetarians.

Perceptions of Case Complexity and Pre-Trial Publicity Through the Lens of Information Processing.

"Muslims' Desire for Intergroup Revenge in the Aftermath of the Christchurch Attack: The Predictive Role of Ingroup Identification, Perceived Intergroup Threat, and the Norm of Reciprocity. "

"Personal Networks and Social Support in Disaster Contexts."

"Aggressive and Avoidant Action Tendencies Towards Out-Groups: The Distinct Roles of In-Group Attachment vs. Glorification and Cognitive vs. Affective Ambivalence."

"We (Might) Want You: Expectations of Veterans' General Competence and Leadership."

"Situation Attribution Mediates Intention to Overlook Negative Signals Among Romantic Partners."

"Software Program, Bot, or Artificial Intelligence? Affective Sentiments across General Technology Labels"

"Privilege is Invisible to Those Who Have It": Some Evidence that Men Underestimate the Magnitude of Gender Differences in Income.

"Perceived Control and Intergroup Discrimination."  

"Leadership, Gender, and Vocal Dynamics in Small Groups."

Taking Responsibility for an Offense: Being Forgiven Encourages More Personal Responsibility, More Empathy for the Victim, and Less Victim Blame.

Potential Factors Influencing Attitudes Toward Veterans Who Commit Crimes: An Experimental Investigation of PTSD in the Legal System.

"Is that Discrimination? I'd Better Report it!" Self-presentation Concerns Moderate the Prototype Effect.

Relation Between Attitudinal Trust and Behavioral Trust: An Exploratory Study

Comparing Groups' Affective Sentiments to Group Perceptions.

Perceived Autonomous Help and Recipients' Well-Being: Is Autonomous Help Good for Everyone.

S tudying Gay and Straight Males' Implicit Gender Attitudes to Understand Previously Found Gender Differences in Implicit In-Group Bias.

Nepotistic Preferences in a Computerized Trolley Problem.

Telecommuting, Primary Caregiving, and Gender as Status .

You're Either With Us or Against Us: In-Group Favoritism and Threat .

 Impact of the Anticipation of Membership Change on Transactive Memory and Group Performance.

Mindfulness Increases Analytical Thought and Decreases Just World Beliefs .

Status, Performance Expectations, and Affective Impressions: An Experimental Replication.

The Effects of African-American Stereotype Fluency on Prejudicial Evaluation of Targets .

Status Characteristics and Self-Categoriation: A Bridge Across theoretical Traditions.

Why do Extraverts Feel More Positive Affect and Life Satisfaction? The Indirect Effects of Social Contribution and Sense of Power.

In-group Attachment and Glorification, Perceptions of Cognition-Based Ambivalence as Contributing to the Group, and Positive Affect.

Mentoring to Improve a Child's Self-Concept: Longitudinal Effects of Social Intervention on Identity and Negative Outcomes.

Affect, Emotion, and Cross-Cultural Differences in Moral Attributions.

The Effects of Counterfactual Thinking on College Students' Intentions to Quit Smoking Cigarettes .

Self-Enhancement, Self-Protection and Ingroup Bias.

The Moderating Effect of Socio-emotional Factors on the Relationship Between Status and Influence in Status Characteristics Theory.

What We Know About People Shapes the Inferences We Make About Their Personalities.

The Pros and Cons of Ingroup Ambivalence: The Moderating Roles of Attitudinal Basis and Individual Differences in Ingroup Attachment and Glorification.

Effects of Social Anxiety and Group Membership of Potential Affiliates on Social Reconnection After Ostracism.

"Yes, I Decide You Will Recieve Your Choice": Effects of Authoritative Agreement on Perceptions of Control.

Being Generous to Look Good: Perceived Stigma Increases Prosocial Behavior in Smokers.

Acting White? Black Young Adults Devalue Same-Race Targets for Demonstrating Positive-but-Stereotypically White Traits

Looking Up for Answers: Upward Gaze Increases Receptivity to Advice

Which Judgement Do Women Expect from a Female Observer When They Claim to be a Victim of Sexism?

Neighborhood Deterioration and Perceptions of Race

The Use of Covert and Overt Jealousy Tactics in Romantic Relationships: The Moderating Role of Relationship Satisfaction

The Impact of Status Differences on Gatekeeping: A Theoretical Bridge and Bases for Investigation

Reducing Prejudice with (Elaborated) Imagined and Physical Intergroup Contact Interverventions

Are Depressed Individuals More Susceptible to Cognitive Dissonance?

Gender Differences in the Need to Belong: Different Cognitive Representations of the Same Social Groups

Fight The Power: Comparing and Evaluating Two Measures of French and Raven's (1959) Bases of Social Power

Mother Knows Best So Mother Fails Most: Benevolent Stereotypes and the Punishment of Parenting Mistakes

Blame Attributions about Disloyalty

Attitudes Towards Muslims are More Favorable on a Survery than on an Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure

Attributions to Low Group Effort can Make You Feel Better: The Distinct Roles of In-group Identification, Legitimacy of Intergroup Status, and Controllability Perceptions

The Role of Collective and Personal Self-Esteem in a Military Context

On Bended Knee: Embodiment and Religious Judgments

Identity Salience and Identity Importance in Identity Theory

Sexist Humor and Beliefs that Justify Societal Sexism

Future-Oriented People Show Stronger Moral Concerns

Further Examining the Buffering Effect of Self-Esteem and Mastery on Emotions

Group-Based Resiliency: Contrasting the Negative Effects of Threat to the In-Group

You Validate Me, You Like Me, You're Fun, You Expand Me: "I'm Yours!"

Pleading Innocents: Laboratory Evidence of Plea Bargaining's Innocence Problem

The Moral Identity and Group Affiliation

Threat, Prejudice, and Stereotyping in the Context of Japanese, North Korean, and South Korean Intergroup Relations

Exams may be Dangerous to Grandpa's Health: How Inclusive Fitness Influences Students' Fraudulent Excuses

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