Chapter 2: “Two sources of modern social psychology”
“two traditions underlie modern social psychology and exert a living influence”
- “The Indigineous-American tradition”
- “The European-American tradition”
In this chapter, the authors attempt to draw a distinction between the ‘dynamic’ ‘European-American’ tradition of the Transnational Committee, typified by the work of Kurt Lewin, and the ‘static’ ‘Indigineous-American’ tradition, typified by the work of Gordon and Floyd Allport, that preceded and was contemporaneous with the former. Both traditions are grounded in the use of experiment. However, the ‘static’ tradition is based on the individual as an isolated psychological-neurological object (as in general psychology), whereas the ‘dynamic’ tradition is based on relations between individuals and the social environment in which they act. They claim that the ‘static’ tradition came into ascendency after the First World War, as an ideologically mediated response to the social problems [for the state -L.C] that the war threw up. They claim the ‘dynamic’ tradition came on to the scene during and after the Second World War, also as a state supported response to the problems of the war, and afterwards. They say that experimental social psychology was from then on defined by a tension between these competing, sharply contrasting, traditions.
“[I]t seems to us that the diverse epistemological positions between them are so striking, so black and white, or positive and negative, that even schematic distinctions between such contrasts can sharply reveal their differences.”
“[T]hese contrasts do not peacefully embrace one another but are sources of conflicts, misunderstandings – indeed of strife.”
1. The “Indigineous-American” tradition
Exemplified by: Floyd and Gordon Allport
Precipitated by: First World War
Characterised by: “individualism, positivism, and mechanistic epistemology”
Values of freedom and individual rights:
“How… to preserve the values of freedom and individual rights under conditions of mounting social strain?”
Focus on the individual:
“Social psychology is the study of individual behavior and consciousness”
“there is no psychology of groups which is not essentially and entirely a psychology of individuals”
“With few exceptions, social psychologists regard their discipline as an attempt to understand and explain how the thought, feeling, and behavior of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others.”
The Allport’s introduced “the positivism of Auguste Comte”
“three stages in science – theological, metaphysical, positivistic”
The “positivistic tools of experiment[al] social psychology – statistics, survey methods, and like instruments”
2. “The European-American tradition”
Exemplified by: Kurt Lewin
Precipitated by: Second World War
Characterised by: Gestalt psychology (opposed to behaviourism), and Cassirer’s neo-Kantianism (opposed to positivism).
“Lewin and his students were interested in dynamic interaction rather than social behaviour or in the differences between individuals”
“Theoretically, this tradition was based on orientation and attention to the reference group and to group dynamics”
Most of the members of the transnational committee belonged to this tradition.
A more detailed comparison:
1. “The Door”
The authors characterise this tradition as treating social psychology as a “door”.
In this sense, SP is a door, through which social phenomena pass, to fit the rules and principles of general psychology.
As a door, this social psychology is closed to other disciplines, namely, the social sciences.
Against the idea that psychology is social, that is, essentially in relation to others, Allport claimed that problems of human nature need to be solved separately, giving the examples of:
For Allport, social-psychological phenomena and problems are reducible to an isolated individual; a mechanistic combination of separate psychological processes.
Two possible intepretations:
1. “The Bridge
SP bridges the gap between cultural anthropology and sociology
Inspired by the physics of relativity, the MIT institute displayed “flexibility in tackling social scientific problems”:
Difference between “bridge-science” and interdisciplinarity:
Interdisciplinarity merely combines knowledge of different disciplines about a specific subject matter.
Whereas “a bridge-science builds new knowledge about a specific subject area using knowledge of other disciplines”
“What conclusions can we draw about the scientific nature of social psychology?
Simply, that it does not make sense to search for a general definition of a scientific theory independent of the context to which it refers.”
|2. The Stable
E.g. classical mechanics in physics
E.g. Harold H Kelley’s ‘cube model’ theory of attribution:
For Kelley both:
are static, thus:
| 2. The Dynamic