Social Psychology Essay

1695 words - 7 pages

There are many explanations for the origins of modern social psychology. It is therefore important to consider that social psychology cannot be traced back to one single source of origin (Burr, 2003). Hence, this is the reason why there are debates of what social psychology is. Allport (1985) described social psychology as the study an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours which are influenced by the actual, imagines, or implied presence of others. As seen from this definition there is a direct link between social science and the individual psychology (Sewell, 1989). Social psychology cannot be seen as a linear phenomenon. This is because social psychology has been derived from a combination of influences. The development of social psychology can be discussed in two different ways. Firstly, social psychology is argued to be found upon political movements and social philosophies in the United Stated of America (US). Secondly, it can be argued that social psychology has developed in response to social and political needs.
There have been debates regarding whether social psychology should be dealt as a natural science or not. The ideology of natural science is very important as it affects the way the social psychologist deals with the situations. For example, if there are specific scientific objectives then the study can be laboratory based and use experimental procedures in order to gain knowledge. Psychologists who use this positivistic method are classified as experimental social psychologists. On the other hand, critical-social psychologists have competed with the experimental-social psychologists. The strength of the critical-social psychologists is that they’ve used a range of different methods in research, and have not limited to scientific knowledge. This includes both qualitative and quantitative methods. Overall, critical social psychologists are described as having a critical ideology in order to uncover meanings of social phenomena (Gough & McFadden, 2001). Both critical and experimental social psychology form the modern social psychology, due to their important historical context. Experimental-social psychology is argued to have been derived from the American tradition, and a critical-social psychology is argued to have been derived from the European tradition. Although this has formed two distinct approaches in the use of methodology within psychology, there are still on-going debates over psychology as a science or not.
An important contribution that has made a great impact on the modern social psychology was from William McDougall. McDougall proposed for an evolutionary psychology, which was influenced by Darwin’s theory. Especially with the dominant fields of sociology and anthropology, McDougall was able to link science, sociology and psychology (McDougall, 1919). However, McDougall’s research in social evolution was also interpreted as radical due to the racism involved in the concept of behaviour gene inheritance....

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