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Lec 1 + 2- defining and history

Lec 1 + 2- defining and history - SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY Lecture...

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SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY Lecture 1 and 2- Defining social psychology and its history Notes from Chapter 12 of ‘Putting psychology in its place’ Of all of Psychology’s sub-disciplines, Social Psychology is that in which involvement with socio-cultural context is most intense. The priorities, problems and concerns of the societies in which social psychologists live largely determine the matters with which they deal. Their personal social positions, including gender, ethnic group will play a part in determining how they deal with them, and their beliefs may figure prominently in deciding the goals of their psychological work. This means that the ways in which social psychologists orient toward and conceptualise the subject are particularly diverse, sometimes even conflicting. A particularly important underlying axis of tension is whether the individual or the ‘social’ is prioritised. Theoretically, ‘the social’ leads to a more social constructionist position, and favours naturalistic field research and naturalistic observation, ‘the individual’ conforming more closely to the orthodox ‘natural science’ approach of experimental psychology, and favours laboratory orientated research. ‘The social’, ideologically would also lean towards positions critical of the status quo and be prepared to invoke socio-economic factors in explaining social problems as opposed to individualist explanations in terms of personal psychology. In this, the sociology- social psychology boundary can become blurred. Let us then consider the nature of Social psychology at three times and places in this light: France in 1900, The US between the two world wars and Britain and the US since about 1950. France around 1900 Although Social Psychology’s origins date from the late 1700’s and earlier 19 th century German VOLKERPSYCHOLOGIE , it is widely held that in its modern form begins with LE BON’S ‘THE CROWD’ (1896) , who’s concern with the crowd stemmed form several factors. First, ever since the French revolution of 1789 crowds had played an important part in French political life, with important uprisings in 1830 and 1848. The crowd was a playing a very prominent role on French history, creating a permanent sense of security in its rulers. Second, French Psychological thought as represented in works like TARDE (1890) and widespread clinical concern with hypnotism, combined with the evolutionary perspective, and promised Le Bon seemingly profound insights into crowd behaviour. Third, he believed that understanding the ‘laws’ of crows behaviour would enable national leaders to cultivate patriotic pride and self-confidence. Le Bon’s crowd is a seething, irrational mass governed by ‘MENTAL CONTAGION’ , via the powers of ‘suggestion’. Individual identity disappears, buried within the superordinate, but more primitive ‘crowd mind’. He seeked to teach society’s natural rules how to use and harness these laws to co-opt and direct the instinctive energies ever-threatening to break loose. His views played a major role in determining French military tactics during the First World War, during which Le Bon wrote propaganda.
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