Social Psychology, Past and Present: An Integrative Orientation

By Jay M. Jackson | Go to book overview

The orientation of this work is integrative, in a number of different respects. It looks to the roots of social psychology's central ideas and problems in classical philosophy. It attempts to identify and trace the contributions to the development of contemporary social psychology by scholars from many different disciplines, not only psychology and sociology, but also anthropology, psychiatry, political science, business administration, and others. An integrative social psychology is seen as a possibly independent scientific discipline that could unite all those "doing" social psychology, regardless of their other professional identifies.

In recent decades, dissatisfaction among some social psychologists has led to a fractionation of the discipline. Scholars and practitioners with specialized interests, perspectives, or methods have tended to form their own subdisciplines, such as Environmental (Social) Psychology, Cross-Cultural (Social) Psychology, Applied Social Psychology, and Humanistic (Social) Psychology. Our interpretation of the developing trends in contemporary social psychology is that an integrative orientation is emerging that could re-unite these various subdivisions and permit their adherents to make their contributions within a unified discipline.

I do not pretend that what you are about to read is the "truth." It is my interpretation, reflecting 30 years of research, teaching, and working with practitioners in the professions, government, and industry. I became acquainted with social psychology immediately after World War II, at the beginning of its contemporary expansion and consolidation as a scientific discipline. My perspective gradually has changed and developed as I have attempted to answer for myself and my students questions such as: What is social psychology all about? How can it be both individual and social? How can it be applied to our everyday human and social problems? How much can we trust a particular theory or research result and how can we make use of it? Especially in the latter chapters dealing with contemporary social psychology, my perspective is not the standard or "mainstream" one, although I am convinced that it accurately reflects significant developments and thinking in the field. At every stage I have leaned heavily on authoritative secondary sources. Naturally, my selection of material and evidence has been selective. Although I have attempted a balanced consideration of issues, clearly my own viewpoint, and the brevity of the work, have weighted the presentation. In the final chapter I have attempted to project into the future a model of an integrative orientation, as one possible culmination of contemporary trends in social psychology.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

It is not really possible to express my indebtedness to all those from whom I have learned about social psychology. I have been especially fortunate in having associated with some outstanding thinkers and persons. My first introduction to research and the fragility of theory was in Telecommunications Research Establish

-xi-

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