Social Psychology, Past and Present: An Integrative Orientation

By Jay M. Jackson | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
Current Trends in Social Psychology

THE CRISIS: TEN YEARS LATER

The crisis in social psychology ended because everything had been said, at least once. It began to foster ennui rather than excitement. It may be useful, however, to briefly evaluate that unique episode from the perspective of the late 1980s. How is the crisis perceived today -- if at all -- by social psychologists? Is the "malaise" still with us, or has it evaporated with the tensions and uncertainties of an earlier era, dissipated by the solid accomplishments of a decade? Was the storm of selfcriticism merely a temporary loss of nerve, or an expression of the need of social psychologists for "self-flagelladon" ( Jones, 1985; Shaw, 1974)? Or were the issues and dilemmas so fervently discussed "real" -- of substantive significance? If they were, have they been resolved, evaded, or are they still influencing current developments? An evaluation of the crisis is not just sterile historicism. It may contribute to our understanding of contemporary social psychology, its discernible trends, and their projection into the future.

Elms ( 1975) had provided the leitmotif for those who were eager to dismiss the crisis and return to business as usual: It was a "crisis of confidence." He generalized, somewhat incautiously, from Kuhn's ( 1962) influential work, a theory based on a study of the history of physical science, and declared that because so

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