Reflections on 100 Years of Experimental Social Psychology

By Aroldo Rodrigues; Robert V. Levine | Go to book overview

behavior" ( 1993, p. 433) and that the beneficial applications that have come out of the body of work in our field have been truly remarkable.

Gerard concludes his personal recollections by observing the prominent role that happenstance played at critical points in the course of his career. One wonders how applicable this statement is to the history of experimental social psychology. It has been said that if Newton and Einstein had not made their monumental discoveries in physics when they did, one of their successors eventually would have. In music, in contrast, without Bach it is unlikely the world would ever have heard the Brandenburg concertos. Where does social psychology fit between these extremes? If there were no Lewin or Festinger -- or no Aronson, Berkowitz, Deutsch, Gerard, Kelley, Pepitone, Raven, Zajonc, or Zimbardo -- how differently might the field have evolved?

Leon Festinger concluded his Retrospections in Social Psychology ( 1980) by describing a scene from the movie of Joyce Cary ( 1944) novel The Horse's Mouth. The novel centers upon Gulley Jimson, an eccentric artist who has been holed up without permission in an apartment whose owners are away on vacation. Gulley has just completed, unauthorized, a huge mural on the living room wall. He has worked on the mural with a single-minded obsessiveness that has left most of the apartment in ruins. Besides leaving messes throughout, he has pawned everything pawnable in the apartment to finance his creation, buying paints and brushes and paying for models. As he walks out the door of the decimated apartment for the last time, Gulley looks back at the mural -- which will later be considered a masterpiece -- and comments: "It's not exactly what I had in mind." Festinger remarked that this was very much his own overall evaluation of both the Retrospections and the progress of the field of social psychology up to that time.

As we look back on this first century of experimental social psychology, almost two decades after Festinger wrote his words, we personally are less apprehensive. The discipline is certainly not without its problems. But the careers and accomplishments of the nine leaders who contributed to this book give us confidence that we are headed in the right direction. When we look back at these chapters and the work and vision that these nine individuals have brought to experimental social psychology, we can only conclude: "They are exactly what we had in mind."


References

Allport, G. W. ( 1985). The historical background of social psychology. In G. Lindzey & E. Aronson (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology ( 3rd ed., Vol. 1, pp. 1-46). New York: Random House.

Berscheid, E. ( 1992). A glance back at a quarter century of social psychology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 525-533.

Bohannon, P. ( 1990). Untitled lecture. California State University, Fresno.

Cary, J. ( 1944). The horse's mouth. New York: Harper.

Cialdini, R. ( 1980). Full-cycle social psychology. In L. Bickman (Ed.), Applied social psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 21-45). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

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