Social Psychology, Past and Present: An Integrative Orientation

Social Psychology, Past and Present: An Integrative Orientation

Social Psychology, Past and Present: An Integrative Orientation

Social Psychology, Past and Present: An Integrative Orientation

Excerpt

You probably have heard the cliché that someone who is ignorant of history is doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. Like most aphorisms, it is either unclear or false. Who can say with any assurance that a scientific endeavor is mistaken? Scientists probably learn more from their "mistakes" than they do from their successes. Scientific ideas go through cycles, from initial excitement and adulation to eventual apathy, skepticism, or rejection, and sometimes then to resurrection and renovation. At each stage they are conceived somewhat differently by a new generation of thinkers and investigators. History is always being rewritten from the perspective of the present and that of the particular historian. Otherwise, historians and would-be historians would suffer a higher rate of unemployment.

Philosophers of history are still arguing about whether "objective facts" occur. I think that misses the point. We can agree and document that a particular event occurred but disagree completely about its meaning in historical context or for contemporary affairs. In many well-known studies in social psychology-- which is the subject of this book -- even though the data are unquestioned, entirely different theoretical interpretations are advanced to explain them. Facts or data do not speak for themselves but must be placed within a framework of understanding. Different frameworks compete based on their ability to make sense of the available data and relate them to "knowns."

The quest for understanding of human affairs goes back to the beginnings of human thought. Many of the problems are still with us although our conceptual . . .

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