The Psychology of Ego-Involvements: Social Attitudes & Identifications

By Muzafer Sherif; Hadley Cantril | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
THE PROBLEM OF ATTITUDES: UNIFIED

During the past two decades the problem of attitudes has become central in social psychology. Thus, G. W. Allport writes:

The concept of attitude is probably the most distinctive and indispensable concept in contemporary American social psychology. No other term appears more frequently in experimental and theoretical literature. [1, 798]1

Murphy, Murphy, and Newcomb, in their monumental volume summarizing the state of social psychology in 1937, again emphasize the point:

Perhaps no single concept within the whole realm of social psychology occupies a more nearly central position than that of attitudes. [19, 889]

We need not multiply these representative statements from other sources to demonstrate the important position the concept of attitudes holds in contemporary social psychology.

The study of attitudes is by no means the concern of psychologists alone. It is significant that sociologists feel as much at home in the study of attitudes as do psychologists. Some sociologists have gone so far as to equate social psychology with the study of attitudes. [5, 11, 27] Attitudes became a focal problem in experimental psychology in the first decade of this century . As a consequence of the introspective analysis of the higher mental processes at Würzburg, descriptions were given in "attitudinal" terms such as Einstellung and Bewusstseinlage. [21, 30] With this prominent start in experimental psychology, attitudes came to stay as an important concept in that field.

In this book we are proceeding with the conviction that experi-

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1
Roman numbers inclosed in brackets indicate the references at the end of each chapter; italic numbers indicate page numbers in those references.

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