Reflections on 100 Years of Experimental Social Psychology

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

3
A Social Psychologist Examines His Past and Looks to the Future

Harold B. Gerard

Harold Gerardbegins by pondering the succession of events that determined the direction of his career, recalling the prominent role that happenstance often played at critical junctures along the way. He reviews his work at Bell Labs and in academia, ranging from explorations of the dynamics underlying the Asch paradigm to his collaborations with Ned Jones (which led to their well-known text on the foundations of social psychology text), to his work on dissonance theory, to his large-scale investigation of the effects of school desegregation in the Riverside, California, school district. He reviews his "last major effort working in mainstream social psychology" -- his study with Orive at UCLA, published in 1987, on the dynamics of opinion formation based on dissonance and social comparison theories. After these studies, Gerard became increasingly involved in psychoanalysis. He tells how and why this came about and mentions his recent attempts to apply the methods of experimental social psychology in exploring psychoanalytic dynamics in early mental development. He argues for the crucial importance of psychodynamics in understanding social interaction, concluding with the hope that social psychology will return to the "natural connection between personality and social behavior."

The cognitive revolution in psychology, which was instigated in part by social psychologists beginning in the late 1950s, has all but eliminated concern with the psychodynamics that underlie how we perceive and behave toward others. Nearly fifty years ago, when Bert Raven, another contributor to this volume, and I were in the graduate program in social psychology at the University of Michigan, our reading list for the social psychology preliminary exam included much in the way of psychodynamics. We read Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud, Karen Horney, Erich Fromm, Clara Thompson, Harry Stack Sullivan, Heinz Hartmann, Ernst Kris, and others. Both Theodore Newcomb and Daniel Katz, the senior faculty in the program, held the conviction that the personality dynamics studied by psychoanalysis

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