Reflections on 100 Years of Experimental Social Psychology

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

7
On the Changes in U.S. Social Psychology: Some Speculations

Leonard Berkowitz

In this chapter Leonard Berkowitz presents his "impressionistic" view of the field of social psychology. Although he has mixed feelings about whether social psychology is better or worse today than it was when he entered the field, Berkowitz asserts that it is now "dramatically different." He spells out what he believes are some of the most significant of these differences, particularly as social psychology is practiced in the United States. He also speculates upon conditions that might have been responsible for these changes, some of which he traces to the maturation of the field. One of the changes Berkowitz highlights is the effort to integrate social psychology with anthropology and sociology in the earlier days, compared to the contemporary emphasis on a psychological social psychology. Another change involves the greater identification of social psychologists with psychology as a whole. Today, he observes, social psychologists "are psychologists first and members of the social science fraternity second." He argues that this explains the current emphasis on social cognition and the abandonment of some themes more sociological in nature, such as that of reference groups, and the increasing interest in "within-the-skin" rather than "between-skins" phenomena. Berkowitz further addresses methodological idiosyncrasies, research funding, and publication policies.

A few years ago, at a small meeting sponsored by the American Psychological Association, when a distinguished senior member of the profession was asked to say a few words about himself, he replied that he was engaged in an "old academic's activity": writing a history of his discipline. Of course not every "old academic" writes a history, but many of them, it seems to me, do adopt a historical perspective in viewing their field. Very often they look at current developments through the glass of all the changes in the discipline they had experienced over their careers. And in doing this, not a few of them are likely to bemoan the current nature of their field, claiming that in many respects it and/or its practitioners

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