Reflections on 100 Years of Experimental Social Psychology

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

cated, and superbly productive people. In my view, it is the dominant vision of experimental social psychology as evolved in the golden age that requires some course corrections that will make it a science of real and whole social human beings. I have pointed to some core problems: the exclusive identification with the discipline of psychology and its concentration on the individual as the unit of analysis, the reductionism once in behaviorism now no less in cognitive social psychology, and the formulation of hypotheses based only on experimental findings along with a corresponding neglect of real-life observations of people in their natural sociocultural settings. The more broad-gauged social psychology of the future will include many heretofore neglected areas of theory and research. For example, as Marx and other social scientists have argued and as ordinary observation confirms, social cognition, intergroup relations, and a variety of other social behavior are profoundly affected by the economic system of a society, especially through the roles and socioeconomic categories the system creates and in consequence of the control over the informational environment exercised by economic interests.

Social psychology cannot continue to ignore the nonmaterial culture either. It does not take a visitor from Mars to notice that people throughout the world create and respond to agents, powers, forces, rays, magical numbers, charms, and so on that do not exist in any objective, physical frame of reference. 9 Ethnographic evidence has long since indicated that such mystical and magical beliefs are the common denominators across world cultures, and sociological research as well as clinically based observation persuasively suggest they serve functions deep in the human psyche ( Murdock, 1945; Frazer, 1911; Durkheim, 1915; Freud, 1913/1953). Despite or perhaps because of their special nonmaterial reality, beliefs in gods, fate, stars, moral laws, witches, reincarnation, ESP, Lady Luck, and the like powerfully determine the organized and informal groups that people affiliate with, their helping behavior, their moral judgments, their political attitudes, their inspiration to aggression, their achievement motives, and their explanations of life events ( Pepitone, 1997).

It would not be overly optimistic to predict that in the next century social psychology will be engaged with other social scientists in specifying how people in different sociocultural settings affect and are affected by the conflicts brewing among three fundamental determinants of human social cognition and behavior-science and technology, market "forces," and the powerful calls of nonmaterial realities. 10


Notes
1.
This basic finding was replicated using the same experimental procedure and measurements ( Cannavale, Scarr, & Pepitone, 1970).
2.
In animal and human experiments, Zajonc ( 1963) proposed a Hullian reinforcement interpretation of the enhancing effects of others' presence on performance.

-195-

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