The Importance of History to Social Psychology

Authored by: Jill Morawski

Handbook of the History of Social Psychology

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  October  2012

Print ISBN: 9781848728684
eBook ISBN: 9780203808498
Adobe ISBN: 9781136668999


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When invited to contribute a chapter on the importance of history—on why social psychologists should consider their discipline’s history—I delighted at the opportunity to share some of the innovative, sometimes provocative histories that lay outside the purview of canonical histories familiar to social psychologists. Soon, however, the project encountered perplex, a sticking point: Readily available textbook histories of social psychology suffice in presenting an orderly narrative of the field’s evolution. Canonical (internal and textbook) histories recount a science that adopted a particular understanding of the social as quintessentially psychological phenomena along with methods that privileged experimentation and quantification. These insider chronicles highlight a social psychology that absorbed as well psychology’s presuppositions that phenomena are transhistorical and universal (holding for all humans across time). These narratives travel smoothly into the present, for contemporary social psychology still consorts with what became its master discipline, assimilating current trends toward cognitive, neuroscientific, and evolutionary psychology. In so much as official histories outline social psychology’s trajectory and scientific allegiance, why would social psychologists need or want more?

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