Historical References of Social Psychology

Social psychology is relatively a young scientific discipline; it is a bit older than one hundred years. This branch of science includes two scientific disciplines: psychology and sociology. The psychological social psychology focuses its attention on how individual reacts on social influence, while sociological social psychology focuses on large groups of people, their social status and their role in the society. German psychologist Wilhelm Wundt is considered to be the founder of social psychology. He proposed that there should be two types of psychology: psychological psychology and social psychology.

Wundt had a great influence on social psychology in Europe and by 1900 there were about 200 articles per year with the title “social psychology”. However, his influence did not touch the American psychology because his works were not translated in English. Gordon Allport Describes social psychology as “the science that study human behaviors, feelings, thoughts that are influenced by the presence of others” (“Social psychology seems to have many origins; critically discuss the historical and philosophical roots of modern social psychology” ,2012).

According to this definition social psychology has a direct connection to psychology and sociology and this discipline cannot be seen as a linear phenomenon. The history of social psychology can be analyzed in two ways. First, it was a new branch of science that was influenced by the sociological demands in society. Second, it was a discipline that had a direct connection with psychology but paid more attention to sociological issues and needs. The main task of psychology is the study mental health of the individual and his behavior.

On the other hand, the task of the sociology is the study of society, people’s relationship; it is a study of human behavior. Sociology studies society, while psychology studies human behavior, thus there is a direct connection between these two disciplines. The understanding of relations between people is impossible without knowledge of human inner world. In the same way, the study of human mental health is impossible without knowledge about social factors that influence the individual (Kumar, 2012).

In other words, these two sciences branch are connected and as a result a new science appeared that is called social psychology. One of the first scientists who made a contribution in social psychology was an American psychologist at Norman Triplett. In 1895 he asked such question “How does the individual perform a task in a presence of other people”. In his study Norman Triplett noticed that a bicycle racer move faster when he must compete with other racers than when he moves alone. Few years later this experiment was introduced in social sciences.

English psychologist William McDougall thought that the individual is the principal unit of analysis in social psychology. His study based on a Darwinian theory of human behavior of inherited instincts. According to this concept he wrote The Group Mind (1920). It was his attempt to illustrate national life and character that was a sequel to his Social Psychology (“William McDougall”, 2013). Edward Ross was an American founder of sociology in the United States and one of the first scientists who pursue a comprehensive sociological theory.

One of his best works is Social Control (1901), in which he demonstrate how social limitations influence on individual development (“Edward A. Ross”, 2013). However, the most important contributions were in social psychology were made by professor Allport. He considered that individual must be studied from two points of view: from social psychology and individual psychology. “There is no consciousness except that belonging to individuals” (Bernard, 2013). Professor Allport states there is no such term as “collective mind” or “crowd mind” and many other psychologists did not agree with him.

As a psychologist Allport made analysis from psychological point of view. He believed that the explanation of social issues is in individual but not in society. It was a new approach in study the social psychology because the majority of scientists used sociology as the base of their research. They believe that psychology is needed to explain the term from biological point of view, but the whole study must base on sociological concepts. He established new approaches in study social psychology despite the fact that many scientists did not support his methods.

One of the most influence psychologists was Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany Kurt Lewin. He strongly believe that psychology should not make a choice between what it should be a pure science or an applied science. He states that there should not be research without action and there should be not action without research. Kurt Lewin continued to influence social psychology by applying researches in social field. Social psychology is a science that combines two disciplines, science and psychology. These two branches of science are connected because they help to explain each other.

The only difference is that psychology studies the issue of individual, while sociology pays attention to problems of a group of people. According to this fact, scientists made an attempt to unity these two branches in one field. New science gave an opportunity to see the problems from different point of views. Sociological problems can be analyzed from psychological point of view, while psychological issues are viewed from sociological point. However, the majority of scientists use in their studies sociology as a base concept and psychology as a way of explaining terms and meanings.