The Past of Social Psychology and Trends: the (Critical) History of Social Psychology



Type of instruction




Part of degree program


Recommended in

Semester 1-4

Typically offered in

Autumn/Spring semester

Course description

National characterology from the period of national awakening, and mass psychology following – a critical approach to – socialist movements both played important roles in the prehistory of Social Psychology. These pre-scientific attempts point out the strong general need to a psychological interpretation of societal phenomena. The term, social psychology and its systematic empiricism appeared at the crossroads of Psychology and Sociology in the early 20th century. Social Psychology has always been an American science, in which the pragmatism of the American society played an important role and in which methodological individualism could flourish. Descriptive attitude research was followed by research on group-dynamics, attitudedynamics and cognitive style at the time of the Second World War and thereafter. The so called cognitive revolution in the 70’s can be explained by both scientific and social changes which led to the quarter-century-long dominance of the paradigm of information-processing. At the beginning of the 21st century, the period of studying group-based emotions and ideologies appeared, in which two subdominant approaches – the collectivistic and the affective –merged. The study of the history and prehistory of Social Psychology can demonstrate the changing research strategies of the discipline, the role that the American and European cultural context played in it, and furthermore the specific challenges that the East-Central European context presents, which despite or as a matter of fact because of the ambiguities of societal developments in the region, offers valuable explanations of international relevance as well. The historical analysis of Social Psychology overviews the international scientific literature, the main research groups and the system of their connections.

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