Social Psychology

Brown, Steven D. and Locke, Abigail (2017). Social Psychology. In: Willig, Carla and Stainton Rogers, Wendy eds. Handbook of Qualitative Methods in Psychology (2nd ed.). London: Sage, pp. 417–430.



Social psychology remains a diverse sub-discipline of psychology. One that in its broadest conceptualization contains feminist approaches, gender, community and political psychology, and critical approaches to the discipline, alongside more traditional social psychological approaches to group dynamics and attitude theory. The diversity of method and topic has characterized social psychology since its inception. Most traditional histories of social psychology single out two key works in the late nineteenth century as the founding moments for the discipline - Le Bon's study of crowd behaviour and Triplett's experimental research on social facilitation. Le Bon's (1895) The Crowd is a dense "philosophical" treatise on the "minds" and "opinions" of crowds. This is illustrated by observations the author makes on the events around the fall of the Paris Commune. In stark contrast, Triplett's (1898) work is a more modest attempt to understand "competitiveness" - how the presence of others seems to encourage individuals to apply greater efforts in the accomplishment of some task. Whilst reference is made to bicycle racing competitions, Triplett's work uses an experimental design where two children are engaged in a somewhat bizarrely staged task involving fishing reels.

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