INTRODUCING SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY
The Social Approach in Psychology became influential in the 1950s and ‘60s. Social researchers began studying the situations people act in rather than dispositional factors like personality. To do this, they developed ingenious observations and carried out lab experiments to identify and manipulate social situations.
In the post-WWII years, obedience and prejudice were high on the agenda. This is because social researchers wanted to answer the questions, Why had the Holocaust happened? and, Could the Holocaust happen again?
Earlier notions that there was something inherently callous or servile in the German national character (an idea popularly known as the “The-Germans-Are-Different” Hypothesis) were unsatisfactory. The growing Civil Rights Movement drew attention to ongoing racism and discrimination in America and Europe too. Mindless obedience to orders and hostility to people seen as outsiders were increasingly viewed as symptoms of a ‘Fascist’ mentality and this mentality was seen as responsible for the rise of Nazism in Europe.
A different view was that situations, not personalities, created Fascistic behaviour.
Many Social Psychologists believed that if the causes of obedience and prejudice could be understood, their effects could be reduced. One day, fascism, racism and sexism might be abolished by psychology.
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