What is social psychology?
When you have ﬁnished studying this chapter, you should be able to:
1 Outline the main differences between experimental and critical approaches to social psychology. 2 Describe the three main ‘metaphysical battles’ between them. 3 Trace the origins of social psychology through the work of William McDougall and
William James, and the contributions made by Völkerpsychologie and crowd psychology.
4 Describe the two contrasting images of ‘the person’ in social psychology. 5 Identify the roots of and describe the historical development of both experimental and critical social psychology.
6 Describe the main elements of Modernism and Postmodernism, and how these relate
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Kitty was raped too, and her story stimulated a massive programme of experimental social psychological research into the apparent paradox – that the more people who witness an event like this, the less likely it will be that any one of them will do anything about it. This came to be called the ‘diffusion of responsibility’ effect (about which you can learn more in Chapter 11). You may be shocked to learn that this story as told by Latané and Darley (and numerous textbook writers who followed on after them) simply is not true. Historians of psychology (Manning et al. 2007) have, rather belatedly, looked at the court transcripts from the trial of Kitty’s murderer. Of the 38 people who could have been aware of what was going on, it turns out that only a few were eyewitnesses with a clear sightline to the attack as it started. And one of them did shout out, causing the attacker to run away. Kitty then got up, clearly hurt, but able to get herself around to the back of the building to make her way towards her own apartment. Sadly her attacker followed her and caught her in the stairwell. It is there he raped and killed her, a place where nobody could directly see what was going on. So Kitty’s case, however tragic, was not the outrageous incident portrayed in the press. This was not an example of horriﬁc human callousness as they claimed. At about the same time, but coming from a completely different direction, another psychologist,