Category Archives: History

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, How Does Psych Reflect Us All?

“Our environment, the world in which we live and work, is a mirror of our attitudes and expectations.” – Earl Nightingale, American motivational speaker

ResearchBlogging.orgIn 1898, Norman Triplett stumbled upon an interesting observation as he watched a group of cyclists competing in a race: He noticed that the athletes tended to ride faster when they were around other people than when they were alone. He successfully replicated this phenomenon in the laboratory by asking groups of children to reel in spools of fishing line, noting that the children working in pairs reeled the line in faster than those who worked alone. Triplett published the findings, labeled the phenomenon “social facilitation,” and kicked off the entire field of experimental social psychology as we know it with (arguably) the first-ever published social psychology paper.*

The fact that the first paper in social psychology derived its hypotheses from a real-life experience is not surprising. After all, social psychology itself is supposed to be the “scientific study of how thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others.”1 If people in a field that revolves around interpersonal interactions don’t draw our examples and scientific questions from real life, from where exactly are we supposed to get them?

Yet it’s not only casual anecdotes, observations, or everyday happenings that have influenced the trajectory of our field. Social psychology has actually served a truly interesting historical function: Throughout the years, the field has managed to become a cultural mirror, consistently reflecting society’s standards, norms, and cultural traditions in its zeitgeists and trends. Going back through the annals of social psychological science can almost feel like reading a history textbook; as you parse through the findings, you see how the current events, pop culture, societal phenomena, and core values of each era shifted and grew along with the research trends.

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Ingroups, Identities, and In-Memoriams: Why We Must Remember Never To Forget

In honor of the 10th anniversary of September 11th, I am re-publishing an edited/slightly altered version of a post from the archives on the importance of commemoration and collective memory for tragedies. The original post was published at IonPsych on May 2nd, the day after Osama Bin Laden’s death. It can be found here.

It has been ten years since September 11th, 2001. When we remember the events of that day, we often tend to focus on how well we remember all of the seemingly-minor details (despite evidence that these memories may not be quite so accurate). What we were wearing. What we ate for breakfast. Where we were sitting while we watched the news coverage.

Our practically-obsessive focus on these memories actually indicates much more than we realize. Despite mankind’s ever-present focus on the wide variety of intercultural differences, it turns out there’s at least one way in which we’re all not so different after all. We all place a tremendous importance on our memories. More specifically, we place a tremendous importance on commemoration.

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