This post is written by Cathy Faye, Assistant Director, Archives of the History of Psychology, Center for the History of Psychology and is part of a special series of bibliographies on topics in the history of psychology.
In the following list of resources I have tried to provide literature that discusses social psychology from both a historical and a theoretical standpoint and that reflects both psychological and sociological approaches to the discipline. Nonetheless, my own interests are centred largely on the disciplinary history of twentieth-century American social psychology and the historiography of social psychology. This list reflects that focus. I’ve also focused on sources that take a very broad view of the field, and have therefore omitted reference to specific topics or time periods in the history of social psychology. For those interested in a more topical consideration of social psychology, I highly recommend Roger Smith’s (1997) bibliographic essay on “The individual and the social” (see Smith, The Norton History of the Human Sciences, pp. 993-999). I have provided brief explanatory notes regarding each book-length work in the list below. With a few exceptions, most of these works are standard histories, while the articles provided are mainly critiques of these standard histories or theoretical considerations of the discipline. Read together, they provide a really interesting story not only of what social psychology has been, but also of the changing views regarding what it should be. The list of articles is brief, but the best articles are those in the special issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences that I have cited.
Collier, G., Minton, H. L., & Reynolds, G. (1991). Currents of thought in American social psychology. New York: Oxford University Press. This book is a good place to start, since it highlights trends in the history of American social psychology. It does not, however, provide much detail or reflection.
Farr, R. M. (1996). The roots of modern social psychology, 1872-1954. Oxford: Blackwell. Farr provides a more reflective and critical history, along with a consideration of historiographical issues in writing the history of social psychology.
Greenwood, J. D. (2004). The disappearance of the social in American social psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Greenwood provides a critical, historical analysis of the individualistic nature of contemporary social psychology. He argues that early twentieth-century social psychologists had a rich conception of the social that has since dissipated. This book is particularly useful because it raises important questions regarding what constitutes a social versus an asocial psychology. Continue reading Bibliography: History of Social Psychology