Gergen, K.J. (1973). Social Psychology as History. Journal of Personality and Social psychology. 26(2): 309-320.

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Gergen’s (1973) classic article sparked a debate among psychologists about whether social psychology is truly scientific in nature or is a field that focuses on contemporary history. Gergen argued that although social psychology uses the scientific method, the field should be considered “an historical inquiry” because the driving forces of human behavior change over time. Gergen’s argued that when educated about social psychological theories, humans may exhibit a tendency to react against (and thus disprove) social psychological theories. Additionally, Gergen contended that social psychological theories tend to be a product of historical and cultural circumstances. Consequently, when the historical and cultural circumstances change, many of the principles underlying a theory may also change (e.g. predictors of political activism in the 1960’s may differ greatly from predictors of activism today because of different historical circumstances). Based on these arguments, Gergen suggested social psychologists should: be more welcoming of applied research; become better at researching the degree to which different social phenomena are stable or changing over time; and incorporate more historical analysis into research.


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