The Three Faces of Social Psychology

The current “crisis” of social psychology largely reflects the division of the field into three increasingly isolated domains or faces: (1) psychological social psychology, (2) symbolic interactionism, and (3) psychological sociology (or social structure and personality). A sociology of knowledge analysis suggests that the distinctive substantive and methodological concerns of each face reflect the intellectual and institutional contexts in which it developed. Psychological social psychology has increasingly focused on individual psychological processes in relation to social stimuli using laboratory experiments; symbolic interactionism, on face-to-face interaction processes using naturalistic observations; and psychological sociology, on the relation of macrosocial structures and processes to individual psychology and behavior, most often using survey methods. Brief critical discussion of the faces indicates that the strengths of each complement waknesses in the others, highlighting a need for more interchange among them. Psychology sociology receives special emphasis because it currently lacks the coherence and clear identity of the other faces, yet is essential to a well-rounded social psychology since it balances the increasingly microsocial emphases of the other faces. Although diagnosis does not guarantee cure, this paper aims to promote modification of the very faces and trends it depicts.