The Intertwined Histories of Personality and Social Psychology

Thomas F. Pettigrew and Frances Cherry

in The Oxford Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780195398991
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

The Intertwined Histories of Personality and Social Psychology


The histories of personality and social psychology have been closely intertwined for more than a century. But there have been several critical differences that have at times acted to separate the two fields. One such divergence involved their models of humans—whether largely irrational (the personality emphasis) or largely rational (the social emphasis). This difference has now subsided with their joint acceptance of a “bounded rationality.” More important has been their difference in focus—the microlevel of the person versus the mesolevel of the group and situation. But now both fields largely agree on interaction models that include both the person and the situation. We trace these tensions between the two fields across six diverse eras: (1) Origins through World War I (1890–1919); (2) Early Developments (1920–1935); (3) War Influences (1936–1950); (4) Structural Differentiation and Slow Acceptance (1951–1965); (5) Dual Crises (1966–1985); and (6) Coming Back Together Again (1986–present).

Keywords: Gordon Allport; Kurt Lewin; Henry Murray; situation; interaction; dual crises

Article.  15880 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology

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