How Does Allport Define Social Psychology?


Diego Sanchez

Social psychology is a fascinating field that explores the intricate relationship between individuals and their social environment. One of the foundational figures in this discipline is Gordon Allport, an American psychologist who made significant contributions to our understanding of social behavior. Allport’s definition of social psychology provides a comprehensive framework for studying human behavior within a social context.

Gordon Allport: A Brief Overview

Gordon Willard Allport was born on November 11, 1897, in Montezuma, Indiana. He completed his undergraduate studies at Harvard University and went on to receive his Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard as well. Throughout his career, he focused on the study of personality and social psychology, leaving a lasting impact on both fields.

Allport’s Definition of Social Psychology

Allport defined social psychology as “an attempt to understand and explain how the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others.” This definition highlights the interaction between an individual’s internal processes (thoughts and feelings) and external factors (actual or implied presence of others).

According to Allport’s perspective, individuals are not isolated entities; they exist within a larger social context that shapes their behavior. This definition emphasizes the importance of understanding how individuals perceive and respond to social stimuli.

The Key Concepts in Allport’s Definition

1. Thoughts:

Allport acknowledges that our thoughts play a crucial role in shaping our behavior. These thoughts can be conscious or unconscious and may be influenced by our past experiences, beliefs, attitudes, and values.

2. Feelings:

Emotions are an integral part of human experience.

Allport recognizes that emotions can vary based on social situations and the presence of others. Understanding how individuals experience and express their emotions in different social contexts is essential to grasp the complexity of social behavior.

3. Behaviors:

Our actions are influenced by our thoughts, feelings, and the presence of others.

Allport emphasizes the need to examine how individuals behave in response to social situations. This includes both overt behaviors (observable actions) and covert behaviors (internal processes).

4. Actual, Imagined, or Implied Presence of Others:

Allport highlights that individuals can be influenced by others’ physical presence, as well as their imagined or implied presence. The mere thought or perception of someone’s existence can impact our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Allport’s Influence on Social Psychology

Allport’s definition of social psychology provided a solid foundation for future researchers in the field. His emphasis on the interplay between internal processes and external factors helped shape subsequent theories and studies within social psychology.

The Person-Situation Interaction:

Allport’s definition laid the groundwork for understanding how individual characteristics interact with situational factors to influence behavior. This person-situation interaction has become a central focus within social psychology, exploring how certain traits may manifest differently depending on the context.

Perception of Others:

Allport’s recognition of the impact of others’ actual, imagined, or implied presence paved the way for research on impression formation and perception of others. Understanding how we form impressions about others is crucial for comprehending interpersonal relationships.

In Conclusion

Gordon Allport’s definition of social psychology provides an insightful framework for understanding human behavior within a social context. By acknowledging the influence of thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and the presence of others, Allport emphasized the complexity of social interactions. His work continues to inspire and guide researchers in their quest to unravel the mysteries of social behavior.