Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Historic Figures in Social Psychology

Historic Figures in Social Psychology   Listed below are biographical sketches and links to some of the best known figures associated with the history of social psychology. For additional biographies (of contemporary as well as historic figures), see:

If you wish to suggest any additions to this list, please use the Contact Us page to send the name of the psychologist and the web address of the page to be added (Note: To be eligible, the individual must already have a Wikipedia biography, have played a key role in the history of social psychology, and have died at least 20 years ago.)

Allport, Floyd Henry
Floyd Henry Allport
1890 - 1978
Floyd Allport is considered a founder of experimental social psychology, in part for his theoretical rigor and emphasis on measurement, and in part for his popular 1924 textbook Social Psychology, which went through 13 editions over the ensuing 50 years.

Floyd Henry Allport and Social Psychology

Autobiography of Floyd Henry Allport

Wikipedia Entry for Floyd Henry Allport

Allport, Gordon Willard
Gordon Willard Allport
1897 - 1967
Gordon Allport, younger brother of Floyd Allport, conducted pioneering research on attitudes, prejudice, religion, and rumor transmission, among other topics. In addition to training prominent psychologists such as Stanley Milgram, Thomas Pettigrew, Jerome Bruner, and Anthony Greenwald, he helped establish the field of personality psychology.

Biography of Gordon Allport

Inventing Personality: Gordon Allport and the Science of Selfhood

Wikipedia Entry for Gordon Willard Allport

Asch, Solomon
Solomon Asch
1907 - 1996
Solomon Asch is best known for laboratory studies on conformity showing that under certain circumstances, a large percentage of people will conform to a majority position even when the position is clearly incorrect. He also published seminal studies on the primacy effect and halo effect, and helped inspire Stanley Milgram's research on obedience to authority.

Obituary in the New York Times

Solomon Asch Center for the Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict

The Legacy of Solomon Asch: Essays in Cognition and Social Psychology

Wikipedia Entry for Solomon Asch

Brown, Roger William
Roger William Brown
1925 - 1997
Roger Brown wrote the acclaimed 1965 textbook Social Psychology, which played a central role in training a generation of social psychologists. He also made important contributions in psycholinguistics and cognitive psychology, studying topics such as language acquisition, flashbulb memories, and the tip of the tongue phenomenon.

Obituary in the Harvard University Gazette

Wikipedia Entry for Roger William Brown

Campbell, Donald Thomas
Donald Thomas Campbell
1916 - 1996
Donald T. Campbell was a social psychologist and research methodologist who coauthored some of the most frequently cited methodology books and articles ever published. In addition to this work, he served as President of the American Psychological Association and contributed to several fields beyond psychology, including sociology, anthropology, biology, and philosophy.

Obituary in the New York Times

Donald T. Campbell Social Science Research Prize

Scientific Inquiry and the Social Sciences: A Volume in Honor of Donald T. Campbell

Wikipedia Entry for Donald Thomas Campbell

Clark, Kenneth Bancroft
Kenneth Bancroft Clark
1914 - 2005
Kenneth Clark and his wife Mamie conducted research suggesting that Black children preferred to play with White dolls, a result that the U.S. Supreme Court later cited as evidence that segregation "generates a feeling of inferiority... that may affect the childrens' hearts and minds." He was also the first African American to be elected President of the American Psychological Association.

Obituary in the New York Times

Notable New Yorkers: Kenneth Clark

Racial Identity in Context: The Legacy of Kenneth B. Clark

Wikipedia Entry for Kenneth Bancroft Clark

Clark, Mamie Phipps
Mamie Phipps Clark
1917 - 1983
Mamie Clark completed a masters thesis that provided the foundation for studies she and her husband Kenneth published on the harmful effects of racial segregation. The U.S. Supreme Court cited these studies in Brown v. Board of Education, a landmark case banning racial segregation in public education.

Notable New Yorkers: Mamie Clark

Segregation Ruled Unequal, and Therefore Unconstitutional

Wikipedia Entry for Mamie Phipps Clark

Festinger, Leon
Leon Festinger
1919 - 1989
Leon Festinger developed the theory of cognitive dissonance, a motivational theory suggesting that people seek to minimize discomfort caused by inconsistent beliefs and behaviors. He also developed social comparison theory, devised several of the earliest nonparametric statistical tests, and documented the key role of proximity in social relationships.

Leon Festinger: A Biographical Memoir

Cognitive Consequences of Forced Compliance

Wikipedia Entry for Leon Festinger

Heider, Fritz
Fritz Heider
1896 - 1988
Fritz Heider was an Austrian-born Gestalt psychologist whose work helped give rise to the field of social cognition. His best known book, The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations, was published in 1958 and was highly influential in the development of attribution theory.

A Brief Biography of Fritz Heider

The Life of a Psychologist: An Autobiography

Wikipedia Entry for Fritz Heider

Hooker, Evelyn
Evelyn Hooker
1907 - 1996
Evelyn Hooker was the first social scientist to study the psychosocial adjustment of gay men outside hospital or prison settings. Her results showed no difference between gay and heterosexual men, challenging antigay stereotypes and eventually leading the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its diagnostic manual of mental disorders.

Evelyn Hooker: In Memorium

Changing Our Minds: The Story of Dr. Evelyn Hooker

Wikipedia Entry for Evelyn Hooker

Hovland, Carl I.
Carl I. Hovland
1912 - 1961
Carl Hovland conducted pathbreaking research on attitude change, propaganda, and persuasion, including studies of the sleeper effect, source credibility, two-sided persuasive appeals, and contrast effects. Later in his career, he also investigated symbolic processes and computer simulations of human thought.

A Brief Biography of Carl Hovland

Carl Hovland Memorial Lecture Series

Wikipedia Entry for Carl Hovland

Janis, Irving
Irving Janis
1918 - 1990
Irving Janis carried out studies on attitude change, stress, and decision making, but his best known research was on groupthink, which he defined as "a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members' strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action."

Groupthink of Irving Janis

Wikipedia Entry for Groupthink

A Groupthink Cartoon

Wikipedia Entry for Irving L. Janis

Le Bon, Gustave
Gustave Le Bon
1841 - 1931
Gustave Le Bon was a French social scientist who wrote about the psychology of crowds and the "collective mind," which he described as a "single being" more primitive and suggestible than the individuals who comprise it. His views on crowd behavior and inherited racial characteristics helped lay the foundation for fascist ideologies later promulgated by Hitler.

Encyclopedia Britannica biography of Gustave Le Bon

The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind

Wikipedia Entry for Gustave Le Bon

Lewin, Kurt
Kurt Lewin
1890 - 1947
Kurt Lewin was an early leader of group dynamic research and is regarded by many as the founder of modern social psychology. Lewin's Equation, B=f(P,E), stipulates that behavior is a function of the person and environment, and he advocated "action research" applying this equation and scientific methods to address social problems such as prejudice and group conflict.

Kurt Lewin's biography from Muskingum College

Kurt Lewin Institute

Wikipedia Entry for Kurt Lewin

McDougall, William
William McDougall
1871 - 1938
William McDougall cofounded the British Psychological Society in 1901 and published one of the first social psychology textbooks, An Introduction to Social Psychology (1908). He opposed behaviorism, believing instead that human behavior could be explained by instincts, and was controversial for his views on eugenics and inherited racial differences.

Autobiography of William McDougall

Encyclopedia of Psychology Biography of William McDougall

Wikipedia Entry for William McDougall

Milgram, Stanley
Stanley Milgram
1933 - 1984
Stanley Milgram is famous for a set of studies suggesting that most people will obey an experimenter's order to administer potentially deadly levels of electric shock to a protesting stranger. He also invented several research techniques unrelated to obedience, such as the lost-letter technique, cyranoid technique, and small-world ("six degrees of separation") technique.

The Man Who Shocked the World

Wikipedia Entry for Stanley Milgram

Ringelmann, Maximilien
Maximilien Ringelmann, photo courtesy of Collection du Musée du Vivant - AgroParisTech
1861 - 1931
Maximilien Ringelmann was a French agricultural engineer who, in the 1880s, conducted some of the first experiments in social psychology. These experiments showed that individual members of a group often become less productive as the size of their group increases -- a phenomenon referred to as the "Ringelmann effect" and now better known as social loafing.

Information on the Ringelmann Effect

Wikipedia Entry for Max Ringelmann

Schachter, Stanley
Stanley Schachter
1922 - 1997
Stanley Schachter became well known in the 1950s for developing the "two-factor theory of emotion," which posits that emotions are a joint result of physiological arousal and a cognitive interpretation of that arousal. He also researched a wide range of other phenomena, including cognitive dissonance, misattribution, overeating, and addiction.

Stanley Schachter's Biography from Columbia University

Wikipedia Entry for Stanley Schachter

Sherif, Carolyn Wood
Carolyn Wood Sherif
1922 - 1982
Carolyn Wood Sherif and her husband, Muzafer Sherif, conducted the "Robber's Cave" experiment (see below) and worked with Carl Hovland to develop social judgment theory, an influential theory about how and when attitude change takes place. She also studied gender identity, social values, and group dynamics, and served as President of the Society for the Psychology of Women.

Biography of Dr. Carolyn Wood Sherif

Carolyn Wood Sherif Award

Obituary in Psychology of Women Quarterly

Wikipedia Entry for Carolyn Wood Sherif

Sherif, Muzafer
Muzafer Sherif
1906 - 1988
Muzafer Sherif was a Turkish-born social psychologist who, with his wife Carolyn, conducted the Robber's Cave experiment in which boys at a summer camp were divided into two rivil groups and ultimately overcame fierce intergroup hostility after working toward superordinate goals. He also studied norm formation, attitude change, and many other topics.

Muzafer Sherif's Biography from Muskingum College

Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation: The Robbers Cave Experiment

Essays in Honor of Muzafer Sherif

Wikipedia Entry for Muzafer Sherif

Sumner, Francis Cecil
Francis Cecil Sumner
1895 - 1954
Francis Cecil Sumner was the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in psychology, which he earned from Clark University in 1920. He was an official abstractor for Psychological Bulletin and the Journal of Social Psychology, established an independent psychology program at Howard University, and is widely credited as founding the field of Black psychology.

Biography of Francis Cecil Sumner

Francis Cecil Sumner: A Slide Show

Wikipedia Entry for Francis Cecil Sumner

Tajfel, Henri
Henri Tajfel
1919 - 1982
Henri Tajfel devised the "minimal group paradigm" in which intergroup relations are studied after arbitrarily dividing experimental participants into groups on the basis of minimally important characteristics. Consistent with social identity theory (co-developed with his student John Turner), he documented that even minimal groups readily form identities and exhibit ingroup favoritism.

The EASP Henri Tajfel Award

Wikipedia Entry for Henri Tajfel

Triplett, Norman
Norman Triplett
1861 - 1931
Norman Triplett published one of the first experiments related to social psychology. The report, appearing in the American Journal of Psychology in 1898, compared how fast children wound a reel when alone and in competiton with another child. He concluded that the presence of another contestant "serves to liberate latent energy not ordinarily available."

Norman Triplett's 1898 Article

Wikipedia Entry for Norman Triplett

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