Aristotle observed that man is a social animal and proposed social influence principles; however, as Elliot Aronson (1972; 2008) observed, Aristotle was not likely the first person to observe and comment on human social nature. Philosophy, religion, and conventional wisdom developed almost unlimited perspectives on the human as a social being before the field of social psychology emerged in the early 1900s. Observation and experience serve as the foundation for traditional views of social behavior. These perspectives propagate through family, tribe, and culture, resulting in a diverse array of disparate religious and philosophical perspectives.
As a discipline, social psychology emerged to explore social phenomena to find truth scientifically. However, the truths in social psychology seem as disparate as those that drive countless ideological perspectives in the traditional realm. In his book The Social Animal, Joshua Aronson (1972) declared, “There are almost as many definitions of social psychology as there are social psychologists” (p. 4). To the outsider, the field of social psychology may seem to be little more than people with competing perspectives applying fancy words to truths that have been known throughout history.