Aron, Arthur and Aron, Elaine N. The Heart of Social Psychology. Lexington, Massachusetts:
This is a gossipy, insider's, very particularistic view of what these authors call the "heart" of
social psychology. It is their identification of the Group Dynamics school, or better, the cult
which has surrounded Lewin as the "heart." It is an excellent overview of Gestalt social
psychology in the U.S. since the late 1930s. I am delighted that someone has turned out an
informal history of this school. However, I am disgusted by the arrogance, the claimed
exclusivity, the professional claptrap which is admired by these authors.
Clearly to the Arons, social psychology began in the late 1930s with Lewin's work at Iowa and
later at MIT. Before Lewin, all was apparently meaningless. Yet these authors admit that Lewin
developed and contributed a theory which is no longer used in social psychology. Rather, Lewin
is remembered for having stimulated and trained a generation of students in social psychology
and these students became the leading social psychologists in the U.S.
I did learn that Sherif's work at Columbia was stimulated by Gardner Murphy. Sherif arrived at
Columbia from his native Turkey in 1931. His work was independent of Lewin's but both were
interested in the same problems. (Lewin was stimulated by German oppression while Sherif was
stimulated by Greek oppression.) It was Sherif's personal experience with hostility that led him
to the Bull Dogs and Red Devils and his later work.
Essentially, the book is based on interviews with Big Names in social psychology. Those
interviews, along with the authors' readings in the field, form the organization and substance of
the book. What they define as the "heart" of social psychology is their very selective history of
Gestalt psychology in the U.S.