Sunday, April 14, 2013

Eugenics in the History of Social Psychology

This article focuses on the role eugenics has played in the field social psychology, looking at it from a historical perspective.

From the beginning, the United States has been a multiracial society, and the relations between races have been strained by cultural, economic, social, and political conflicts. Social psychology began in the early 1900's to study the problems of society, with race being one of the central issues. The works of Darwin, Binet, Terman, and the British Utilitarians show that those who argued the question of social engineering for the betterment of society failed to appreciate the basic principle of the evolutionary theory. The survival of a species is based on adaptability, which is enhanced by variability and diversity. Race continued to be a vital concept in the foundations of social psychology as the genetic interpretation of human motivation and performance gave way to an environmental one.

However, in more recent times, social psychology has begun to lose interest in the concept. Currently, the concept of race appears to be diminishing in importance as an experimental variable and as a social problem. Yet social psychology has failed to present a rounded, integrated view of the complex interactions of individual and normative factors in human behavior. The development of a fully conceived, researched, and applied concept of race would make a great contribution to the maturity and significance of social psychology.

This article intrigued me because it talked about how the interest in eugenics in social psychology has evolved over the past century. And the role it played in psychology correlated with the political and cultural events going at during that time period. For example, between 1926 and 1955, there were a lot of studies being done on the "Negro problem." So when the article made the point that race eugenics is no longer a popular topic in social psychology, I started to wonder why. Perhaps as a society, we are becoming less prejudiced and are starting to realize that no one race is biologically superior to another.

However, this doesn't mean that eugenics is not still an important issue in current events. In fact, with the new developments in genetic engineering, eugenics is more at the forefront than ever. Parents are being given the option to screen babies for birth defects and disabilities long before they are born. And to another extreme, some parents are now able to choose their child's physical traits, such as height, eye color, and hair color. This has led to eugenics not only being questioned in psychology but in philosophy and morality. And for now, there is no clear consensus on whether this type of eugenics should be something encouraged or discouraged, and there are strong arguments for both sides. As this article has shown, however, perhaps with time, this topic will become less of an issue in society as social and cultural attitudes change.

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