There are many different kinds of psychology: abnormal, behavioral, clinical, cognitive, developmental, physiological, personality, and social, to name some of the major categories. In recent years, philosophers of psychology (in the sense under discussion today) have focused primarily on cognitive psychology and Freudian psychoanalysis (which cross-cuts abnormal and personality). In this paper, I propose to turn my attention to one of the least discussed of these fields: social psychology. Specifically, I will consider a debate currently raging in the sub-field of social psychology known as “social perception research.”
Social psychology is - to quote from a recent textbook - “the scientific study of the thoughts, actions, and interactions of individuals as affected by the actual, implied, or imagined presence of others…. The social emphasis distinguishes social psychology from [other fields of] psychology, and the emphasis on the individual distinguishes it from sociology” (Tedeschi, Lindskold, and Rosenfeld 1985, 4-5).