Social psychology is the study of how a person or a group’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors are influenced by surrounding factors (social stimuli). One of the first major theorists to examine how external factors influence people was Kurt Lewin. Lewin is best known for his creation of field theory. Field theory is based on the concept that an individual must be understood within his or her “field” or external life space, including all of the person’s needs, goals, or external circumstances that might influence behavior. Of particular importance are Lewin’s descriptions of conflict situations. He described three common conflict situations, as follows (Lewin, 1951):
It is possible to see the three main conflict situations frequently within one’s own life and those of others. One can also see how competing forces within a person’s field can lead to indecision or internal conflict.
◦Describe some of the influencing factors within your field or life space at that time.
◦Perhaps you found a way to delay making a decision. If so, describe how you managed to find a sense of equilibrium between the competing aspects of the conflict.
Lewin, K. (1951). Field theory in social science. New York, NY: Harper.
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