Opinion has caused more trouble on this little earth than plagues or earthquakes. — Voltaire
I don’t know if I’ve ever used this blog to broadcast inflammatory ideas, so today’s post may be the first. Sometimes, though, sometimes you believe in an idea so deeply, so passionately, that to keep from expressing it is to melt yourself from the inside out.
So today I’m going to cool my core and breathe this heat through the electronic blogoshpere. Brace yourself, for I’m about to assert:
Truth… is that… cats are evil.
No, that’s not what I was going to say. I mean, I do believe that’s true, but I don’t think such a claim is inflammatory. Well, except to old ladies whose best friends are named Snickers and SticksItsButtInYourFace.
My real claim is this: social psychology is the most important discipline to study.
Now, before you scroll to the comment section to fire off a contradicting response, begin to write a sentence, decide you don’t really care that much, and simply close this tab, hear me out.
Social psychology, as defined by the famous practitioner Dr. Allport, is “the discipline that uses scientific methods to understand and explain how the thought, feeling and behavior of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined or implied presence of other human beings.”
However, social psychology doesn’t only study the individual within groups; it studies individuals as individuals. For example, how persons express prejudice, how persons interpret physical pain, how persons reason and determine logic.
Yes, social psychology has “social” in the title and examines such things like how groups best interact, how biases emerge within science, how people best find happiness and purpose, but it ALSO studies the experience of human consciousness itself.
Now, you may be thinking, “What about medicine? Jake believes that social psychology is more important than curing illnesses?”
First off, let me say that I don’t think we could eliminate all these other intellectual pursuits (barring social psychology) and still be a healthy society. You don’t cut the arms off a body and say it’s perfectly fine as long as the brain is intact.
Nonetheless, it is social psychology that has informed doctors how to interact with patients, how to counsel them on quality of life. It is social psychology that helps determine the best methods of getting people to actually take medicine and go to the doctors. It is social psychology that helps organize research teams for optimal performance so they can make those medical advancements.
“What about economics?” you say. “What about English? What about physics?”
All of economics is shifting toward “behavioral economics” which is just a different term for social psychology. English is simply writing about the human experience–the exact study of social psychology. And physics?
Think of this: the study of physics is trying to get at the truth of the world. But no matter how small you study things–atoms, quarks, the ‘god particle’–or how large you study things–planets, galaxies, the universe–all of this is studied through human consciousness.
No matter how sterile or mathematical your equation, no matter how “objective” or “unbiased” your observations, they are always made through conscious thought, the sensory awareness of a human being.
And that is exactly what social psychologists research: the study of the studiers. In this regard, then, you cannot get any closer to truth than through social psychology. And when you think about everything humans do, what do we seek more than truth itself?
Closing my browser as I type
I don’t know about ‘most’ important- but certainly at the highest level of importance, along with a few other topics. Life is a fundamentally human endeavor, that’s for sure. My concentration in b-school is Leading People and Organizations, because I enjoyed the management classes so much. They are 10x more fascinating than quant classes, but success requires both, usually. Bravo, JDT, Bravo!
First off: as always, brilliant name.
Secondly, I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying the leading and organizational aspects of business school. There’s a lot of research being done in the field on those exact topics. Man, I can’t wait till we’re back together in a bar somewhere, drink in hand, having a good, intelligent conversation 🙂