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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):

  • Approach-approach conflict: Occurs when a person needs to choose between two equally attractive and positive goals
  • Avoidance-avoidance conflict: Occurs when a person needs to choose between two negative options that are both equally unsatisfying
  • Approach-avoidance conflict: Occurs when a person is both attracted to and resistant of the same situation
  • 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 a situation from your own life in which you felt uncertain about a decision that you needed to make. Please make sure to use an example that you feel comfortable disclosing with your instructor and classmates. ◦Which type of conflict situation (approach-approach, avoidance-avoidance, or approach-avoidance) best fits your example, and why?
  • ◦Describe some of the influencing factors within your field or life space at that time.

  • How did you resolve the conflict in your example? ◦Did you notice that your feelings about the decision became more or less positive or negative as you moved toward your goal? Describe this process.
  • ◦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.

    Reference

    Lewin, K. (1951). Field theory in social science. New York, NY: Harper.

    300-500 Words, APA Format

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