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From the end of World War II until roughly 1989, global leaders feared that cataclysmic war would break out between the world’s two superpower states, the Soviet Union and the United States. Though such a confrontation did not occur, the stalemate between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the United States—with its simmering fears, proxy battles, and psychological warfare—became known as the Cold War. Psychological expertise played an important role in the Cold War, especially within Western democracies like the United States, Great Britain, and Canada. In these countries, citizens tended to view the Cold War as a “battle for minds”: a fight against communist political ideology, totalitarianism, social conformity, and other threats to individual mental freedom. Anglo-American psychology flourished within this intellectual environment by finding new topics and applications for research, new sources of funding, and a new image as essential to the functioning of healthy democracy. Historians continue to debate how the Cold War influenced the field of psychology. Overall, the strategic partnership between psychology and the “military-industrial complex” was limited to certain initiatives. In some cases, Anglo-American psychologists who used their expertise to fight the Cold War were led into questionable pursuits, resulting in greater public scrutiny and even scandals for themselves and their profession. Nonetheless, the Cold War had a significant impact on Anglo-American psychology by making the relationship between psychological knowledge and democratic values a continual subject of public concern.

Article

Thomas F. Pettigrew

Prejudice, especially intergroup prejudice, has long been a central topic of social psychology. The discipline has sought to be both socially relevant and useful. Thus, theory and research on prejudice fits directly into these central concerns of the discipline. The study of this topic has developed in direct correspondence with how social psychology itself has been able to devise new theoretical and empirical tools—from self-administered questionnaires and probability sample surveys to laboratory experiments and computer-assisted methods. Given the discipline’s intense research interest in intergroup prejudice, it is not surprising that that there is a plethora of theories concerning prejudice. But these many theories tend not to conflict with one another. Rather, they typically coalesce around interrelated themes across three levels of analysis. The micro level of the attitudes of individuals was the primary focus for the first half-century of modern social psychology (1920–1970). Slowly, the field turned its attention to the meso level of intergroup interaction and how such contact influenced intergroup prejudice and discrimination. Finally, the discipline began to consider more systematically the many relevant structural and cultural factors at the macro level of analysis and how they shaped both intergroup prejudice and discrimination. With time, direct links between the three principal levels of analysis have been uncovered. With this order of attention, social psychology boasts many more theories and studies of prejudice at the micro level of individuals than at other levels. But the field has learned that all three levels of analysis are critical for a fully rounded, more complete understanding of the topic.