Kurt Lewin 'The Father of Modern Social Psychology'

Kurt Lewin: The Forces are With You.

Lewin's Ideas

Kurt Lewin is universally recognized as the founder of modern social psychology. He pioneered the use of theory, using experimentation to test hypotheses. He exposed the world to the significance of an entire discipline--group dynamics and action research.

Unlike other philosophers, Lewin conducted many "action field research" studies to understand social problems. His concept of "field theory" developed from this approach with its assertion that human interactions are driven by both the people involved and their environment. Lewin focused particularly on the interactions among races and the influences that affect inter-group and intra-group relations. Ultimately, he wanted to identify the factors that could make diverse communities function without prejudice and discrimination. Another area of his research was in pursuit of finding out why groups are so unproductive.

Kurt Lewin is perhaps best-known for developing Force Field Analysis, using Force Field Diagrams. The classic force field diagram helps a group picture the "tug-of-war" between forces around a given issue. Usually, there is a planned change described at the top, and two columns below. Driving forces are listed in the left column, and restraining forces in the right column. Arrows are drawn towards the middle. Longer arrows indicate stronger forces. The idea is to understand and make explicit all the forces acting on a given issue.

Kurt Lewin was one of the first to conduct a systematic analysis of an issue fundamental to social and personality psychology, namely the relative contributions of personality and social environment to human behavior. Additionally, Lewin strongly emphasized the complementarily of basic and applied research.


An immigrant from Germany, Kurt Lewin was born in 1890. In 1933, after receiving a Ph. D. from the University of Berlin in 1916 and serving in the German Army, he came to the United States. By the time of his death at the age of 57 he had written over 80 articles and 8 books. "The Founder of Modern Social Psychology" is renowned for his scientific approach to research and experimentation as well as his work in understanding organizational behavior, and although he was never adequately acclaimed during his lifetime his teachings remain the definitive source to understanding group dynamics.

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