Infection Theoryeffect

viewpoint of infection theory is that theories in psychology generally cluster around some fundamental concept disseminated by researchers who are in personal touch with one another, but especially with the individual who originally proposed or developed the hypothesis. The infection effect is most noticeable in centers and institutes of learning and research (particularly in prestigious graduate schools) when a teacher shares ideas with high-ability students and with other professional colleagues. Promising students - who are "infected" - research their teachers' ideas, advance and perpetuate those ideas throughout their own careers, and strengthen them with published experimental research (cf., social impact theory - the larger the number of people influencing someone in the same direction, the more important they are, and the more immediate their influence, then the greater their influence will be). Once these students become influential in their field, their mentors' hypotheses and theories are cited in the psychological literature and, consequently, become known and supported in the discipline. A snowball effect occurs in this process where particular hypotheses and theories are published in one textbook, and then other authors pick them up and include them in their books, thus giving those hypotheses and theories greater circulation. According to infection theory, theoretical orientations such as those of Kurt Lewin and B. F. Skinner achieved wide audiences because many graduate students under their influence engaged in psychological research and prolific writing. One undesirable consequence of the infection effect is the inbreeding of ideas. Instead of a free and open exchange of ideas, hypotheses, and theories, authors with more personal contacts tend to have their orientations magnified or augmented. The infection effect tends to make psychology (and other disciplines) less diverse and varied. For example, the area of personality theory tends to contain a limited set of ideas due to the restricted interests of influential psychologists where the full spectrum of personality - involving study of traits such as humor, love, faith, and aesthetic sensitivity -is left virtually unexplored. See also DODO HYPOTHESIS; INOCULATION THEORY; PERSONALITY THEORIES. REFERENCES

Sahakian, W. (1980). The infection theory in social psychology. Society for the Advancement in Social Psychology Newsletter, 6, 3-4. Sahakian, W. (1994). Infection theory. In R. J.

Corsini (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Psychology. New York: Wiley.


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