Kurt Lewin was
born in Mogilno Germany
and studied at various universities in Freiburg, Munich,
and Berlin. He received his Ph.D. in
psychology from Carl
Stumpf at Berlin in 1914, where
he also learned Mathematics and physics.
In 1913, he went off to war to help defend Germany,
but was wounded in combat, and later received Germanys Iron Cross
After that he returned to the University
of Berlin and continued Gestalt
research in association and motivation.
He was so involved in that research that he is considered a colleague
the three Gestalt founders. In 1933, he
due to Nazi influence and fearing for his life he decides to leave Germany
and came to America
(Schultz & Schultz, 2004).
While in America
he taught at Cornell University
for two years and then went to teach at the University
His research on the social psychology of
children got him the chance to develop the new research center for
dynamics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Even after his death, his program was so
effective that is still remains open to this day (Schultz &
field theory was using the concept of fields of force to explain
terms of one’s field of social influences.
Lewin got the chance to present his field theory to American
psychologist at the 1929 International congress of psychology at Yale
& Schultz, 2004).
his thirty year he was areas of interest was human motivation, which
describing human behavior in its total physical and social
He focused mainly on social problems that
affect how a person lives and works. He
fought to make the factories more personal instead of industrial to
more personal satisfying instead of just going to work and earning
paycheck (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).
His knowledge of
field theory in
physics led him to the discovery of the life space. Lewin stated that a
psychological activities occur within a kind of psychological field,
life space. The life space consists of
all events in our past, present and future that help shape and affect
us. Each of the events helps determine our
behavior in any given situation we are in. The
life space also consists of a person’s
needs in interaction with the
psychological environment (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).
interested in people individually instead of in a group. To
demonstrate this more thoroughly, Lewin
decided to use topology to diagram the life space, showing that at any
possible goals and paths a person may have leading towards them.
He used arrows to show the direction of the
movement an individual has towards their goals.
He showed positive and negative choices people pick to either satisfy
human needs (positive) or have negative affects on the individual
& Schultz, 2004).
proposed a basic state of equilibrium between the person and the
environment. He further stated that any
interruptions in this equilibrium will lead to tension, which then will
any some behavior to decrease the level of tension in the individual.
explain human motivation Lewin stated that behavior involves a cycle of
tension-states or need states that are then followed by activity and
& Schultz, 2004).
interest in social psychology started in the 1930s. One great
social psychology is Lewin’s group dynamics.
Group dynamics is applying psychological concepts to individual and
group behavior. One of Lewin’s most famous experiments on group
behavior had to
do with authoritarian, democratic, and laissez-faire leadership styles
group of boys. The results from that
study showed that the boys in the authoritarian group were aggressive,
in the democratic group were friendly, and completed more task than the
the other two groups (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).
emphasized social action research, the study of relevant social
problems with a
view of introducing change. He also promoted sensitivity training for
and business leaders to reduce inter group conflict and develop
potential (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).