July 24, 1903-December 28, 1984
BY PHILIP E. CONVERSE
THEODORE M. NEWCOMB was one of the principal pioneers in the establishment of social psychology as a fertile area for study at the boundary between the traditional disciplines of psychology and sociology. During five decades of research he sought to enrich individualistic treatments of human motivation, learning, and perception with a keener understanding of the social processes that shape them. He was author or co-author of three widely used textbooks that gave systematic definition to this emergent field, and he directed the influential doctoral program in social psychology at the University of Michigan for twenty-six years.
Newcomb's personal research made an impressive series of conceptual and empirical contributions to the new area of social psychology. These included work on autism and social communication; the first ambitious tracing of the evolution of political attitudes over the adult life course; a careful elucidation of the basic principles of cognitive balance; studies of the primary forces shaping interpersonal attraction; and, in a closely related way, the growth of mainstream and deviant subcultures. Throughout his life he was also interested in the dynamics of the education process. More than a small portion of his basic research was focused