The Legacy of European Social Psychology

An online compendium of ideas, schools and people in the field of Social Psychology

The Frascati Conference: The Second Step


To carry out the intentions formulated at the end of the Sorrento Conference early in 1964 the Planning Committee and Lanzetta wrote a formal ‘Proposal for Contributions to the Development of Experimental Social Psychology in Europe,’ which they submitted to the Transnational Social Psychology Committee for financial support. This Committee, newly formed within the SSRC and chaired by Leon Festinger, had explicitly been set up to initiate and stimulate international activities in the field of social psychology. The original members of this Committee were all North Americans, but in view of the developing contacts with Europe the Committee soon co-opted three Europeans as additional members (Moscovici, Koekebakker, and Rommetveit).

The proposal, submitted to the Transnational Committee, was ambitious. It demanded funding for: (a) a second European Conference, (b) a 4-6 weeks Summer research training workshop for students, (c) brief exchange visits between social psychologists within Europe, (d) specialized seminars, and (e) an international center for research and training in social psychology. As a first step the Transnational Committee reacted favorably to the first two items on the list, considering them as highest in priority: It would support a second conference and a summer school. In addition, it recommended that for the conference a number of younger social psychologists should also be invited, but without increasing the overall number of participants beyond about thirthy.

The Conference

Armed with this support, the Planning Committee went ahead and prepared the next conference. It would take place at Frascati (Italy) in December of 1964. Its format would be comparable to that of the Sorrento conference. The major obstacle confronting the Planning Committee was the selection of the participants. On the one hand, the committee wanted to avoid not inviting all the Sorrento participants, but on the other hand—at the request of the fund ing SSRC—it also had to invite younger social psychologists, while keeping the total number of participants down to about thirthy. In the end, twenty-eight non-Americans participated, of whom nine had not participated at Sorrento. An additional five North Americans brought the total number of participants up to thirty-three. The conference itself was set up pretty much like the previous one and, as its predecessor, it engendered similar feelings of enthusiasm and eagerness to exchange ideas.

The Planning Committee


A general evaluation at the end of the conference made it clear that there was now a genuine community of social psychologists in Europe and that a new set of steps should be taken towards ‘some form of continuing activities.’ A long discussion of elements that could contribute to this goal ended in the election by the European participants of a provisional committee, henceforth called the European Planning Committee.

It would consist of Gustave Jahoda, Serge Moscovici, Mauk Mulder, Jozef Nuttin, and Henri Tajfel. Moscovici was to become its chairman and Mauk Mulder its secretary. The committee would have the task to plan ‘some form of organizational structure’ for the continuing activities, to plan the activities themselves (further conferences, exchange visits, summer schools and the like), and to find sources of funding for these activities.

Initial actions

The newly formed European Planning Committee did not wait long to undertake action. In effect, in early February 1965, only a little more than a month after the Frascati conference, it held its first meeting in Leuven (Belgium). Other meetings would follow soon. The minutes of these meetings reveal the intensity and the speed with which the Committee approached the task given to them by the Frascati participants. For communication purposes, the Committee soon had its own stationary made (in English and in French). It showed the first name of the Association: ‘European Association for the Advancement of Experimental Social Psychology.’ Of course, stationary is only stationary, but its symbolic value should not be underestimated.

On a more serious note, and to list but a few examples of the Committee’s activities, it organized the first Summer School for the training of European researchers in 1965, at The Hague (the Netherlands), planned another at Leuven, and began to organize small exchange visits and small specialized seminars. To facilitate communication, a Newsletter, the early predecessor of the present European Bulletin, was created. Finally, the Committee also prepared a third conference, to be held at Royaumont (France).

It should be noted that for these various early activities the Committee spent a great deal of energy in finding European sources of funding. North American funding would in effect not be perennial, but, more importantly, being able to acquire European funding was considered a symbol of the Association’s growing self-reliance and independence.