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Jeanne Marecek and Eva Magnusson
Qualitative inquiry is a form of psychological research that seeks in-depth understanding of people and their social worlds. Qualitative researchers typically study the experiences of people as meaning-making agents, relying on verbal material. Qualitative inquiry has a long history in psychology, beginning in the 19th century with founders of psychology like William James and Wilhelm Wundt. However, for much of the 20th century, qualitative inquiry has occupied a marginal position in the discipline. This marginalization is best understood in relation to the discipline’s early struggle to be regarded as legitimate. Adopting the methods of the natural sciences—notably quantification and measurement—was a means to that end. Qualitative approaches, though suppressed for much of the 20th century, were not entirely eliminated from the field. Personality theorists, for example, continued to make use of them.
The 1970s marked the advent of new forms of qualitative inquiry in psychology, which drew from a variety of intellectual and philosophical movements. These developments continued to gain acceptance and adherents. Since the turn of the 20th century, national and international organizations of qualitative researchers in psychology have been established. Venues for publishing qualitative research in psychology have increased. Nonetheless, qualitative inquiry is still marginalized in many academic psychology departments, and training in qualitative methods is seldom part of the methods curriculum.
Reflexivity, a recursive process of turning back, occurs throughout science. Back-and-forth reflexive processes transpire when the scientist executes self-regard and whenever human science theory incorporates the researcher’s actions. Reflexive processes occur too in the myriad, unavoidable ways that observations of the world depend on scientists’ prior understandings of the world. The multiple forms and complexities of reflexivity pose challenges for all science, yet the challenges are especially pronounced in a science, like psychology, that generates knowledge about human nature. Confronting reflexivity is further impeded by psychology’s markedly scientific (not human scientific) goals to achieve objectivity and value neutrality, and to maintain naturalist assumptions about reality. Yet over the lifespan of scientific psychology some psychologists have faced these challenges and recommended means to acknowledge reflexivity. Their investigations have located, named, and analyzed a set of fallacies associated with disregarding reflexivity. The fallacies include assuming that the psychologist’s conception of cognitive processes are the same as their subject’s; that the psychologist can fully bracket their presuppositions from their observations; that psychological theories need not be relevant to their own scientific thoughts and behaviors; that psychology’s prescribed language for reporting findings accurately describes the phenomenon under investigation; and that psychological knowledge has no consequential effects on the world it predicts and explains. Addressing such fallacies and taking steps to remove them through sustained reflexive awareness is essential to attaining an empirically robust, veridical, and dynamic science. Taken together, the efforts of psychologists who have faced reflexivity and the fallacies related to its denial comprise a productive working template for developing a science that benefits from engaging with reflexive processes instead of disregarding them.
The concept of social representation (SR) was developed by Serge Moscovici in 1961 as a social psychological approach articulating individual thinking and feeling with collective interaction and communication. SRs are conceived as symbolic forms that come about through interpersonal and media communication. They are the ways individuals think, interact with others, and shape social objects in their interaction with the local world.
This text presents an outline of the history of social representation theory (SRT), using a four-period model: first, creation and incubation in France starting with Moscovici’s first book; second, the opening to the English-speaking academe around 1980; third, institutionalization and proliferation with the start of the journal papers on SRs and regular conferences in 1992; and, fourth, normalization, approximately from 2000 onwards.
The first period (1961–1984) started with Serge Moscovici’s first presentation of his ideas in a French-language volume on “La psychanalyse son image et son public.” This was republished in an updated version in 1976 and translated into English in 2008. The theory postulates cognitive and social factors in the genesis and structure of SRs. These are accompanied by specific styles of communication that reflect the communicators’ identity and ideology. Together these aspects constitute common sense.
The first period was a time of incubation because Moscovici and his first PhD students, Claudine Herzlich, Denise Jodelet, and Jean-Claude Abric, tried the concept in different domains. The second half of this period saw Moscovici and collaborators extend SRT’s theoretical frame to include the idea of consensual vs. reified domains. A consensual domain of communication is characterized by the free interchange of attitudes and opinions, while a reified domain is determined by institutionalized rules. Moscovici also postulated a process of cognitive polyphasia. By cognitive polyphasia he described a phenomenon where individuals use different and even contradictory thoughts about the same issue depending on the social setting they are in.
The year 1984 marked the publication of a book for English-speaking scholars edited by Robert Farr and Moscovici that collected papers from an international conference in 1979. It was the first book-length collection of works on SRT and highlighted empirical research by a variety of international scholars. The period following 1979 through to 1992 saw a broadening of the base of scholars becoming interested in SRT. The 1980s brought Willem Doise’s conceptualizing of anchoring as a process of social marking, Abric’s theory of core and peripheral elements of a representation, and Hilde Himmelweit’s founding of a societal psychology.
Proliferation was boosted 1992 by the founding of the journal Papers on Social Representations and the beginning of a biannual series of International Conferences on Social Representations, starting in 1992. This increased the international visibility of SRT and helped scholars to organize themselves around topics and form cross-national research groups.
The period from 1992 to the first decade of the new century was characterized by an increasing number of empirical and theoretical studies. A series of theoretical branches emerged: there was research on the micro-genesis of SRs on the individual level, an extension of the structural theory of SRs, the discussion of the socially constructive aspects and sociopolitical uses of SRT, the design of a dialogical approach to the mind and social life, and Moscovici’s suggestion to consider large-scale themata as a factor in social thinking.
If the period after 1992 was a time of institutionalization, the time after the turn of the century can be called a period of normalization. That is, a period when SRT was presented in chapters for handbooks of social psychology and when dedicated handbooks and monographs were published. From this period onward it becomes virtually impossible to give even a superficial account of the most important contributions to SRT’s burgeoning field of research and theory development.
Keiko Ishii and Charis Eisen
Socioeconomic status (SES) is a multidimensional construct based on access to material resources and one’s own rank relative to others in a social hierarchy. It fundamentally shapes individuals’ psychological and behavioral tendencies. In many ways, socioeconomic variation parallels East–West cultural dynamics. Like East Asian cultures, lower SES fosters interdependence, a reduced striving for personal choice, holistic thinking, and the attribution of events and behavior to external causes. In contrast, similar to Western cultures, higher SES supports independence, a strong desire for control, self-expression through choice, analytic thinking, and internal attribution. SES has also been found to shape additional psychological tendencies. Because limited access to resources and education makes it necessary to rely on other people, lower SES has been shown to be linked to a greater understanding of others’ emotions and a tendency to act altruistically.
Although the evidence is still limited, this article describes what is known about the simultaneous influence of SES and culture. Some studies have explored similar SES effects across cultures. However, reflecting the variation in the dominant ideas and practices shared among people within sociocultural contexts, some studies have suggested that socioeconomic contexts elicit different psychological processes across national cultures. Higher-SES individuals especially seem to adjust themselves to culturally sanctioned ideas and practices. The article suggests directions for future research that will enhance our understanding of the interplay between SES and national cultures.
Neil E. Rowland
Thirst is a specific and compelling sensation, often arising from internal signals of dehydration but modulated by many environmental variables. There are several historical landmarks in the study of thirst and drinking behavior. The basic physiology of body fluid balance is important, in particular the mechanisms that conserve fluid loss. The transduction of fluid deficits can be discussed in relation to osmotic pressure (osmoreceptors) and volume (baroreceptors). Other relevant issues include the neurobiological mechanisms by which these signals are transformed to intracellular and extracellular dehydration thirsts, respectively, including the prominent role of structures along the lamina terminalis. Other considerations are the integration of signals from natural dehydration conditions, including water deprivation, thermoregulatory fluid loss, and thirst associated with eating dry food. These mechanisms should also be considered within a broader theoretical framework of organization of motivated behavior based on incentive salience.
Michael D. Beecher
Among Darwin’s brilliant ideas was his (1871) conception of animal communication signals as adaptive characteristics of a species. The idea was subsequently taken up by the ethologists of Europe in the 1930s (Lorenz, Tinbergen, and von Frisch in particular) in their studies of animal signaling systems in nature. For many subsequent researchers, human language was the implicit model for an animal communication system. Although not expecting the same level of complexity, these researchers assumed that animal signals transmitted information from sender to receiver that was honest, and that benefitted them both. However, the honest signaling/mutual benefit view was challenged by new researchers steeped in the sociobiology and behavioral ecology movement of the 1960s. The emphasis on competition in this new field inspired these researchers to reconceive the animal signaling process as one in which the sender manipulates the receiver to the sender’s advantage. This view was challenged in turn when researchers recognized that the receiver was not a passive party in the interaction, but fully capable of manipulating the sender to its advantage. The communication interaction can be viewed as an arm’s race. The handicap principle—the idea that honesty in signaling can be maintained if signals are costly—is one way the receiver may gain an edge in this competition. Eventually, game theory considerations led to the development of a revised perspective in which signals evolve only when both the sender and the receiver benefit on average, and where signals are honest on average. Researchers examining a particular signaling system’s signals these days ask not are the signals honest, but how reliable are the signals.
Lukas J. Wolf, Geoffrey Haddock, and Gregory R. Maio
“Attitudes” refer to summary evaluations of people, groups, ideas, and other objects, reflecting whether individuals like or dislike them. The study of attitudes takes a central position in social psychology. Decades of research have demonstrated that attitudes are important for understanding how individuals perceive the world and how they behave.
One of the key aspects of attitudes is their cognitive, affective, and behavioral content. That is, an individual may associate an attitude object with cognitions or beliefs, emotional reactions, and intentions or past actions. The attitude itself may also have a simple (e.g., positive or negative) structure or a more conflicted, ambivalent (e.g., simultaneously positive and negative) structure; it may serve different psychological functions (e.g., simplification of knowledge, value-expression); and it may vary in strength. Diverse techniques have been developed to measure attitudes, showing that they are useful predictors of behavior and that the strength of this link depends on diverse factors, such as how strongly the attitude is held, the individual’s personality, and the context. Overall, the long history of research on attitudes has supported their considerable theoretical and practical relevance.
The first 30 years after the end of World War II saw marked changes in the discipline of psychology: in ideas and institutions, problems and practices, funders and philosophies. These changes can be grouped together and described as a new, “high modern” style of psychological science, a new style grounded in a new model of “man.” This new model of “man” cast humans as fundamentally forward-looking prediction machines rather than as past-governed stimulus-response machines or creatures of habit, instinct, or drives. According to this view, the past still matters to our decision-making, but in a new way: it informs our expectations—the futures we imagine—rather than determining our behavior or saddling us with half-remembered traumas. From this perspective, we use mental representations of the world to generate predictions about future states of that world, especially states that are contingent upon our actions. Even more, we are finite prediction machines in an infinite world. Our mental representations of the world, therefore, must simplify it, and since we have neither perfect knowledge nor perfect cognitive abilities nor unlimited time, our fundamental state is one of uncertainty. We are problem-solvers that depend upon information to adapt, survive, and thrive, but we live in a world in which that information, and the time necessary to make sense of it, is expensive.
Angela K.-y. Leung, Brandon Koh, and Sean T. H. Lee
The Complementary Model of Culture and Creativity (CMCC) puts into perspective how a culturally diverse team can become more creative than a monocultural team. The CMCC characterizes three bidimensional psychological processes that explain the effects of culture on creativity: (a) stereotyping versus destabilizing cultural norms, (b) fixating on one cultural mindset versus alternating between cultural frames, and (c) distancing from versus integrating cultures. Extant research suggested that teams with similar goals and values draw performance benefits from their ability to cooperate. However, research has also revealed that working with culturally dissimilar team members could lower tendency toward groupthink and diversify knowledge, skill sets, and social networks, which can facilitate the team’s creativity. Therefore, a question of growing importance to both researchers and practitioners alike is how to harness cultural diversity within creative teams to promote their creative performance while minimizing conflict. We examine this important question with the perspective offered by the CMCC. The processes delineated in the CMCC explain that multicultural teams offer the opportunities to broaden and diversify team members’ cultural experiences by destabilizing cultural stereotypes, switching between cultural frames, and integrating differing cultural perspectives, thereby generating discernible creative gains. It is challenging to effectively manage and maintain workforce diversity, but it is highly rewarding if these challenges are turned into opportunities to build an inclusive and equitable multicultural labor force. The CMCC illuminates the key mechanisms through which multicultural teams can trigger the knowledge creation and diffusion processes to instigate higher creativity among team members coming from diverse cultural backgrounds.
Mutsumi Imai, Junko Kanero, and Takahiko Masuda
The relations among language, culture, and thought are complex. The empirical evidence from diverse domains suggests that culture affects language, language affects thought, and universally shared perception and cognition constrain the structure of language. Although neither language nor culture determines thought, both seem to highlight certain aspects of the world, with stronger influence when there are no clear perceptible categories. Research must delve into how language, culture, perception, and cognition interact with one another across different domains.