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The first Italian social psychologies showed a pluralism of perspectives that disappeared in the subsequent development of the discipline. With the presence of a collective sociological psychology (SP), a philosophical SP, and a psychological SP rooted in the sociocentric dimension, the field appeared variously articulated with a negotiation and a dialogue between different disciplinary approaches for the construction of its identity. This dialogue was destined to be swept away, first, during the fascist period, and then in 1954, with the affirmation of a psychological and experimental SP, sanctioned by the first National Congress of SP. However, in Italy, unlike in the United States, SP maintained strong social roots. These roots had already been evident from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century, when three central topics for SP were emerging in Europe: crowd psychology, psychology of public opinion, and race psychology. Each of these topics played a particular role under the totalitarian regimes. In Italy, Antonio Miotto and Paolo Orano were the scholars who dealt with these three themes, developing them to different degrees of involvement with the fascist regime. Antonio Miotto remained relatively autonomous from the political lines dictated by fascism. Thus, he articulated an original positive conception of the crowd, contrasting the vision of passive masses to maneuver in ways typical of fascism. He did not express himself in favor of or against the censorship of the media and the control of public opinion, and only after fascism took hold did he reflect on the role of political propaganda, analyzing examples from totalitarian regimes. He avoided taking strong and clear positions on the theme of race, although a few of his statements on the subject were completely in line with the regime’s racist ideology. Orano, by contrast, had a marginal interest in crowds, sharing the negative prejudice typical of the conservative crowd psychology. However, Orano had a great deal to say on the role of public opinion. His thoughts developed along the lines of fascist totalitarian policy. He was one of the protagonists of this field, and in 1938 he founded the first Italian center of study of public opinion (Demodoxalogy Center). He created the center with the aim of knowing public opinion, guiding it, and controlling it. With respect to the theme of race, Orano was also completely involved in the fascist racist ideology, devoting considerable energy and framing his original contribution according to the historiographic point of view defined as “national racism.” Yet the development of SP that occurred after World War II showed no traces of these different forms of social psychologies and their role during the fascist regime. Postwar Italian social psychology completely removed the contribution of these two psychologists. Only recently has the prewar social psychology begun to be analyzed by a critical history centered on both disciplinary and sociocultural contexts.

Article

Stanley Milgram’s experiments on obedience to authority are among the most influential and controversial social scientific studies ever conducted. They remain staples of introductory psychology courses and textbooks, yet their influence reaches far beyond psychology, with myriad other disciplines finding lessons in them. Indeed, the experiments have long since broken free of the confines of academia, occupying a place in popular culture that is unrivaled among psychological experiments. The present article begins with an overview of Milgram’s account of his experimental procedure and findings, before focussing on recent scholarship that has used materials from Milgram’s archive to challenge many of the long-held assumptions about the experiments. Three areas in which our understanding of the obedience experiments has undergone a radical shift in recent years are the subject of particular focus. First, work that has identified new ethical problems with Milgram’s studies is summarized. Second, hitherto unknown methodological variations in Milgram’s experimental procedures are considered. Third, the interactions that took place in the experimental sessions themselves are explored. This work has contributed to a shift in how we see the obedience experiments. Rather than viewing the experiments as demonstrations of people’s propensity to follow orders, it is now clear that people did not follow orders in Milgram’s experiments. The experimenter did a lot more than simply issue orders, and when he did, participants found it relatively straightforward to defy them. These arguments are discussed in relation to the definition of obedience that has typically been adopted in psychology, the need for further historical work on Milgram’s experiments, and the possibilities afforded by the development of a broader project of secondary qualitative analysis of laboratory interaction in psychology experiments.

Article

Joanne R. Smith

As social animals, humans are strongly influenced by the opinions and actions of those around them. Group norms are the expectations and behaviors associated with a social group, such as a nationality, an organization, or a sports team. Group norms can emerge during group interaction as group members are exposed to the opinions, or observe the actions, of fellow group members. Group norms can also emerge by comparing the attitudes and actions of the group with other groups. Leaders can also influence what is seen to be acceptable behaviors for group members to exhibit. One of the most dominant approaches to the study of group norms is the social identity approach. The social identity approach proposes that belonging to a social group provides individuals with a definition of who one is, and a description and prescription of what is involved in being a group member. A large body of research has confirmed the power of group norms to determine the form and direction of group members’ attitudes and actions, particularly those individuals strongly attached to the group, across many behavioral domains. In thinking about group norms, it is important to recognize that norms have both prescriptive (i.e., what should be done) and descriptive (i.e., what is done) elements. Research has found that group norms are most influential when aligned, but that misaligned or conflicting norms—either within the group or across multiple groups to which an individual belongs—can be particularly harmful in terms of engagement in a desired behavior. It is critical to appreciate and understand these complexities to be able to change group norms and, therefore, group members’ actions. The insight that group norms are powerful determinants of behavior has been incorporated into behavior change interventions, including so-called “nudge” interventions. However, norms-based campaigns are not always successful, and can even lead to backlash effects, often because change agents have failed to consider identity-related processes, such as the role of leaders, the source of the influence attempt, and threats arising from attempts to change one’s group. Shared identity is a key mechanism through which people internalize (new) understandings of what it means to be a group member into the self-concept, and understanding these processes may lead to more enduring change in underlying motives, beliefs, and behavior.

Article

Thomas F. Pettigrew

Intergroup attribution refers to causal attributions that people make about the behavior of out-groups and their own in-group. Attribution theory began in the late 1950s and 1960s. This initial interest was limited to how individuals causally interpreted the behavior of other individuals. But in the 1970s social psychologists began to consider causal attributions made about groups. The guiding theory for research in this area has been largely structured by the predictions of the ultimate attribution error (more accurately described as the intergroup attribution bias). Its principal contentions flow from phenomena already uncovered by attribution research on individual behavior. It holds that group attributions, especially among the highly prejudiced, will be biased for the in-group and against out-groups. Ingroup protection (explaining away negative ingroup behavior as situationally determined – “given the situation, we had to act that way”) is typically a stronger effect than ingroup enhancement (accepting positive ingroup behavior as dispositionally determined – “as a people, we are kind and compassionate toward other groups”). Many moderators and mediators of the effect have been uncovered. Asian cultures, for example, tend to be less prone to the intergroup attribution bias, while strong emotions can induce either more or less of the bias. Similarly, empathy and special training can significantly reduce the bias. Together with such closely related processes as the fundamental attribution error and actor-observer asymmetry, the intergroup attribution bias has proven highly useful in a great variety of applications. Moreover, the intergroup attribution bias serves as an integral component of the intergroup prejudice syndrome.

Article

Susan C. Baker, Bernadette M. Watson, and Cindy Gallois

Language is a social behavior and a key aspect of social interaction. Language is ubiquitous and usually occurs with other human behaviors across diverse contexts. Thus, it is difficult to study it in isolation. This difficulty may be why most, albeit not all, social psychologists tend to neglect language, in spite of the prominence of language in early 20th century social psychology and the presence of numerous handbooks and reviews of this area. Language use has implications for many social psychological processes, and, given its role in daily social life, it is important to understand its social underpinnings. The field of language and social psychology highlights the relationship between language and communication and foregrounds the differences between the social-psychological and communication approaches. One central issue is bilingualism and the relationships among language, identity, and culture. Another is methodology, where social psychologists have tended to choose experimental and survey strategies to look at language (not always to the best advantage). This century has seen the development of new technologies that allow us to look at language on a large scale and in rich detail and that have the potential to transform this research. In part as a consequence, in the early 21st century there are many new topics emerging in language and social psychology that help to set a new agenda for future research.

Article

Noemi Pizarroso Lopez

Historical psychology claims that the mind has a history, that is, that our ways of thinking, reasoning, perceiving, feeling, and acting are not necessarily universal or invariable, but are instead subject to modifications over time and space. The theoretical and methodological foundations of this movement were laid in France by psychologist Ignace Meyerson in his book Les fonctions psychologiques et les œuvres, published in 1948. His program stressed the active, experimental, constructive nature of human behavior, spanning behavioral registers as diverse as the linguistic, the religious, the juridical, the scientific/technical, and the artistic. All these behaviors involve aspects of different mental functions that we can infer through a proper analysis of “works,” considered as consolidated testimonies of human activity. As humanity’s successive achievements, constructed over the length of all the paths of the human experience, they are the materials with which psychology has to deal. Meyerson refused to propose an inventory of functions to study. As unstable and imperfect products of a complex and uncertain undertaking, they can be analyzed only by avoiding the counterproductive prejudice of metaphysical fixism. Meyerson spoke in these terms of both deep transformations of feelings, of the person, or of the will, and of the so-called “basic functions,” such as perception and the imaginative function, including memory, time, space, and object. Before Meyerson the term “historical psychology” had already been used by historians like Henri Berr and Lucien Febvre, a founding member of the Annales school, who firmly envisioned a sort of collective psychology of times past. Meyerson and his disciples eventually vied with their fellow historians of the Annales school for the label of “historical psychology” and criticized their notions of mentality and outillage mental. The Annales historians gradually abandoned the label, although they continued to cultivate the idea that mental operations and emotions have a history through the new labels of a “history of mentalities” and, more recently at the turn of the century, a “history of emotions.” While Meyerson and a few other psychologists kept using the “historical psychology” label, however, mainstream psychology remained quite oblivious to this historical focus. The greatest efforts made today among psychologists to think of our mental architecture in terms of transformation over time and space are probably to be found in the work of Kurt Danziger and Roger Smith.

Article

Igor Grossmann and Franki Kung

The concept of wisdom is ancient and deeply embedded in the cultural history of humanity. However, only since 1980s have psychologists begun to study it scientifically. Taking a culturally and philosophically informed perspective, this article integrates insights from the quantitative science of wisdom. Analysis of epistemological traditions and research on folk theories of wisdom suggest cultural similarities in the domain of cognition (e.g., wisdom as reasoning ability and knowledge). These similarities can be contrasted with cultural differences concerning folk-theoretical affective and prosocial themes of wisdom, as well as expression of various wisdom-related themes, rooted in distinct sociocultural and ecological environments. Empirical evidence indicates that wisdom is an individually and culturally malleable construct, consistent with an emerging constructionist account of wisdom and its development. Future research can benefit from integration of ecological and cultural-historical factors for the meaning of wisdom and its expression.

Article

The term “psychology” was applied for the first time in the 16th century. Yet the most interesting examples appeared in three different contexts. The Croatian poet and humanist Marko Marulić (ca. 1520), the German philosopher and Calvinist Johann Thomas Freig (1575), and the German Lutheran philosopher Rudolph Goclenius (1590). Marulić’s manuscript is likely lost, and neither of the other two defined the term. Even the interests of the three went apparently in different directions. Marulić focused on poetry and history, Freig on physica, and Goclenius on theological issues. Nevertheless, they had something in common, and this may represent the gate through which the ways they conceived the term can be understood. They all dealt with the soul, but also that it was a highly disputable concept and not uniformly understood. Another commonality was the avoidance or reinterpretation of Aristotle’s philosophy. The Florentines’ cultivation of Plato had influenced Marulić. Freig was a Ramist, thus, also a humanist who approached philosophical questions rhetorically. Goclenius belonged partly to the same movement. Consequently, they all shared a common interest in texts and language. This is just one, yet quite important aspect of the origin of psychology as a science. Thus, these text- and humanity-oriented aspects of psychology are traceable from the very beginning. This reaches a peak point when Alexander Baumgarten publishes his two volumes on aesthetics, as they were based on Christian Wolff’s Psychologia empirica (1732). They are also traceable in Kant’s critical phase, and even more in Wundt’s folkpsychology. Thus there is a more or less continuous line from the very first uses of the term psychology and some tendencies in social and cultural psychology. In other words, psychology is pursued along an historical line that ends up in the German, and not the British enlightenment.

Article

Various self-concepts constitute major keywords in both psychological science and liberal political discourse. They have been central to psychology’s public-facing, policy-oriented role in the United States, dating back to the mid-19th century. Psychologists’ articulations of self-concept include an understanding of the individual, society, and the interventions needed to augment them both. Psychologists’ early enthusiasm for self-esteem has given way to competing concepts of the individual, namely self-regulation and self-control. Self-esteem in a modern sense coalesced out of the deprivation of the Great Depression and the political crises it provoked. The fate of self-esteem became tied to the capacities of the liberal welfare state to improve the psychic capacities of its citizens, in order to render them both more equal under the law and more productive in their daily existence. Western democracies, especially the United States, hit peak self-esteem in early 1990s. Since then, psychologists lost faith in the capacity of giving away self-worth to improve society. Instead, psychologists in the 21st century preached a neo-Victorian gospel of self-reliance. At the very historical juncture when social mobility became more difficult, when inherited social inequality became more entrenched, psychologists abandoned their Keynesian model of human capital and embraced its neoliberal counterpart.

Article

This historical overview of the concepts of harmony in Chinese culture situates the topic in the ecological context of a strong-ties society that fosters a type of rationality that privileges symmetry over asymmetry. Analysis of the discourse of harmony focuses on the texts of two native schools of thought—Confucianism and Taoism—and briefly mentions Buddhism (a religion imported from India). The modern history of harmony has just begun but is already portentous. The turbulent course of China’s rapid modernization suggests the possibility that as China transitions from a strong-ties society to the weak-ties global market, harmony may be encountering, for the first time, contradictions that defy harmonization. Whatever the future holds for the Chinese legacy of harmony, its contribution to the happiness and well-being of the individuals in their intimate relationship with self and others is likely to remain unchallenged.