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Article

Robert J. Sternberg

Intelligence needs to be understood in the cultural contexts in which it is displayed. For one thing, people in different cultures have different conceptions (implicit theories) of what intelligence is. Asian and African cultures tend to have broader and more encompassing views of intelligence than do Western cultures. Asians and Africans place less emphasis on mental speed and more emphasis on social and emotional aspects of behavior, as well as on wisdom. These implicit theories are important because in everyday life, people’s behavior is guided not so much by scores on standardized or other tests but rather by people’s implicit theories. For example, hiring and promotion decisions are usually based on such implicit theories, not on test scores. Studies of performances by people, especially children, in different cultures suggest that the strengths of individuals across cultures are not necessarily well represented by conventional intelligence tests. For example, in some cultures, knowledge of herbal medications used to combat parasitic illnesses, or knowledge of hunting and gathering, or knowledge of how to effectively ice fish, can be more important to assessing intelligence than scores on a standardized test. Eskimo children may know how to navigate across the frozen tundra in the winter without obvious landmarks, yet they may not be able to attain high scores on conventional intelligence tests. Some of those who would score highly on such tests would be unable to do such navigation, to their peril. There is no such thing as a culture-free test of intelligence, and there probably is no test that is genuinely culture-fair either. At best, tests should be culture-relevant, measuring the cognitive and other skills relevant to effectively adapt to particular cultures. These skills are likely to be partially but not fully overlapping across cultures. Thus, intelligence needs to be understood in its cultural contexts, not divorced from such contexts.

Article

Zachary P. Hohman and Joshua K. Brown

Self-esteem and self-enhancement are two critical phenomena that play major roles in social psychological theory and research. Everyone has an idea what self-esteem is; however, from an empirical standpoint, what exactly is self-esteem is hotly debated. The unidimensional definition of self-esteem defines it as a global assessment of one’s worth, with greater self-esteem being associated with greater self-worth. Whereas the multidimensional view of self-esteem defines self-esteem as a ratio of competences and worthiness. Furthermore, self-esteem can be broken down into different types: trait self-esteem is a stable view of the self that does not fluctuate much from day to day; state self-esteem is a more transitory view of the self that fluctuates from day to day; and domain-specific self-esteem relies on decisions we make about ourselves or self-evaluations about how we perform in specific situations. Regardless of type, there is an overall belief that humans have an innate need for high self-esteem and that they are particularly attuned to situations that may threaten this. When self-esteem is threatened, people enact behaviors aimed at increasing it: this is called self-enhancement. The idea that people are driven to self-enhance has become a popular topic in psychology and is found in some of the field’s most influential theories. For example, self-determination theory (SDT) examines both interpersonal and intrapersonal aspects of self-esteem and self-enhancement. Terror management theory (TMT) explains why human beings need self-esteem and how they self-enhance. Sociometer theory is concerned with understanding how self-esteem developed in humanity’s past and how it affects self-enhancement in the present. Finally, self-affirmation theory focuses on how people try to self-enhance after their self-integrity has been threatened.

Article

Zachary P. Hohman and Olivia R. Kuljian

The need to belong and to be part of a group is a fundamental part of being human. The exact inspirational force that motivates people to join a group is not agreed upon in the psychological literature. Realistic group conflict theory, the self-esteem hypothesis, uncertainty-identity theory, terror management theory, and sociometer theory each explain the need to belong through distinct perspectives. These five heavily researched theories provide different explanations and predictions for why people join and identify with groups, such as the motivation for completing personal goals, the drive to increase self-esteem, to reduce anxiety surrounding death, to reduce uncertainty, and to seek protection within a group. Across the research on this topic, it is becoming clear that self-uncertainty reduction seems to be a powerful reason for identifying with groups. However, there is no doubt that other reasons may also be involved in the motivation to join groups. For example, existential uncertainty may drive people to affiliate with groups that specifically address existential issues; people may prefer to affiliate with desirable, rather than stigmatized, groups in order to satisfy the basic pursuit of pleasure over pain; and people may affiliate to protect against a wide variety of fears. Further research is needed to fully elucidate why people join groups.

Article

Klaus Fiedler and Karolin Salmen

A synopsis of major theories of social psychology is provided with reference to three major domains of social-psychological inquiry: attitudes and attitude change, motivation regulation, and group behavior. Despite the heterogeneity of research topics, there is considerable overlap in the basic theoretical principles across all three domains. Typical theories that constitute the common ground of social psychology rely on rules of good Gestalt consistency, on psychodynamic principles, but also on behaviorist learning models and on semantic-representation and information-transition models borrowed from cognitive science. Prototypical examples that illustrate the structure and the spirit of theories in social psychology are dissonance theory, construal-level, regulatory focus, and social identity theory. A more elaborate taxonomy of pertinent theories is provided in the first table in this article.

Article

Priscila G. Brust-Renck, Rebecca B. Weldon, and Valerie F. Reyna

Everyday life is comprised of a series of decisions, from choosing what to wear to deciding what major to declare in college and whom to share a life with. Modern era economic theories were first brought into psychology in the 1950s and 1960s by Ward Edwards and Herbert Simon. Simon suggested that individuals do not always choose the best alternative among the options because they are bounded by cognitive limitations (e.g., memory). People who choose the good-enough option “satisfice” rather than optimize, because they are bounded by their limited time, knowledge, and computational capacity. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky were among those who took the next step by demonstrating that individuals are not only limited but are inconsistent in their preferences, and hence irrational. Describing a series of biases and fallacies, they elaborated intuitive strategies (i.e., heuristics) that people tend to use when faced with difficult questions (e.g., “What proportion of long-distance relationships break up within a year?”) by answering based on simpler, similar questions (e.g., “Do instances of swift breakups of long-distance relationships come readily to mind?”). More recently, the emotion-versus-reason debate has been incorporated into the field as an approach to how judgments can be governed by two fundamentally different processes, such as intuition (or affect) and reasoning (or deliberation). A series of dual-process approaches by Seymour Epstein, George Lowenstein, Elke Weber, Paul Slovic, and Ellen Peters, among others, attempt to explain how a decision based on emotional and/or impulsive judgments (i.e., system 1) should be distinguished from those that are based on a slow process that is governed by rules of reasoning (i.e., system 2). Valerie Reyna and Charles Brainerd and other scholars take a different approach to dual processes and propose a theory—fuzzy-trace theory—that incorporates many of the prior theoretical elements but also introduces the novel concept of gist mental representations of information (i.e., essential meaning) shaped by culture and experience. Adding to processes of emotion or reward sensitivity and reasoning or deliberation, fuzzy-trace theory characterizes gist as insightful intuition (as opposed to crude system 1 intuition) and contrasts it with verbatim or precise processing that does not consist of meaningful interpretation. Some of these new perspectives explain classic paradoxes and predict new effects that allow us to better understand human judgment and decision making. More recent contributions to the field include research in neuroscience, in particular from neuroeconomics.

Article

Social psychology represents a scientific approach that fosters advances in both theory and practical application designed to understand and enhance interactions among individuals and groups.

Article

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.

Article

John W. Rowe and Dawn C. Carr

While the factors that influence the well-being of individuals in late life have long been a major concern of research in aging, they have been a particularly active area of research and debate since the 1980s and continue to have a prominent role in gerontological research and debate. Early research on aging (from the 1920s to the 1960s) focused largely on examining typical problems that come with aging. The term successful aging was initially used to describe those who aged better than expected. In the 1980s, the MacArthur Network on Successful Aging, concerned that the field of gerontology had become preoccupied with disease and disability to the neglect of studies of the factors that fostered doing well in late life, conducted a series of studies of high-performing older persons and formulated the MacArthur theory of successful aging, which included three principal components: avoidance of disease, maintenance of physical and cognitive function, and engagement with society. Since its initial publication, the concept of successful aging has been applied to many subpopulations of older persons based on geography (East vs. West), socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, religion, cognitive or physical function, and disease states.

Article

Philosophical functionalism, as distinct from the psychological school of functionalism that enjoyed popularity around the turn of the 20th century, is a theory about the nature of mental states. That is, functionalism offers an account of which conditions must be satisfied for something to count as a belief, or a desire, or a pain, or an itch, or a fear, or a memory. Functionalism is thus a metaphysical doctrine about mental states, that is, a doctrine concerning what makes something a mental state. “Metaphysical,” in this context, should not be taken to suggest anything mysterious. Chemistry is a metaphysical doctrine in just the same sense as functionalism: it is a theory that offers an account of which conditions must be satisfied for something to count as, say, a pure chemical substance rather than a mixture. As philosophical theories go, functionalism has been fantastically successful. Its contemporary form traces to seminal work that H. Putnam initiated in the 1960s, and it remains in early 21st century the most widely accepted theory of the nature of mental states among philosophers in the Anglo tradition. According to functionalism, the conditions necessary and sufficient for something to be a mental state are specified in terms of functional role. Functionalists have disagreed about the correct basis on which functional descriptions of mental states should rest, with the result that functionalism is better conceived as a family of closely related theories about the nature of mental states rather than a single uniform view. Briefly, the idea of functional role can be usefully illustrated by consideration of an artifact, such as a corkscrew, the nature of which is defined in terms of the function of removing corks. What it is to be a corkscrew is to perform this functional role. Likewise, the functionalist claims, what it is to be a mental state is to perform the functional role characteristic of a belief, or a desire, or a pain, and so on.

Article

Glyn C. Roberts, Christina G. L. Nerstad, and P. Nicolas Lemyre

Motivation is the largest single topic in psychology, with at least 32 theories that attempt to explain why people are or are not motivated to achieve. Within sport psychology research, there are a plethora of techniques of how to increase and sustain motivation (strategies to enhance agency beliefs, self-regulation, goal setting, and others). However, when explaining the conceptual undergirding of motivation in sport, the why of motivation, two theories predominate: Achievement Goal Theory (AGT) and Self-Determination Theory (SDT). Both theories predict the same outcomes, such as increased achievement striving, sustained behavior change, and perceptions of well-being, but they differ in why those outcomes occur. AGT assumes that individuals cognitively evaluate the competence demands and meaningfulness of the activity, and that those perceptions govern behavior. SDT assumes that individuals are driven by three basic needs, competence, autonomy, and relatedness, and the satisfaction of those needs govern behavior. The following discusses both theories and concludes that each has their strengths and weaknesses.

Article

Thomas F. Pettigrew

Prejudice, especially intergroup prejudice, has long been a central topic of social psychology. The discipline has sought to be both socially relevant and useful. Thus, theory and research on prejudice fits directly into these central concerns of the discipline. The study of this topic has developed in direct correspondence with how social psychology itself has been able to devise new theoretical and empirical tools—from self-administered questionnaires and probability sample surveys to laboratory experiments and computer-assisted methods. Given the discipline’s intense research interest in intergroup prejudice, it is not surprising that that there is a plethora of theories concerning prejudice. But these many theories tend not to conflict with one another. Rather, they typically coalesce around interrelated themes across three levels of analysis. The micro level of the attitudes of individuals was the primary focus for the first half-century of modern social psychology (1920–1970). Slowly, the field turned its attention to the meso level of intergroup interaction and how such contact influenced intergroup prejudice and discrimination. Finally, the discipline began to consider more systematically the many relevant structural and cultural factors at the macro level of analysis and how they shaped both intergroup prejudice and discrimination. With time, direct links between the three principal levels of analysis have been uncovered. With this order of attention, social psychology boasts many more theories and studies of prejudice at the micro level of individuals than at other levels. But the field has learned that all three levels of analysis are critical for a fully rounded, more complete understanding of the topic.

Article

Coaches occupy a central role in sport, fulfilling instructional, organizational, strategic, and social relationship functions, and their relationships with athletes influence both skill development and psychosocial outcomes of sport participation. This review presents the major theoretical models and empirical results derived from coaching research, focusing on the measurement and correlates of coaching behaviors and on intervention programs designed to enhance coaching effectiveness. A strong empirical literature on motor skill development has addressed the development of technical sport skills, guided in part by a model that divides the skill acquisition process into cognitive, associative, and autonomous phases, each requiring specific coaching knowledge and instructional techniques. Social-cognitive theory’s mediational model, the multidimensional model of sport leadership, achievement goal theory, and self-determination theory have been highly influential in research on the psychosocial aspects of the sport environment. These conceptual models have inspired basic research on the antecedents and consequences of defined coaching behaviors as well as applied research on coach training programs designed to enhance athletes’ sport outcomes. Of the few programs that have been systematically evaluated, outcomes such as enjoyment, liking for coach and teammates, team cohesion, self-esteem, performance anxiety, athletes’ motivational orientation, and sport attrition can be influenced in a salutary fashion by a brief intervention with specific empirically derived behavioral guidelines that focus on creating a mastery motivational climate and positive coach-athlete interactions. However, other existing programs have yet to demonstrate efficacy in controlled outcome research.

Article

Nikos Ntoumanis, Cecile Thørgersen-Ntoumani, Eleanor Quested, and Nikos Chatzisarantis

Compelling evidence worldwide suggests that the number of physically inactive individuals is high, and it is increasing. Given that lack of physical activity has been linked to a number of physical and mental health problems, identifying sustainable, cost-effective, and scalable initiatives to increase physical activity has become a priority for researchers, health practitioners, and policymakers. One way to identify such initiatives is to use knowledge derived from psychological theories of motivation and behavior change. There is a plethora of such theories and models that describe a variety of cognitive, affective, and behavioral mechanisms that can target behavior at a conscious or an unconscious level. Such theories have been applied, with varying degrees of success, to inform exercise and physical activity interventions in different life settings (e.g., schools, hospitals, and workplaces) using both traditional (e.g., face-to-face counseling and printed material) and digital technology platforms (e.g., smartphone applications and customized websites). This work has offered important insights into how to create optimal motivational conditions, both within individuals and in the social environments in which they operate, to facilitate long-term engagement in exercise and physical activity. However, we need to identify overlap and synergies across different theoretical frameworks in an effort to develop more comprehensive, and at the same time more distinct, theoretical accounts of behavior change with reference to physical activity promotion. It is also important that researchers and practitioners utilize such theories in interdisciplinary research endeavors that take into account the enabling or restrictive role of cultural norms, the built environment, and national policies on physical activity.

Article

Schema therapy has evolved since the late 1980s as an efficacious and increasingly widely used psychotherapeutic treatment for personality disorders and many other complex disorders that correlate with underlying maladaptive schemas. Only recently, attention among clinical geropsychologists has been growing for the application of schema therapy in older adults. Schema therapy is very feasible for both therapists and older patients. Schema therapy is an integrative psychotherapy, which draws on the cognitive-behavioral, attachment, psychodynamic, and emotion-focused traditions. In this treatment model, early maladaptive schemas are considered core elements of persistent and pervasive psychopathology, including personality disorders. The goal of treatment is to decrease the impact of maladaptive schemas and to replace negative coping responses and maladaptive schema modes with more healthy alternatives so that patients succeed in getting their core emotional needs met. The emerging attention for schema therapy in older adults is in line with the increased attention for personality disorders in later life, and also with the maturing field of psychotherapy for older adults. The first scientific evidence for the feasibility and the effectiveness of schema therapy has recently been shown. Despite these developments, much work is still to be done. The question is whether schema theory, which was developed for adults in young and middle adulthood, equally applies to those in later life. Although the first tests of effectiveness of schema therapy in older adults are encouraging, age-specific adaptations of existing therapy protocols, both for individual and group schema therapy, are wanted. Furthermore, the research that has been conducted so far has focused on the young-old. Especially for the growing and highly complex group of oldest-old patients, the development of feasible and effective schema-based interventions is needed. Integrating age-specific moderators for change, such as wisdom enhancement, attitudes to aging, and integrating the action of positive schemas, deserves recommendation.

Article

Christopher Groves and Craig A. Anderson

This chapter reviews the history of modern psychological inquiry into human aggression and the development of aggression theory over time. Definitions of aggression-related phenomena are provided along with taxonomies of aggression that are frequently considered by psychological scientists. Modern, domain specific theories of aggression are detailed with emphasis placed on integrative theories of aggression. Special focus is paid to the scientific benefits and recent discoveries that are attributable to the use of integrative theories of aggression. Success in domains that serve as exemplars of systematically examining all known aggressive processes are identified as leaders in the productive future of aggression research.

Article

There is a large literature base within the field of sport psychology that provides tremendous direction to coaches and parents on how to structure youth sport so that young athletes develop sport skills and concurrently reap psychological benefits from their sport participation. Much of this research has employed Nicholls’ Achievement Goal Perspective Theory and a Caring Framework to (a) identity the processes children undergo as their cognitive development matures across the elementary years, allowing them to accurately judge their ability by adolescence, (b) formulate their personal definitions of success in sport (develop their goal orientations), and (c) note features of the team and overall sport climate created by coaches and parents. Of particular importance is athletes’ perceptions of the motivational climate prevailing on their teams. Athletes can perceive a caring and task-involving climate where coaches reward effort, improvement, and cooperation among teammates, make everyone feel they play an important role on the team, and treat mistakes as part of the learning process. In contrast, athletes can also perceive an ego-involving climate where the coach rewards ability and performance outcome, fosters rivalry among teammates, punishes mistakes, and gives most of the recognition to a few “stars.” When athletes perceive a caring and task-involving climate on their teams, they are more likely to have fun, exert high effort, experience intrinsic motivation, have better interpersonal relationships with coaches and athletes, display better sportsperson-like values and behaviors, have better psychological well-being, and even perform better. In contrast, when athletes perceive an ego-involving climate on their teams they experience fewer adaptive and positive motivational outcomes and greater problematic outcomes (e.g., increased cortisol; greater endorsement of unsportsperson-like behaviors). Research has clearly identified the benefits of coaches and parents creating a caring and task-involving climate for young athletes, yet there are still many ego-involving climates in the youth sport world. A number of organizations are committed to helping coaches and parents transform youth sport culture into a positive arena where young people can develop their athletic skills and have a rewarding sport experience.

Article

W. Andrew Achenbaum

Edmund V. Cowdry’s Problems of Ageing (1939), the first U.S. handbook in gerontology, spurred efforts to systematize and communicate data and hypotheses in a “discouragingly difficult field,” as one of the volume’s contributors put it. Researchers, educators, and practitioners subsequently published handbooks of aging to share basic concepts, norms, and metaphors—and eventually to construct theories. Compared to theoretical constructs that animate African American studies, paradigms that inform inquiries into sex and gender, and queer theory-building, research on aging is sustained by few evidence-based, methodologically robust, heuristic theories. No single construct yet seizes the gerontological imagination. Analyzing notable handbooks reveals that the modern history of ever-emerging gerontological theory building went through three phases. First, attempts to formulate Big Theories of Aging resulted in more disappointments than scientific advances. In the second phase, researchers on aging set more modest aims, often giving priority to methodological innovation, but failed to promote consilience in a data-rich, theory-poor arena. Psychological theories, pertaining to lifespan development, merit special attention in the third phase, because they proved useful to biomedical and social scientists doing research on aging.

Article

Mo Wang and Valeria Alterman

Retirement, defined as an individual’s exit from the workforce, is usually accompanied by a behavioral withdrawal from work. While retirement was seen as a crisis in the past, it now stands as an opportunity for individuals to engage in different types of work (e.g., bridge employment), and to dedicate more time in their community with friends and family. Cross-national studies have been conducted to clarify the impact of preparedness on the temporal process of retirement: decisions, transition, and adjustment to retirement. Nevertheless, societies are constantly changing and future research, with the frameworks discussed in this chapter in mind, can continue investigating the concepts of retirement to help individuals prepare better.

Article

Gordana Jovanović

The relationship between psychoanalysis and Critical Theory (the Frankfurt School), contrary to dominant interpretations, is examined from a sociocultural perspective. Psychoanalysis addressed the sociopolitical issues of its time, including cultural shifts, war, and the cultural conditio humana in general. Beyond that, and more importantly, it is argued that the core psychoanalytic concepts, including drive itself, can be understood as a structure open to social co-construction. Such an interpretation of psychoanalysis can provide a link to Critical Theory of society. First, both sociopolitical and theoretical conditions in the 1920s and 1930s merit analysis under which members of the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research referred to Freud’s psychoanalysis. A theory was needed that would examine a missing point in Marxist interpretations, which the Institute adopted as its political and theoretical framework. What was missing was a place for subjective mediating factors, especially important among which were those generated by drives and those that operated unconsciously. The views on psychoanalysis and its role in the first generation of Critical Theory are analyzed, particularly the views of Horkheimer, Adorno, Fromm, and, most extensively, Marcuse, given the fact that Freud’s psychoanalysis had a central role in his thought. Finally, questions regarding the contemporary relevance of psychoanalysis and Critical Theory under new sociocultural conditions in the 21st century are raised.

Article

Critical psychology comprises a broad range of international approaches centered around theories and practices of critique, power, resistance, and alternatives of practice. Although critical psychology had an axial age in and around the 1970s, many sources can be found decades and even centuries earlier. Critical psychology is not only about the critique of psychology, which is a broader historical and theoretical field, but about doing justice in and through theory, justice with and to groups of people, and justice to the reality of society, history, and culture as they powerfully constitute subjectivity, as well as the discipline and profession of psychology. Doing justice in and through psychological theory has a strong basis in Western critical approaches, representing a privileged position of reflection in Euro-American research institutions. Critical psychologists argue that traditional psychology is missing its subject matter and hence is not doing justice in methodology, and its practices of control and adjustment are not doing justice to the emancipatory possibilities of human agency or human science. Critical psychologists who are attempting to do justice with and to human beings are not neglecting the onto-epistemic-ethical domain, but are instead focusing on people, often marginalized or oppressed groups. Critical psychologists who want to do justice in history, culture, and society have argued that traditional psychological practice means adaption and adjustment. This means that not only subjectivity, but also the discipline and profession of psychology need to be connected with contexts. Psychologists have attempted to conceptualize the relationship between society and the individual, as well as the ability of humans not only to adapt to an environment but to change their living conditions and transform the status quo. This conceptualization also means providing concrete analyses of how current society, based in neoliberal capitalism, not only impacts individuals but also the discipline of psychology. Despite the complexities of critical psychology around the world, critical psychologists emphasize the importance of reflexivity and praxis when it comes to changing the conditions of social reality that create mental life. Given that subjectivity cannot be limited to intra-psychological processes, critical psychologists attend to relational and structural societal realities, requiring inter- and transdisciplinarity in the discipline and profession.