Discuss the claim there is a lot to gain from studying a topic in psychology from more than one perspective. Drawing on our understanding of language and meaning as well as the psychology of sex and gender.
Different psychological perspectives lead to different theories providing diverse insights into the same issue i.e. language and meaning. They focus their enquiry in different ways and consequently have dissimilar objects of knowledge. Each perspective asks different questions, use different methods and data and produce therefore different theories. These perspectives can be complementary, conflicting and/or coexisting, whereby each perspective and theory provides a variety of ways of applying their findings to everyday psychological problems. By focusing on the social psychological perspective, this essay will evaluate the contribution of two central issues in psychology: language and meaning as well as the psychology of sex and gender.
Social psychological perspectives emphasise the importance of investigating cognition by studying how meaning is created through participation and cultural practices and through language. The evolvement, acquisition and application of language used by humans, to express meaning and pursue goals, have been a topic of study amongst the various perspectives in psychology most notably evolutionary, cognitive and social perspectives. In researching language and the development of subsequent theories, language itself is used as a medium to investigate language. This methodological reflexivity is the source of conflict between social and cognitive perspectives on language when trying to determine to what extent, if any, the necessity of responding in language predetermines what is said. Social psychologists, more specifically discourse psychologists (i.e. Parker, 1992, as cited in: Cooper & Kay, 2007, p. 105), claims that in using language individuals do so in a social and historic context, with an audience and for a purpose. Individuals therefore will make assumptions about the knowledge, understanding and requirements of their interlocutors in an experimental setting which is a primary method used by cognitive psychologists to study the separate cognitive and underlying thought processes language represents in communication with others or dialog with the self. The social constructionist perspective, on the other hand, uses evidence from actual language used in day-to-day communication and therefore appears to have more ecological validity. With the use of discourse analysis, they manage to describe how individuals organise their talk and use particular strategies such as the creation of subject positions or constructions of the world, to achieve particular ends. Wieder (1974 as cited in: Cooper & Kay, 2007, pp. 104-105) illustrated the use of language to determine behaviour amongst newly released prisoners living in a hostel by employing a method called ethnomethodology (the study of how people do things) devised by Garfinkel (1967 as cited in: Cooper & Kay, 2007, p.103). Wieder found that the language used amongst the individuals ‘The Code’ does not explain their behaviour but rather was used by them to actively construct their social world and take appropriate action within it. Social constructionists therefore base their understanding of language on the concept that language can be seen as a vehicle for the socially formed and the sustained meaning that operates between individuals, in groups and societies (Cooper & Kay, 2007, p. 113). Although it provides a viable explanation for the use of language, it does not explain how language evolved over time or how it is being processed individually. Evolutionary psychologists (Lorenz, 1952 as cited in: Cooper & Kay, 2007, p. 78) offer an explanation about the evolution of language in claiming that language is an adaptive trait that has been acquired through the natural and sexual selection as well as being...
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