Outline and assess the use of experiments in social psychology drawing on the cognitive social perspective and phenomenological perspective.
DD307 Social Psychology: Critical Perspectives on Self and Others
Hand in date: 29/02/12
In this essay I have been asked to outline and assess the use of experiments in social psychology. For the last century scholars have often questioned what actually is social psychology, and many answers can be found, however the general consensus of social psychologists is that it is the science of the socially structured mind. Prof Haslam (2006) stated “For me as a social psychologist, the issue is how is ‘the mind’, how are our thoughts structured by society?” Furthermore I will draw on two of the four main theoretical perspectives of the discipline, the first of which being the cognitive social perspective. The ontology of the perspective has researchers view the person as a thinker in society, one whose thought processes are shaped by and helped create the world in which they live. Typically the methodology is principally quantitative, in mainly laboratory based experiments. Investigators shepherd studies in which they collect quantitative data and assess theory based hypothesis using standard statistical techniques. In addition I will also be referring to the phenomenological perspective the ontology of which views the person without any essence or fixed core, but rather as something that comes into being through their actions in the world. Phenomenological methodology is qualitative, looking at people’s perceptions of the world and developing our understanding of these as analysts. The focus on experience of the heart of phenomenological methodology results in a need to collect data of people’s lived experiences. This may be through first person accounts, interviews or other literally sources.
Since the formation of modern social psychology experimentation has grown in stature and prowess. When it first emerged it was considered to be a topic within philosophy however its development into a scientific psychology was aided by the introduction of experiments and the belief that scholars could establish psychological principles that were as secure as physical ones (Hollway 2007).
In an article published by The Guardian in 2004 the quote ‘I will always hate you people’ was taken from a mother who had lost her husband mysteriously in detention during the American/British invasion of Iraq. The quotation along with extreme emotions, unequal power and national, global and group conflict are all territory covered by social psychology. Scholars wanted to use the story as a way of exploring what social psychology offers. From a phenomenological perspective whilst the newspaper is the focus, the story is most important to understand the hatred being felt. Before any sort of experiment can be carried out the investigator will engage in the process known as epoché, “the process by which we try and approach things without preconceptions” (Landridge 2007) allowing the researcher to set aside and prejudice and approach the account with no preconceptions. As it is primarily a qualitative perspective experience is paramount to the study, the investigator would look to empathise with the conscious experiences of the mother and daughter and connect such experiences to the feeling of hatred. Data could be collected through first person written accounts, however due to the strength of emotion shown in this article, interviews with the women and the family themselves would be more effective as emotion can be better determined through first person narratives (Landridge 2007) as well as physical implications such as body language. The data collected from the accounts would then be systematically examined for themes, which allow the researcher to highlight the nature of the lived...
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