Option A: How do different theoretical perspectives and methodologies create different forms of knowledge about close relationships? Discuss with reference to the cognitive social and social psychoanalytic perspectives.
Social Psychology is divided into four different theoretical perspectives. Every perspective is strengthened by a set of ontological and epistemological assumptions, that profile the kinds of research questions that can be generated and the sorts of methodologies used to address research questions. Then, methods employed delimit the kinds of social psychological knowledge that is produced. In this essay, two perspectives will be studied around the topic of close relationships: Cognitive Social approach and Social Psychoanalytic approach. Generalities will first be presented and then those approaches will be linked with the topic of close relationships, looking at their ways of applications and methods and the kind of knowledge produced.
The Cognitive Social Psychology (Haslam, 2007, DVD 1, DD307) focuses on information-processing in social context; in other words, our socially structured minds and thoughts. Researchers’ aim is to assess and discern, in controlled social conditions, individual cognitions in term of causal relations and patterns among variables that may not be obvious. The methodology is quantitative; testing theory-based hypotheses using standard statistical techniques. Methods use social psychometrics and are tested, replicable and experimental such as laboratory-based experiments and field experiments. They also include surveys, questionnaires, case studies and observational methods. The aim is to discern principles and generalize them past the original population of the study.
In his article, Duck (1999) gives an overview of works on close relationships. These works studied the formation, maintenance or dissolution of close relationships and their factors of influence, in aim to explain and predict relationships patterns and to develop general principles of social behavior in close relationships and thus create knowledge about close relationships. Duck mainly talks about courtship. Considering courtship as a “process” and focusing on its progress and styles, it can be studied with systematic, quantitative research. Researchers thus applied tried and tested psychological methods, such as surveys or interviews, to the objective study of close relationships, to identify factors of general significance in relationships. Researchers manipulate variables in controlled settings to show that those variables do not interact in the same way in different settings and thus in different social contexts, helping to develop situated knowledge about close relationships.
Duck (1999, in Langdridge and Taylor) comments that there are “six basic types of love” (p.18) identified by Hendrick and Hendrick (1993) and that (p.24) “courtship breaks down into four major types” (accelerated-arrested, accelerated, intermediate and prolonged couples). This kind of generalization is the consequence of defining relationships in a way that they can be compared by measurement. Researchers created structural hierarchies by mixing variables such as commitment, passion, intimacy or activities done together, to create different forms of love or courtships. Comparing styles of loving and childhood attachment, Zeifman and Hazan (1997) found similarities, enabling to state characteristics for each kind of love (secure, avoidant (fearful or dismissive) and anxious/ambivalent styles of love), associating them with different ways of controlling or answering to affect and emotion.
Asking people to make value and cultural judgement (for instance, being in a relationship is a success and not being in a relationship is a failure) on their relationships showed that symbolic meaning of relationships is important in the construction of emotions around the relationship or after its dissolution. An example of this...
References: Chodorow, N. (1999 ) “The Psychodynamics of the family” from Chodorow N. (ed.) The reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender, Berkley, University of California Press, in Langdridge and Taylor (eds) (2007).
Duck, S. (1999) “Developing a steady and exclusive partnership” from Duck, S. (ed.) Relating to Others (2nd edn), Buckingham, Open University Press, in Langdridge and Taylor (eds) (2007).
Haslam, A. (2007) DVD 1 Contemporary Methods and Perspectives (2007), DD307 Social Psychology: Critical Perspectives on Self and Others, The Open University.
Hendrick, S.S. and Hendrick, C. (1993) “Lovers as friends”, in Duck (1999).
Hollway, W. (2007) “Methods and Knowledge in Social Psychology”, in Hollway, Lucey and Phoenix (eds) (2007).
Holloway, W. (2007) “Self”, in Langdridge and Taylor (eds) (2007).
Hollway, W., Lucey, H. and Phoenix, A. (eds) (2007) Social Psychology Matters, Milton Keynes, Open University Press.
Langdridge, D. and Taylor, S. (eds) (2007) Critical Readings in Social Psychology, Milton Keynes, Open University Press.
Lucey, H. (2007) DVD 1 Contemporary Methods and Perspectives (2007), DD307 Social Psychology: Critical Perspectives on Self and Others, The Open University.
Lucey, H. (2007) “Families”, in Langdridge and Taylor (eds) (2007).
Sclater, S.D. (2007) “Close Relationships” in Langdridge and Taylor (eds) (2007).
Taylor, S. (2007) “Introduction”, in Langdridge and Taylor (eds) (2007).
Zeifman, D. and Hazan, C. (1997) “A process model of adult attachement formation”, in Duck (1999).
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