One of the Main Divisions Between Mainstream and Critical Social Psychology Is That of the Methods Adopted. Discuss with Reference to the Cognitive Social and at Least One Other Social Psychological Perspective.

Topics: Psychology, Sociology, Qualitative research Pages: 6 (1698 words) Published: April 7, 2010
One of the main divisions between mainstream and critical social psychology is that of the methods adopted. Discuss with reference to the cognitive social and at least one other social psychological perspective.

Social psychology has existed for about 100 years, before which psychology was a branch of philosophy. Social psychology studies individuals in their social contexts. It is a diverse discipline made up of many theoretical perspectives and variety of different methods are used in social psychological research.

This assignment explores the main principles of different methods in social psychology. It will look at the underlying theories or perspectives that organise contemporary social and discursive psychological research and knowledge and critically evaluate different theoretical perspectives and methods.

Cognitive social psychology studies the information processing individual in a social context to analyse individual cognitions in controlled social conditions. It is a quantative approach. It dominates psychological social psychology and emerged from the critique of behaviourism in the mid twentieth century. Researchers use an experimental approach involving controlled experimental conditions to produce quantitative data that can be measured and analysed to produce statistically valid conclusions.

Discursive psychology focuses on the external world of discourse, its meaning and effects and studies the socially constructed, situated and contingent identity. It is a qualitative approach. It emerged in the 1970s with the linguistic turn, and was influenced by sociological social psychology. Researchers use discourse analysis to produce qualitative data by conversational and textual analysis.

Phenomenological psychology focuses on the detailed description of social experience derived through the senses. It is a qualitative approach using the rich description of experience. It studies the internal world of the psyche in relational settings and its effect on action using first-person written account of experience, interview and literary text. It originated in the philosophy of Husserl in the late nineteenth/ early twentieth century.

Social psychoanalytical psychology or psychosocial studies the internal world of the psyche in relational settings and its effects on actions. It is a qualitative approach. It looks at the conflicted psyche in dynamic relation with the external world. Using case study and free association narrative, interviews and observation qualitative data is evaluated through interpretation of what is unsaid as well as said. Its original development was in the clinic and it became an area of academic study in the late twentieth century.

There are four overarching themes that can be used to interrogate a set of value issues that permeate social psychology. These are known as interrogative themes and they are outlined below.

Power relations are central to the way that all knowledge is produced and interpreted. Power permeates everything we do and all our relationships . Power is neither good nor bad but it is what is done with it that determines this. Power is relational and the balance changes in different contexts. It is contextual and situated rather than absolute. Questions of power were first raised in relation to the deception of participants in the name of science. For example in Stanley Milgram’s (1965) experiment where participants were required to give increasing levels of electric shock to Milgram’s colleagues who posed as recipients of the electric shocks. The focus was on power relations between the scientist and participants, many of whom performed, as they believed, harmful and sadistic acts on the instructions of the scientist. Ethical guidelines in social psychology have been hugely influenced by this. The question of who has the power to interpret people’s experiences applies to all social psychological research. We need to be careful how we base...

References: Milgram, S ( 1974) Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View, London, Tavistock.
Spears , R., Hollway, W. and Edwards, D. (2005) ‘Three views on hate’, The Psychologist, vol 18, no 9, September, pp. 844-7.
Social Psychology Matters Book 1, Chapter 2 by Wendy Hollway, Book 2, Chapter 1 (Introductions) – Open University Press.
DVD 1 Social Psychology : Critical Perspectives on Self and Others.
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