The Disappearance of the Social in American Social Psychology

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Of course! Should we design our experiments such that we are unlikely to find support for our hypotheses? Should we try to prove ourselves wrong? No, for the best results, we should use the methods that are likely to work best. Use a spoon to eat your soup and a cup to drink your tea.

Not vice versa. The use of this observation as an argument to attack the entire field of social psychology shows therefore a breathtaking ignorance of the vast literature on scientific misconduct. They could then produce an amended version of their report, omitting all defamatory statements about social psychology. And finally, they might offer their apology to the many scientists they have insulted with their slanderous conclusions about social psychology. It spreads sweeping generalizations without clear documentation while neglecting the diligence to which it subjects and holds up social psychology.

I doubt that its claims would pass peer review and editorial scrutiny for any scientific journal. A historical view Confirmation bias is found in experimental social psychology, but is it limited to social psychology?


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Probably not Stroebe, Postmes and Spears, But it certainly has a long tradition here. These experiments were limited to exploring effects that were local, proximal, short term and decomposable. This constituted a radical break [by F.


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It matters not whether such a situation would ever be encountered in real life. He is then able to observe and measure the effect of the manipulation of the independent variables on the dependent variables. This reorientation brought social psychology into line with well-respected core areas of experimental psychology and thereby boosted its prestige. It became a contested field, even among experimental social psychologists themselves. For instance, Festinger saw subjects as barely sentient data-producing organisms, that nevertheless had a seemingly endless ability to destroy the aims of the experiment.

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This was echoed by Aronson and Carlsmith , who depicted subjects as the Other — the unknowing and uncaring raw material of the scientific enterprise in social psychology. Stam et al. It appeared problematic to replicate the results in exact replication experiments. During the last two years, in at least two instances doubt was raised by exact replications.

The storm of doubts is fed by several sources, including the recent exposure of fraudulent researchers, general concerns with replicability that affect many disciplines, multiple reported failures to replicate salient results in the priming literature, and the growing belief in the existence of a pervasive file drawer problem that undermines two methodological pillars of your field: the preference for conceptual over literal replication and the use of meta- analysis.

Objective observers will point out that the problem could well be more severe in your field than in other branches of experimental psychology, because every priming study involves the invention of a new experimental situation. For all these reasons, right or wrong, your field is now the poster child for doubts about the integrity of psychological research. Your problem is not with the few people who have actively challenged the validity of some priming results.

It is with the much larger population of colleagues who in the past accepted your surprising results as facts when they were published. These people have now attached a question mark to the field, and it is your responsibility to remove it. To deal effectively with the doubts you should acknowledge their existence and confront them straight on, because a posture of defiant denial is self-defeating.

Instead of supporting moralistic pseudo-methodological standards, Strack favours a change in the content and not the rhetoric of the persuasive communication. However, empirical research has revealed that this is not necessarily the best way to learn from previous problems or to improve collective performance. Regaining a focus on the big picture is the only way forward, according to Ellemers.

Situations in which basic mechanisms occur should be examined more closely, with an emphasis on contextual variables that are at stake. Why not make use of earlier grand theories of social psychology: Heider, Festinger, Tajfel or Allport? Or present-day authors such as Daniel Kahneman or Susan Fiske. So in a century of psychology nothing accumulates. Brannigan, , 11 This might have to do with the nature of social psychological experiments.

The Disappearance of the Social in American Social Psychology - PDF

According to sociologist Augustine Brannigan, social psychological experiments are not true experiments in the sense of the natural sciences. Rather they are demonstrations or dramatizations with a pedagogical or moral lesson about everyday life. Social psychological experiments also borrow heavily from commonsense knowledge.

The experiment gives the sense of terrific scientific precision in the form of knowledge without actually discovering anything substantively new.

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This time, it is experimental psychologists from other subdisciplines and methodologists who conclude that experimental social psychology lacks epistemological rigour. At the same time, in the eyes of the public and the media, at least in The Netherlands, social psychology has lost its credibility as problem-solving branch of social science. Whether the interdisciplinary, multi-method approach that Ellemers advocates will succeed depends for a large part on the reward structures within the academic world, which in the end boils down to finance structures.

As long as the emphasis is on so-called fundamental research and publication in international high ranking journals, and governments and other parties are willing to keep on subsidizing this type of research, changes will not be very probable. If on the other hand more emphasis is put on societal relevance of research, social psychologists will be challenged more to make an effort to increase the ecological validity of their research — which also means: a broader theoretical and methodological scope.

Oxford: Oxford University Press. Aronson, E. Carlsmith Experimentation in social psychology, in G. Aronson Eds The handbook of social psychology, Vol. Brannigan, A. The use and misuse of the experimental method. New York: Aldine de Gruyter. Danziger, K.

A conceptual history, , Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 36, Festinger, L. In: L. Katz Eds. Research methods in the behavioral sciences, New York: Holt, Greenwood, J. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kahneman, D. Lange, P. Higgins Eds. Sage: Thousand Oaks. Buunk, N. Wigboldus Sharpening scientific policy after Stapel. ASPO: Internal report.

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Levelt Committee Flawed science: The fraudulent research practices of social psychologist Diederik Stapel. Tilburg: Tilburg University. In: A.


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It also seeks to act as a bridge with the Spanish and Portuguese speaking networks. A considerable amount of work has been conducted under the umbrella of these networks and movements although the psychology of liberation remains a minority field. Psychologists with a liberatory orientation work in a variety of fields, principally in community social psychology, in relation to social trauma resulting from conflict and oppression, and on the social psychological critique of policy and ideology.

At its best liberation psychology brings new insights and perspectives to social movements although at times the networks seem to act as little more than channels for communicating news about various sites of political repression and struggle. Liberation psychology and social trauma: Memory and collective action. In many countries there had been the suspension of civil rights, the imprisonment of political activists, the use of torture, disappearances and murders of activists.

In some countries there was civil war between popular revolutionary movements and the forces of the State. In others there were more marginal insurgencies. In some countries Colombia, Honduras disappearances still occur, with peasant and trade union activists and journalists particularly targeted by State agencies or groups working for oligarchic interests.

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Much of the conflict has been tied to United States intervention, for example the installation of the Pinochet junta in Chile, the funding of the military and the deployment of advisors on counter-insurgency and psychological warfare, collusion with the the removal of elected governments Haiti, Honduras, Paraguay in the last 7 years , and invasions and interventions in a majority of countries over the last years. Within this context there have been genocidal actions and population clearances and movements of refugees. With this history, the consequences of social trauma have been a major concern for liberation psychology.

Specific foci have been:. Rather than look at each of these areas I will review some common issues and principles that have emerged. They are:. The importance of memory and commemoration. The importance of historical memory was discussed above as one of the key ideas for liberation psychology. Consistently with this psychologists with a liberatory orientation have worked on the importance of ensuring that events involving violence against individuals, groups and communities is not forgotten.

This is in a context where official policy often recommends forgiveness and forgetting. Gaborit identifies four functions of commemoration:. This is important in a context where the official history has treated such personal or collective feelings as suspect, so that their airing is often surreptitions or clandestine and the feelings themselves become infused with guilt and shame. Understanding their experience in this socially validated way helps the affected to understand how it impacts on their present social relations and hence on their own identity and well-being.

Moreover, this legitimation of personal experience assists in the construction of possible means of promoting reconciliation and repairing the social fabric. The recovery of memory is the beginning of the process of reversing that dynamic. Evidence from the Guatemalan exhumations cited by Gaborit indicates that while participation does not protect people from pain and fear it does reduce social isolation, bringing about intense feelings of belonging and union, not just with the present community but with those that went before.

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Moving from an individual perspective to a collective one. The work on recovering memory and commemorating atrocities then involves bringing memory from the private sphere to the public one, from individualized distress to collective experience. A similar direction of travel takes place in work - with victims of torture.