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Societal Psychology: Social Psychology’s contribution to understanding and changing society. Saadi Lahlou Institute of Social Psychology London School of Economics and Political Science. The problem: “real World” issues. Changing a society, an endeavour that goes beyond psychology.

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Societal psychology social psychology s contribution to understanding and changing society

Societal Psychology:Social Psychology’s contribution to understanding and changing society

Saadi Lahlou

Institute of Social Psychology

London School of Economics and Political Science


The problem real world issues
The problem: “real World” issues

Changing a society, an endeavour that goes beyond psychology.

Needs understanding (rerum causas cognoscere):

  • the determinants of individual behaviour

  • aggregation issues (groups, masses)

  • organizational issues

  • culture

    To practice : innovation, conflict, structuration, decision-making, agency, negotiation.


Outline
outline

1. Societal Psychology: principles and history (Prof. Gaskell)

2. Homo Socius : « group member by design »

3. WIT: culture as a distributed guidance system.


Outline1
outline

1. Societal Psychology: principles and history (Prof. Gaskell)

2. Homo Socius : « group member by design »

3. WIT: culture as a distributed guidance system.


Some biased landmarks of societal psychology
Some (biased) landmarks of Societal Psychology

1943: Lewin (changing food habits)

1947: Simon (administrative behaviour)

1961: Moscovici (diffusion of Psychoanalysis)

1964 : ISP founded at LSE

(…)

1975 : Societal Psychology (Himmelweit et al.)

2011-12: another promotion of ISP trained to change to World


Societal psychology 15 props himmelweit gaskell 1975
Societal psychology 15 props (Himmelweit & Gaskell, 1975)

  • Human beings need to be studied in a sociocultural context. The individual and the collective cannot be separated ontologically. Societal psychology requires a systems approach. And multilevel (micro/macro)

  • The ecology of the environment, its objective characteristics, needs to be studied alongside its mediated reality

  • Maintain a historical perspective. People create social organizations—but it is the social organizations that recast people

  • Innovation is as much an imperative of the social system as is conformity

  • Theoretical and methodological pluralism. Cross-fertilization between StP social sciences is indispensable. Including streams of Psychology.

  • And between basic and applied research. Adopt a wider range of research tools.

  • Developing conceptual frameworks rather than search for invariant laws

  • There is no such thing as value-free social research


Outline2
outline

1. Societal Psychology: principles and history (Prof. Gaskell)

2. Homo Socius : « group member by design »

3. WIT: culture as a distributed guidance system.


Biological bricks homo socius and homo sapiens
Biological bricks: Homo Socius and Homo Sapiens

Humans are

Cooperative, Competitive, Communicative, Educable, Instrumented


Homo socius
Homo Socius

  • Small teams (3 men in a boat)

  • Groups (football)

  • Families (gathering)

  • Hords (demonstration)

  • Nations (obama election)



Solomon asch s conformity experiment 1951
Solomon Asch’s « conformity » experiment (1951)

Control : 1 participant out of 35 gave an incorrect answer

Experiment : 75% of participants gave at least one incorrect answer

Asch, S. E. (1956). Studies of independence and conformity: A minority of one against a unanimous majority. Psychological Monographs, 70 (Whole no. 416).





Real world applications
real world applications

Nazi extermination camps

Adolf Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem,

Dec. 11, 1961



Humans are socialized
Humans are socialized

Humans are a mix of competition and cooperation > groups, hierarchy

Humans communicate, learn, are instrumented > organisations, culture

Individuals have membership (role/status) in specific groups/organisations/cultures.

They feel and act as group members.


Take-away part 1:

humans are by design prone to assemble and create social super-organisms

individuals tend to:

- act as group organs,

- behave according to given role

- use the environment as storage/ external scaffolding

positive :

- individual well-being in groups

- emulation, motivation

- leverage of agency with labour division

- cumulativity of creation

negative :

- superorganisms have their own conatus and dynamics

- care little about individuals

- inertia




Outline3
outline

1. Societal Psychology: principles and history (Prof. Gaskell)

2. Homo Socius : « group member by design »

3. WIT: culture as a distributed guidance system.



Installation
Installation artefacts


Installations
Installations artefacts


Installations1
Installations artefacts


Societal control the world as installation
Societal control: the world as « installation » artefacts

  • Physical layer (objects) provide affordances

    2. Humans interpret objects and situations

    3. Institutions control


Installation Theory artefacts

Social space:

institutions

Physical space:

objects

Mental space:

representations


Installation Theory artefacts

Physical space:

objects


Affordances at physical level artefacts

« Roughly, the affordances of things are what they furnish, for good or ill, that is what they afford the observer. (…) they are ecological, in the sense that they are properties of the environment relative to an animal. (…) Affordances do not cause behavior but constrain or control it. Needs control the perception of affordances (selective attention) and also initiate acts.

An observer is not ‘bombarded ’ by stimuli. He extracts invariants from a flux of stimulation. »

[Gibson, 1967, passim]

NB: Jacob Von Uexküll’s notion of connotationof activity (1952) is more philosophically solid because not tied into realism, but may be less usable for didactic/operational purposes.

James J. Gibson (1904-1981)

Davies, CA, 1978.


Affordances
affordances artefacts


Should i push or pull this door

Interpretation into action artefacts

should I push or pull this door?


Installation Theory artefacts

Physical space:

objects

Mental space:

representations


Installation Theory artefacts

Social space:

institutions

Physical space:

objects

Mental space:

representations


Attatürk 1925 : « no fez » artefacts

Institutions in social space : rules and laws about hats


Installation Theory artefacts

Social space:

institutions

Physical space:

objects

Mental space:

representations


Installation Theory artefacts

Social space:

institutions

Physical space:

objects

Mental space:

representations


3. installation theory artefacts

(Lahlou, 2008)

Social space:

institutions

x

Physical space:

objects

Mental space:

representations


Take away part 2
Take-away part 2 artefacts

Behaviour is simultaneously determined at 3 levels:

material, psychological, social

Understanding and changing the system needs to address the 3 levels

Societal psychology’s domain is the psychological level, but the overlaps with the 2 other levels


Societal psychology 15 props himmelweit gaskell 19751
Societal psychology 15 props (Himmelweit & Gaskell, 1975) artefacts

  • Human beings need to be studied in a sociocultural context. The individual and the collective cannot be separated ontologically. Societal psychology requires a systems approach. And multilevel (micro/macro)

  • The ecology of the environment, its objective characteristics, needs to be studied alongside its mediated reality

  • Maintain a historical perspective. People create social organizations—but it is the social organizations that recast people

  • Innovation is as much an imperative of the social system as is conformity

  • Theoretical and methodological pluralism. Cross-fertilization between StP social sciences is indispensable. Including streams of Psychology.

  • And between basic and applied research. Adopt a wider range of research tools.

  • Developing conceptual frameworks rather than search for invariant laws

  • There is no such thing as value-free social research


Some principles
Some principles artefacts

There is nothing so practical as a good theory (Kurt Lewin)

The best way to understand a complex system is to try to change it (Kurt Lewin)

If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough (Robert Capa)

Need not hope to endeavour, need not succeed to persevere (William of Orange)



the reproductive cycle of representations/objects artefacts

INSTITUTIONAL CONTROL

education,

daily practice guidance

Embodied form of Rep.

Reified

form

creation, improvement,

conservation of artifacts

(technology)


« I love this Company ! » artefacts

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nc4MzqBFxZE


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