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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

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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.

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

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

2. Homo Socius : « group member by design »

3. WIT: culture as a distributed guidance system.


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

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)

  • 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


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

Humans are

Cooperative, Competitive, Communicative, Educable, Instrumented


Homo Socius

  • Small teams (3 men in a boat)

  • Groups (football)

  • Families (gathering)

  • Hords (demonstration)

  • Nations (obama election)


Henri Tajfel’s minimal group experiment (1970, 1971)


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).


intra-group differenciation and coordination


Stanley Milgram’s « obedience » experiment (1961)


The Stanford Prison Experiment (Zimbardo et al., 1972)

http://www.prisonexp.org/


real world applications

Nazi extermination camps

Adolf Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem,

Dec. 11, 1961


real world applications


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


From Nature to Culture


from Nature to Culture


outline

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

2. Homo Socius : « group member by design »

3. WIT: culture as a distributed guidance system.


human colonies are now complex built environments with many artefacts


Installation


Installations


Installations


Societal control: the world as « installation »

  • Physical layer (objects) provide affordances

    2. Humans interpret objects and situations

    3. Institutions control


Installation Theory

Social space:

institutions

Physical space:

objects

Mental space:

representations


Installation Theory

Physical space:

objects


Affordances at physical level

« 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


Interpretation into action

should I push or pull this door?


Installation Theory

Physical space:

objects

Mental space:

representations


Installation Theory

Social space:

institutions

Physical space:

objects

Mental space:

representations


Attatürk 1925 : « no fez »

Institutions in social space : rules and laws about hats


Installation Theory

Social space:

institutions

Physical space:

objects

Mental space:

representations


Installation Theory

Social space:

institutions

Physical space:

objects

Mental space:

representations


3. installation theory

(Lahlou, 2008)

Social space:

institutions

x

Physical space:

objects

Mental space:

representations


Take-away part 2

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, 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


Some principles

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)


s.lahlou@lse.ac.uk

thank you.discussion?


the reproductive cycle of representations/objects

INSTITUTIONAL CONTROL

education,

daily practice guidance

Embodied form of Rep.

Reified

form

creation, improvement,

conservation of artifacts

(technology)


« I love this Company ! »

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


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