Defining Principles
 German – ‘Psychology of Peoples’
 “A comparative and historical, social and
cultural psychology dealing with the cultural
products (language, myth, custom etc)
resulting from social interaction.”
 Dominated from 18th to 20th century
 Central assumption: importance of the
cultural and linguistic community in which
the formation and education of the individual
personality takes place.
 Language is the medium through which a
community shapes its individual members,
who then actively contribute to that language,
which is thus a social product. (Markova , 1983)
 Today we tend to talk about society as a social context
which shapes experiences and the individual but
Volkerpsychogie focused more on national and
cultural community
 Volkerpsychologie raised many questions of national
importance relating to politics of the time in Germany.
 founding father of experimental
practiced introspection- looking inwards
to analyse mental life as it happened
realised this was subjective: mental events
are expressed or communicated and
possibly shaped by language
believed that an adequate study of mind
should start by examining “its major
objectifications, such as language,
myth and custom and account for their
cultural and historical variations”
believed that “experimental psychology of
the decontextualised “subject” must be
complemented by a study of the major
manifestations of mind.”
 began to forget the cultural element of
 worked on becoming more empirical in its
methods (social experiments) rather than focusing
on qualitative data collection
 construction of meaning aspect handed over to
sociology, anthropology etc.
 Recently rediscovered by European social
 Wundt’s final belief that experimental psychology is
only half of what psychology can be is finding more
and more supporters, (Hewstone and Stroebe, 2001).
 An experiment to try for yourselves to demonstrate
that language shapes thinking.
 hogan and carmichael sheet.pdf
The limits of my
language mean the
limits of my world
 Pormpuraaw: a small
Aboriginal community on
the western edge of Cape
York, in northern Australia
 the Kuuk Thaayorre have
no words for left and right
and instead use the
compass points at all times
dependent upon their
spatial orientation
 English speakers tend to talk about time
using horizontal spatial metaphors
 "The best is ahead of us,"
 "The worst is behind us“
 Mandarin speakers have a vertical
metaphor for time
 the next month is the "down month"
 the last month is the "up month".
 Mandarin speakers talk about time
vertically more often than English
speakers do, so do Mandarin speakers
think about time vertically more often
than English speakers do?
 English speakers prefer to talk about duration in
terms of length
 "That was a short talk,"
 "The meeting didn't take long“
 Spanish and Greek speakers prefer to talk about
time in terms of amount, relying more on words like
"much" "big", and "little"
 If you show English speakers a line on a screen they
are likely to confuse how long they saw it for based
on how long the line was; this doesn't happen for
Spanish/Greek speakers but the effect does happen
if you show them a shape of differing size!
 If you teach English speakers to describe time in
same way as Spanish or teach Spanish to describe
time like English, then they begin making similar
errors as native speakers demonstrating that
language does affect thinking.
 The study of the mind and
behaviour of masses and
crowds; the experience of
individuals in such crowds.
 Where did these ideas stem
 Anton Mesmer had discovered that he
could put people into a trance ; a lowered
state of consciousness.
argued that this rendered the mind more
primitive and open to suggestion.
developed by Scotsman James Braid who
coined the term hypnosis from the Greek
god of sleep ‘Hypnos’
used for both diagnostic and treatment
revealed as a model of social influence
Led to interest in social situations which
can lead to similar primitive state
People began to think that when people
are in crowds they are influenced to
become more irrational, primitive and
 Medical breakthroughs by 19th
century scientists demonstrated the
process of bacteriological
 Influenced thinking about the
spread of affect/emotion in crowds:
social or mental contagion
 also the spread of anomie (term
used by sociologist Durkheim: a
state in which dominant social
norms are questioned, ignored or
 Ideas stemmed also from the
field of criminology;
diminished responsibility;
subconscious and affective
state of mind of the
individual submerged in the
 In the crowd the individual
more primitive
more infantile
less intelligent
less guided by reason
less responsible
 threats to the established
political, social and moral
 the masses were feared
and thought responsible
for ‘social evils’
 science was required to
analyse what was going on
and eventually learn to
control the masses.
 Medical/criminal model
was popular.
 Allport “the science that studies the behaviour of the
individual in so far as his behaviour stimulates other
individuals or is itself a reaction to this behaviour”.
social psychology became more experimental; enhanced
began to divide Pps from the social context again
move away from the study of social issues until
economic and political crises such as the great
depression and WW2
Attitude measurement and change; measurement
helped enhance scientific status;
But social psychology called to account in 70s as having
lost sight of social meaningfulness and social relevance;
methods over problems
 1930s and 1940s
 Social psychologists in the free
countries not only helped try to
win the war but planned for a
better world of democratic
 Kurt Lewin (Jewish refugee
from Berlin), came up with idea
of field theory; focused on
group dynamics; the primacy
of the whole; interdependence.
 Worked with groups to change
conduct, morale, prejudice, style
of leadership etc.
 Developed ‘action research’
 Heider: social psychology of
interpersonal relations,
consistency and attribution
 Many American Social
psychologists (e.g. Sherif and
Asch); had emigrated from
 ideas became Americanised as
they attempted to fit into
American society.
 Social behaviour and interaction
became less interesting than
social cognition; the cognitive
representation of this of social
 Henri Tajfel and Serge Moscovici campaigned for a ‘more
social ‘social psychology
 “the cultural ethos of self contained individualism having shaped
the discipline beyond recognition of its original conception”.
 Tajfel’s interests:
 degree to which experience and behaviour are embedded in and
shaped by the properties of the culture and society we live in
 Social psychology can and must include ...
 “a direct concern with the relationship between human
psychological functioning and the large scale social processes and
events which shape this functioning and are shaped by it. (Tajfel
 Studied ...
stereotypes, prejudice, intergroup behaviour, social influence,
minorities, and social representations
 Growing concern for language
and its role in interpersonal and
intergroup communication;
 Social construction of a shared
reality; asking questions about
how individuals construct a
common reality (shared beliefs,
norms, values, expectations,
norms, roles; socialisation

The Socio-Cultural Approach