Relational Models Theory: A Contemporary Overview

Relational Models Theory: A Contemporary Overview

Relational Models Theory: A Contemporary Overview

Relational Models Theory: A Contemporary Overview

Synopsis

Relational models theory, first developed by Alan Page Fiske, an anthropologist, provides a framework for understanding the psychological bases of social behavior that has in recent years attracted the interest of a diverse and growing group of behavioral and social scientists. It proposes that human activities are structured in accordance with four fundamental models--communal sharing, authority ranking, equality matching, and market pricing--different permutations of which guide thought and behavior in every domain of social life in all cultures. Just as children are biologically programmed to learn language, so are they prepared to recognize the models, which enable human beings to plan and generate their own action; to understand, remember, and anticipate that of others; to coordinate collective action and institutions; and to make moral judgments. This book offers a critical introduction to contemporary relational models theory and illustrates the ways in which it has illuminated a wide range of interpersonal phenomena and stimulated research on individual psychology, collective behavior, and culture. Using methodologies that range from experimental to ethnographic, the authors--leading developmental, social and clinical psychologists, anthropologists, and specialists in organizational behavior and management--discuss the relational foundations of social cognition, the forms of action that create relationships in diverse cultures, perceptions of fairness and justice in families and organizations, emotions and values, moral outrage, interpersonal conflict, and emotional and personality disorders. Relational Models Theory lays out challenges to all who study interpersonal relationships and social processes in varying contexts, and points directions for future work.

Excerpt

The theory of relational models (RMS) was first proposed by Alan Fiske in the early 1990s. Its ambitions were high and wide. the theory aspired to be nothing less than an account of the fundamental forms of social relations that might be valuable to social and behavioral scientists of many persuasions. in the ensuing years, rm theory has received widespread attention, not only from psychologists, to whom it has most often been pitched, but also from management scholars, anthropologists, sociologists, and cognitive and political scientists. Many theorists and researchers have put the theory of RMs to work, generating a variety of conceptual links and empirical findings and pursuing a diverse range of methodologies.

RMs theory has clearly had a measure of success within the sometimes harsh ecology of social theory. However it has also paid for this success with a kind of intellectual sprawl. Because of its wide-ranging relevance the theory has given rise to a dispersed set of applications, ranging from ethnographic studies in the rainforests of New Guinea and the factories of upstate New York to neuroimaging and priming investigations in the laboratory. Its ramifications have been charted in forbiddingly abstract cognitive science texts and in richly contextualized descriptions of social interaction, in the cool language of evolved cognitive modules and the warm language of emotions and motives.

A consequence of this dispersion of RMs scholarship—disciplinary, methodological, and topical—is that it is very difficult for the newcomer or even the established theorist and researcher to grasp the theory's possibilities or to survey existing work. in the years since the theory first ap-

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