Contemporary Social Psychological Theories

Contemporary Social Psychological Theories

Contemporary Social Psychological Theories

Contemporary Social Psychological Theories


This text presents the most important and influential social psychological theories and research programs in contemporary sociology. Original chapters by the scholars who initiated and developed these theoretical perspectives provide full descriptions of each theory, its background, development, and future.

The first four chapters cover general approaches, organized around fundamental principles and issues- symbolic interaction, social exchange, distributive justice, and rational choice. The following chapters focus on specific research programs and theories, examining identity, affect, comparison processes, power and dependence, social exchange, status construction, and legitimacy. A concluding chapter provides an analysis of and commentary on the state of the theoretical programs in sociological social psychology.

Contributors: Peter J. Burke, Joseph Berger, Coye Cheshire, Karen S. Cook, Pamela Emanuelson, Alexandra Gerbasi, Karen A. Hegtvedt, Michael A. Hogg, Guillermina Jasso, Edward J. Lawler, Michael W. Macy, George J. McCall, Linda D. Molm, Cecilia L. Ridgeway, Dawn T. Robinson, Lynn Smith-Lovin, Jan E. Stets, Jonathan H. Turner, Murray Webster Jr., David Willer, and Morris Zelditch, Jr.


I have a list of social psychological theories I give to graduate students who are interested in social psychology that contains some 40 different theories ranging alphabetically from affect control theory to the theory of reasoned action. For some of these theories there is much published work, for some others there is very little that has been published. Some are older, like classical conditioning theory, but most are extant in the literature today and could in some sense be considered contemporary social psychological theories. Some limitations had to prevail for including chapters in this volume. The choices were made relatively easy, however, when I limited the selection to sociological social psychology theories for which there are active cumulative research programs.

Within the past decade or two, there has developed a growth and maturity in sociological social psychology among several lines of theory within that 'middle range' proposed by Merton (1957). These programs of theory such as expectation states theory, comparison theory, power-dependence theory, social identity theory, identity control theory, and others have developed through cumulative testing and building in systematic agendas of research. These programs of cumulative research have become the dominant mode of theorizing in sociological social psychology.

For too long, theory has been tied to particular people like Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Mead, or Parsons. Now we can point to theoretical ideas that are being developed and tested by many investigators, where the focus is on the ideas and not on the people, where change and development of theory is taken for granted, and where the arguments are not confined to what so-and-so really said or meant. And most importantly, the ideas in these theories are subject to continuous testing through active programs of research. The theories presented in this volume fit this description of cumulative theoretical programs. The theories are not finished, but are under continuous development, often from initially simple statements, becoming more elaborated and expanded statements with well-developed scopes of application that account for a wide variety of social processes.

What do we mean by cumulative theoretical research traditions? To answer this, let me first say that, in general, social research can be divided into the different approaches that . . .

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