This Is Bigger Than Social Psychology

By Gibson, Stephen | The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE, January 24, 2013 | Go to article overview

This Is Bigger Than Social Psychology


Gibson, Stephen, The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE


David Shanks suggests that Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman "sees a 'train wreck looming' for social psychology" ("Unconscious track to disciplinary train wreck", Letters, 17 January). This is inaccurate. In fact, Kahneman's warning concerns the specific area of social priming research, which Shanks (but not Kahneman) goes on to treat as essentially synonymous with social psychology as a whole.

Indeed, Kahneman's recommendation to social-priming researchers is that the solution to problems in the area may be addressed in part through collaboration with social psychologists working on other issues: "I believe that you should have an association, with a board that might include prominent social psychologists from other field(s)."

So, Kahneman does not diagnose a problem in social psychology as a whole but in research on one particular issue (and it is worth noting that his comments have provoked a wealth of responses ranging from the narrowly defensive to some critically engaged attempts to act on his suggestions).

To suggest, as Shanks does, that "many social psychologists have bought into the notion that social behaviour is ... driven by unconscious motives and attitudes" is too simplistic a characterisation of the discipline. The field incorporates an array of perspectives - from those influenced by emerging research in neuroscience to those whose concern is primarily with social cognition, and those who adopt a social constructionist perspective (and many more besides). …

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