Progress in Modern Psychology: The Legacy of American Functionalism

By D. Alfred Owens; Mark Wagner | Go to book overview

13
Research on Communal and Exchange Relationships Viewed from a Functionalist Perspective

MARGARET S. CLARK

Wilhelm Wundt was among the first to recognize the importance of social phenomena in scientific psychology. His Völkerpsychologie ( 1900-1920) examined the social by-products of human culture. However, Wundt did not believe that such cultural by-products, which develop slowly across generations, could be studied experimentally. In his Principles of Psychology ( 1890), William James set the stage for the development of social psychology in America. James looked at the nature of the social self -- a problem that has long been at the core of social psychology. Other early functionalists, including Baldwin and Dewey, authored entire books devoted to social psychology. In this chapter, Margaret Clark argues that these early functionalist social psychologies are still echoed in the research coming out of her laboratory today. In particular, she believes relationships vary in terms of the norms governing giving benefits: exchange relationships, in which benefits are given with the expectation of repayment in kind; and communal relationships, in which benefits are given based upon the perceived need of the other person rather than expectations of repayment. In the spirit of functionalism, Clark demonstrates that it is adaptive to have these two types of relationships and that work on this subject has considerable practical implications. This multiplicity in types of relationships reminds us of the words of William James who said, "Properly speaking, a man has as many social selves as there are individuals who recognize him and carry an image of him in their minds. To wound any one of these images is to wound him." ( 1890, vol. 1, p. 294, emphasis in original.) MW

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