Comparing Mainstream and Critical Psychology

1708 Words Apr 13th, 2013 7 Pages
One of the main divisions between mainstream and critical psychology is that of the methods adopted. Discuss with reference to the cognitive social and at least one other social psychological perspective.

The theoretical perspective of any approach in social psychology governs the methods adopted, which in turn have an affect on the knowledge produced. Using examples from the cognitive social and the discursive psychological perspectives, this essay examines how far it can be said that the methods adopted is one of the main divisions between mainstream and critical approaches. It will conclude that, whilst there are divisions between mainstream and critical social psychology, they are not clear-cut. It goes on to examine further
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The discursive psychological approach analyses discourse, in the form of spoken or written word. The ontology is that people and their responses are socially constructed and situated, creating an identity that is contingent with that context. Researchers examine what is said in verbal or written form, analysing it to create qualitative data.

The importance of this can be seen in the discussion by Hollway (Hollway, 2007) about research on ‘hate’, where there is an emphasis by discursive psychologists on collecting information as it is found naturalistically, rather than create it for their use.

They do, however, sometimes make use of research interviews, and as Edwards points out (Edwards 1999, cited in Hollway, 2007) the validity of this continues to be debated for the same reasons as in experimentation: the control of the situation rests with the researcher, and the power relations involved result in questions about ecological validity.

The power imbalance of researcher giving orders to participant in Milgram’s experiment is an obvious example of this. Comparing a research interview, the very act of asking a question means that the response is constrained to some extent, an example of demand characteristics. This is a subtle focus for debate, but it would make a difference to results. In an attempt to carefully control in order to obtain reliability of results, researchers from both mainstream and critical social psychology make it harder to obtain
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