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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences : Psychology

Postgraduate Course: Critical Social Psychology (PSYL11094)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryShould social psychology be a science and what does it mean to claim that it is? Should social psychologists do experiments? Why do we think scientific knowledge is 'better'? Is social psychology really social? Are there hidden values in research? Why does current social psychological theory focus on cognitive processes to explain social phenomena? What are the implications for our understanding of self? This course will address these questions and more! We will use ideas and arguments from other disciplines (such as studies of science, social constructionism, Foucault, and 'the turn to language') to examine the basis and nature of social psychological knowledge, how it affects individuals' lives, the role of language, and assumptions about self that underpin psychological theory and research. Finally, we will ask whether social constructionism or discourse analysis can provide an alternative approach for social psychologists. If so, what kind of discourse analysis? We'll also ask whether we need a new 'theory of self'? What would a 'non-cognitive' social psychology be like? Should social psychology be political? This course includes lectures, in-class and online discussions, and debates about key issues.
Course description Lectures
1 Introduction: crises in social psychology
2 Science, language and the (de)construction of social psychology
3 Foucault's legacy: knowledge, power and the creation of modern individualism
4 New practices for social psychology: discourse, power and politics
5 Rethinking the subject of social psychology
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2017/18, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Lecture Hours 10, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 5, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 83 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 3000 word essay 100%
Feedback Throughout lectures there are group exercises and discussions which provide opportunities for feedback. The tutorials also provide the opportunity for feedback, and an essay plan will be included as a tutorial exercise.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. describe and assess social psychology's claim to be a science, and evaluate its use of experiments
  2. discuss social psychology's paradigm, conceptual and moral / political crises and apply arguments from science studies, Foucault's work, and 'the turn to language' to evaluate psychology's methods
  3. describe psychology's contribution to the 'government of individuals'
  4. describe and discuss different kinds of discourse analysis as alternative social psychological approaches
  5. describe and assess efforts to reconceptualise self, cognition and other key social psychological concepts
Reading List
Tuffin, K. (2005) Understanding Critical Social Psychology, London, Sage. See Ch. 1 for a critique of experimentation in social psychology.

Hepburn, A. (2003) An Introduction to Critical Social Psychology, Ch. 2 Social Cognition Critics. London: Sage. (An account of why social identity theory was argued to be a 'solution' to the conceptual crisis).

Armistead, N. (1974) Reconstructing social psychology. (a 'classic' but still worth reading, see Intro. and maybe dip into chs. in Part 1: Methodology).

Brysbaert, M. & Rastle, K. (2009). Historical and Conceptual Issues in Psychology. See Ch. 4 for useful background on how psychology was made 'scientific'.

Gergen, K.J. (1973). Social Psychology as history, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 26, 309-320.

Kitzinger, C. (1990). The rhetoric of pseudoscience. In Parker, I. & Shotter, J. (1990) Deconstructing Social Psychology.

Potter, J. & Wetherell, M. (1987) Discourse and Social Psychology, pp. 56-64 for discussion of ethogenics.

Potter, J. (2012). Re-reading Discourse and Social Psychology: Transforming social psychology, British Journal of Social Psychology, 51, 436-455. Parts of this article are relevant to lectures 1, 4 and 5 : worth reading.

Prancer, S.M. (1997) Social Psychology: the crisis continues. Ch. 10 in D. Fox & I. Prilleltensky (eds.) Critical Psychology: An introduction. Sage. Useful history of crisis and some efforts to overcome it.

Rozin, P. (2001). Social Psychology and Science: Some Lessons from Solomon Asch. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5(1), 2-14 (a more recent, but interesting and useful critical comparison between social psychology and a well-developed science, though I'm not convinced that the football study at the end is useful!).

Widdicombe, S. and Wooffitt, R. (1995) The Language of Youth Subcultures: Social Identity in Action. Ch. 2 for a brief account of the conceptual crisis and attempts to resolve it.

Gough, B., McFadden, M. & McDonald, M. (2013) Critical Social Psychology: an introduction. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Ch. 2.

Tuffin, K. (2005) Understanding Critical Social Psychology, London, Sage. Ch. 2 provides a useful overview of studies of science; Ch. 3 provides a brief account of social constructionism as an alternative epistemology for social psychology.

Potter, J. (1996) Representing Reality: Discourse, Rhetoric and Social Construction. Sage. See Ch. 8, Criticizing Facts.

Jansz, J. and van Drunen, P. (2004) A social history of psychology. Oxford: Blackwell. See Introduction and Ch. 1 (Jansz). These cover an historical analysis of the emergence of the kind of psychology we recognise today.

Parker, I. & Shotter, J. (1990) Deconstructing Social Psychology. (see Introduction: a useful account of how psychology relies on texts and how 'psychological facts' may be constructed through texts).

Burr, V. (2003) An Introduction to Social Constructionism, 2nd edition. Ch. 1 provides a useful summary of key social constructionist ideas; Ch. 2 presents a 'case' for social constructionism. London: Routledge.

Potter, J. (1996) Representing Reality: Discourse, Rhetoric and Social Construction. Sage. (Ch. 1 covers studies of science; Chs. 2 and 3 cover the turn to language in detail).

Kitzinger, C. (1987) The Social Construction of Lesbianism, London, Sage. See Ch. 1 to see how insights from science studies can be applied to social science, in particular, to examine how psychology studies homosexuality.

Edwards, D., Ashmore, M. & Potter, J. (1995). Death and furniture: The rhetoric, politics and theology of bottom line arguments against relativism, History of the Human Sciences, 8, 25-49.

Danziger, K. (1990) Constructing the Subject: Historical origins of psychological research. CUP. (An excellent historical account of emergence of present day statistical psychology).

Hepburn, A. (2003) An Introduction to Critical Social Psychology, Ch. 6, pp.135-148 includes a very useful overview of Foucault's contribution to deconstructing the subject. OR see Burr (2005), Ch. 4 which outlines key elements of Foucault's .work.

Rose, N. (1990) Social Psychology and government. In Parker, I. & Shotter, J. (1990) Deconstructing Social Psychology.

Arribus-Ayllon, M. & Walkerdine, V. (2007) Foucauldian Discourse Analysis. In C. Willg & W. Stainton-Rogers (eds.) The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research in Psychology. London: Sage.

Burman, E et al (1996) Psychology Discourse Practice: from regulation to resistance. Taylor & Francis. (see the Introduction for a 'Foucaultian deconstruction' of psychology).

Rapley, M., and Ridgway, J. (1998). "Quality of Life" Talk and the corporatisation of intellectual disability. Disability & Society, 13, 3, 451-471. A good, empirical, example of deconstructing key psychological tools and categories.

Billington, T. (1996). Pathologizing children: Psychology in education and acts of government. In Burman, E et al (1996) Psychology Discourse Practice: from regulation to resistance. Taylor & Francis. Showing how Foucault's approach can be used to deconstruct educational psychology.

Malson, H. et al. (2004). Constructing 'The Eating Disordered Patient': A discourse analysis of accounts of treatment experiences, Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 14, 473-489.

Gillies, V. & Willig, C. (1997). 'You get the nicotine and that in your blood' - constructions of addiction and control in women's accounts of cigarette smoking. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 7, 285-301. (This provides a good illustration of a 'discourses and positioning' approach in social psychology).

Davies, B. & Harre, R. (1990). Positioning: the discursive production of selves. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 20, 43-63.

Hepburn, A. & Wiggins, S. (2007). Discursive research: themes and debates. In A. Hepburn & S. Wiggins (eds.) Discursive Research in Practice: New Approaches to Psychology and Interaction. Cambridge University Press. (see especially to p.17).

Potter, J. (2012). Re-reading Discourse and Social Psychology: Transforming social psychology. British Journal of Social Psychology, 51, 436-455.

Stokoe, E. Hepburn, A. & Antaki, C. (2012). Beware the 'Loughborough School' of Social Psychology? Interaction and the politics of intervention, British Journal of Social Psychology, 51, 486-496.

Edwards, D. (2012). Discursive and scientific psychology. British Journal of Social Psychology, 51, 425-435.

Potter, J. and Edwards, D. (2001) Discursive Social Psychology. In WP Robinson & H. Giles (eds.) The New Handbook of Language and Social Psychology. Wiley. A succinct, now classic account of DP.

Wooffitt, R. (2005) Conversation Analysis and Discourse Analysis: A Comparative and Critical Introduction, London, Sage. See Chapter 7 for an excellent overview of critical and Foucault-inspired Discourse Analysis.

Parker et al (1990) Discourse in Social Psychology, Philosophical Psychology, 3, 187-233. Debates between Parker and Potter et al, and Abrams & Hogg.

Potter, J. (2005) Making psychology relevant. Discourse & Society, 16(5), 739-747.

Kitzinger, C. (2000). Doing feminist conversation analysis. Feminism & Psychology, 10, 163-193.

Burton, M. & Kagan, C. (2005). Liberation Social Psychology: Learning from Latin America. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 15, 63:78

Hutchby, I. (1996). Power in discourse: the case of arguments on a British talk radio show. Discourse & Society, 7, 481-497.

Jingree, T., Finlay, W.M.L. & Antaki, C. (2006). Empowering words, disempowering actions: an analysis of interactions between staff members and people with learning disabilities in residents' meetings, Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 50, 212-226.

Stainton Rogers, W&R. (1997). Does Critical Social Psychology mean the end of the world? In Ibanez & Iniguez (eds.), Critical Social Psychology. London: Sage.

Widdicombe, S. (1995) Identity, Politics and Talk: A case for the mundane and the everyday. In S. Wilkinson & C. Kitzinger (eds.) Feminism and Discourse: Psychological perspectives.

Hepburn, A. (2003) An Introduction to Critical Social Psychology. Ch. 9 provides a brief summary of critical practices. Sage.

Gough, B., McFadden, M. & McDonald, M. (2013) Critical Social Psychology: an introduction. See ch. 6 (useful overview).

Hepburn, A. & Jackson, C. (2009). Rethinking subjectivity: A Discursive Psychological approach to cognition and emotion. In D. Fox, I. Prilleltensky & S. Austin (eds.) (2nd edn) Critical Psychology: An Introduction. Second edition. Sage.

Gough, B. (2004) Psychoanalysis as a resource for understanding emotional ruptures in the text: The case of defensive masculinities. British Journal of Social Psychology, 43, 245-267

Wetherell, M. & Edley, N. (1999). Negotiating hegemonic masculinity: imaginary positions and psycho-discursive practices. Feminism & Psychology, 9, 335-356.

Gough, B., McFadden, M. & McDonald, M. (2013) Critical Social Psychology: an introduction. Basingstoke: Palgrave. Chs. 4 and 5 deconstruct social influence and prejudice respectively, ch. 10 provides a reflection on critical social psychology.

Potter, J. (2012). How to study experience. Discourse & Society, 23, 576-588

Sampson, E.E. (1990) Social psychology and social control. In Parker, I. & Shotter, J. (eds.) Deconstructing Social Psychology. Routledge. A Foucault-inspired account of individualism in social psychology.

Burr, V. (2003) An Introduction to Social Constructionism, 2nd edition. Chs. 6 and 7. discussion of The Self and Agency (in Conclusion).Routledge.

Harre, R. and Gilett, G. (1994) The Discursive Mind, Sage. A useful critique of cognition and cognitive modelling esp. chs 4-6.

Te Molder, H. and Potter, J. (2005) Conversation and Cognition, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. (See Ch. 11 Discursive Psychology, Mental States and Descriptions by Edwards and Potter. Chs. 9 and 10 may also be of interest).

Potter, J. (2000). Post-cognitive psychology. Theory and Psychology, 10, 31-37 (provides a useful summary).

Antaki, C. (2006). Producing a 'cognition'. Discourse Studies, 8(1), 9-15.

van Dijk's (2012) article, A note on epistemics and discourse analysis. British Journal of Social Psychology, 51, 478-485.

Walton, C., Coyle, A., & Lyons, E. (2004). Death and football: An analysis of men's talk about emotions. British Journal of Social Psychology, 43(3), 401-416.

Edley, N. (2006). Never the Twain Shall Meet: A Critical Appraisal of the Combination of Discourse and Psychoanalytic Theory in Studies of Men and Masculinity, Sex Roles, 55, 601-608.

Widdicombe, S. (1992). Subjectivity, Power and the Practice of Psychology, Theory & Psychology, 2, 487-499.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Sue Widdicombe
Tel: (0131 6)50 3411
Course secretaryMiss Toni Noble
Tel: (0131 6)51 3188
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