critical social psychology
critical social psychologydiverse approaches in psychology, which tend to take an engaged, anti-discriminatory and anti-essentialist standpoint, in order to understand and explain psychological phenomena as inseparable from the SOCIAL ORDER. In part, this is achieved by critiquing many of the bases upon which psychological ‘truths’ have been produced and reproduced. Critical social psychologists challenge psychology's individualistic focus (see also INDIVIDUALISM), its assumption of a rational, unitary, autonomous and (usually male) subject and its appropriation of a natural science paradigm within which human behaviour is decontextualized (see also POSITIVISM). Critical social psychological research tends to be informed by DECONSTRUCTION, social constructionism (see also SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF REALITY) and POSTMODERNISM as it attempts to understand psychological phenomena in their wider historical and cultural contexts. For this reason, critical social psychological work is multidisciplinary, drawing on CULTURAL STUDIES, LITERARY AND CULTURAL THEORY, SOCIOLOGY and WOMEN'S STUDIES, for instance, and usually employs QUALITATIVE RESEARCH TECHNIQUES. Different forms of DISCOURSE ANALYSIS, some informed by FOUCAULT's theorizing, are commonly employed to offer INTERPRETATIONS or readings of talk and texts, which may be naturally occurring or part of research inquiry, such as qualitative interviews. The field of critical social psychology expanded in the 1990s, though its roots can be seen in forms of FEMINIST PSYCHOLOGY. Other forms of critical social psychology are Historical Psychology, an approach which explicates psychological research and theory in relation to the particular socio-historical contexts in which they are embedded, and Narrative Psychology, an approach which takes the telling of NARRATIVES to be the way through which we make sense of our lives and the lives of others. Critical social psychologists have drawn on psychoanalytic theory (see also PSYCHOANALYSIS).
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000