be understood through the observation of larger ethnic entities

Be understood through the observation of larger

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be understood through the observation of larger ethnic entities ( Völkerpsychologie , a kind of ethnology, see Anger, 1979). Even though his definition of social psychology as “ Völkerpsy- chologie” did not gain acceptance, his differentiation on purely methodological grounds proved to be consequential: The scientific object is established through the method, the exper- iment, rather than the other way round, i.e. the object to be investigated determines the method. “The paradox comes about through the fact that while the goal is to explain social behav- ior, the persistent methodological commitment has been to the processes or properties of individual agents." (Semin, 1997, p. 292) An alternative to this paradigmatic conception was formulated already in 1902 by the sociolo- gist Cooley: “Self and society are twin born”. The individual learns how he or she is per- ceived, classified, evaluated, and treated by his/her interaction partners with their societally acquired categories; by reflecting and possibly re-categorizing these perceptions and acting accordingly, he or she takes part in the social construction of the world. This perspective has been further elaborated by Mead for whom – in rejecting Watson’s behaviorism – language as a medium for understanding and the induced cognitive processes were of central importance. Interaction, according to him, consists of mutually related actions and gestures that announce these actions. Gestures, especially linguistic ones, are significant for interactants if their meaning is shared; this then makes both social coordination and individual reflection possible (Mead, 1934). The close intertwining of cognition and communication, which should be es- sential for social psychology, is basic for Mead’s conception; it seems to be still today tenable or even ahead of today’s pSP. Ironically Mead, who once was president of the American Psy- chological Association, was by and large rejected by the behaviorist (social) psychology of that time, whereas he was adopted by sociological social psychology, in particular by sym- bolic interactionism, as one of the founding fathers. Only much later, greater attention was paid to cognitive aspects in psySP under the in- fluence of Lewin, Heider and Festinger, i.e. the German “ Gestaltpsychologie” . With his metaphor of a “cognitive field” Lewin formulated a framework for thought, which made cog- nitive processing of various social influences accessible to contemporary thinking (Lewin, 1951). The theories of Heider, Festinger and others elaborated this line of thinking, and with the widespread acceptance of the information processing metaphor of cognitive psychology and the take-over of their methods, a focus on cognition became dominant while the “social” became more and more abstracted. Lewin’s much quoted formula of behavior being a func-
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Pleading for a more social Social Psychology 10 tion of the person and the environment [B = f (P, E)] is an individualistic program, because there are no interactions between individuals; others only constitute the social environment, just as in the paradigm of social cognition. More appropriate would be an interactionist for-
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