ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

›› 2009, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (06): 557-564.

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Social Constructionism and the Future of Theoretical Research in Psychology

Ye Hao-Sheng   

  1. Institute of Psychology, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing 210097, China
  • Received:2008-08-17 Revised:1900-01-01 Published:2009-06-30 Online:2009-06-30
  • Contact: Ye Hao-Sheng

Abstract: Social contructionism is an important academic movement in psychology in Western countries. Social contructionism claims that what we take to be knowledge of the world and our selves is not the discovery we make, nor is it a product of induction or the testing of general hypotheses, instead, it is a social construction, and takes place in historically situated interchanges among people. Traditionally, psychological science was based on three assumptions: the centrality of individual rationality, the determination of experiential observation and language as a truthful representation. Social constructionism, instead, criticizes the three modernist assumptions, and has brought three transformations into psychological science: (i) from individual reason to communal rhetoric. The individual deemed rational only if he or she has taken the language or discourse common to his or her particular culture at a particular times. (ii) from experiential observation to social construction. Because observation always loaded with theory, the observation does not guarantee what we get is a truth. Therefore, we should take the world as the socially constructed. (iii) from a language as a truthful picture to a language as a action. Language does not mirror or map the reality, instead, language constructs the reality and language also has effects on social practices. From the point view of social constructionism, theory is not a product of experiential induction, nor does theory come from observation. Theory, as social constructionism suggested, is a social construction, which has enormous implications for the future of theoretical rsearch. As a social construction, theory comes before observation, and all the observations are confined by theory. Just because theory is a product of cultural construction, theory is different in different culture at different historical periods, which also means theoretical research in psychology is not value-free science. It is value-loaded and serves the society and culture where it is grounded. As a social construction, not only does theory serve the function of rethinking and criticism, theory also has the power of action, it does has effects on psychological research.

Key words: constructionism, theoretical research, postmodernism, social construction, psychology