What are the central assumptions of social constructionism


What are the cardinal premises of societal constructionism? How are they of import for societal psychological science?

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The term societal constructionism carries with it a figure of deductions in psychological idea and the manner psychological science conducts itself as a scientific discipline and research tool. There is no 1 individual definition ; nevertheless, it is utile to pull from Gergen’s ( 1973 ) statement as to how he regards societal psychological science and its patterns. In his paper he argues that ‘all cognition, including psychological cognition is historically and culturally specific and that we therefore must widen our enquires beyond the single into societal, political and economic kingdoms, for a proper apprehension of the development of present psychological science and societal life. Mainstream psychological science, traditionally looks for accounts of societal phenomena from within the individual, for illustration, by speculating the being of attitudes, motivations, mental knowledges, that act to bring forth different behaviors. However, societal constructionists reject this position. Alternatively of looking at the underlying mental constructions that cause behavior, or formulate theoretical accounts of inactive constituents, societal constructionists aim to look at the operation of power within the interactions between people and their thoughts. The undermentioned treatment will concentrate on the cardinal subjects of societal constructionism and what this means for societal psychological science as a subject.

To turn to the cardinal premises of societal constructionism – Burr ( 1995 ) purposes a few statements that are ‘things you would perfectly hold to believe in order to be a societal constructionist’ . A cardinal premise of societal constructionism involves ‘a critical stance towards take-for-granted knowledge’ . This means that the classs and constructs that human existences use do non needfully match to the natural or ‘real’ classs or differentiations environing us at any given clip. Belief in these such classs are referred to as anti-essentialism ( i.e. the belief in societal classs, instead classs based on nature ) . From a societal constructionist point of position people are assumed non to hold a nucleus nature, there is a difference whether they are derived from their cistrons or as a merchandise of their environment. Furthermore, their psychological science is unfastened to reading. Therefore, Burr ( 1995 ) 2nd point refers to the impression that the classs of which human existences use to understand the universe and those around them must be understood in a historical and cultural context. Therefore, what we as people think to be true of other people is non a cosmopolitan truth. Peoples are frequently seen as ‘products’ of the cultural and historical background they are in or from. For illustration, person who has lived through universe war II is interpreted in a certain manner by other people, and these other people’s feeling of them besides differ from each other and the reading of the person who has experienced the war. Therefore ‘knowledge’ can non be regarded as a direct representation of a peculiar world that is out at that place. Burr ( 1995 ) , believes that ‘the subjects of psychological science and societal psychological science can therefore no longer be aimed at detecting the ‘true’ nature of people and societal life’ due to the legion readings that are available.

Such readings of human and societal life are done through a procedure of societal interaction between people through their mundane brushs within the universe. Social interaction of all sorts, in peculiar, linguistic communication, is of cardinal importance for societal constructionists. Language prescribes what we think ; it gives us constructs that direct our ideas. For illustration, it is really hard to believe about things that we have no lingual construct for. However, linguistic communication isn’t merely a channel through which information is conveyed. Language does things to people. It can function to marginalize or laud them, derogate or impeach them and pardon or warrant them. By giving a cardinal function to societal interactions and seeing these as actively bring forthing taken-for-granted cognition of the universe, it follows that linguistic communication itself is more than merely showing our ideas and feelings. For illustration, when speaking to each other, people construct their universe through the application of linguistic communication. Therefore, linguistic communication is used as a signifier of action, that is, it has a ‘performance’ function. Social constructionists believe that cognition and societal action travel together. These buildings are referred to as ‘negotiated’ apprehensions. ‘Knowledge is seen non as something that a individual has ( or does non hold ) , but as something that people do together.’ ( Burr, 1995 ) .Therefore, this has the deduction that there are many societal buildings that can be made within any given state of affairs. This means that the ‘truths’ that we are told and which we accept, are used to warrant societal action – for illustration, when it was widely accepted ( though non universally ) during the Thatcher Years, that homosexualism was an un-natural ‘lifestyle’ that could be learned, the jurisprudence so changed to forestall positive mentions to homosexual ‘lifestyles’ in schools.

The societal constructionist theory was born out of a reaction to dispute the premises of the tradition subject of societal psychological science. The people that advocate the beliefs of this theory are called critical societal psychologists. Basically critical societal psychologist challenges the version of truth put frontward by chief watercourse psychological science. The theory efforts to demo that it is the subjective merchandise of people with vested interested that drives the forces behind what is consider to be societal cognition and truth. Furthermore, it attempts to uncover other truths from the position of people who are marginalised and disadvantaged. Therefore, societal constructionism purposes to analyze the prejudices and exclusions of societal psychological science, on the footing of race, societal category and gender. Such works represents psychological science as an maltreatment of power, that obscures the stuff and economical contexts that consistently disadvantage certain groups of people. Not all societal psychologists that believe in constructionism believe in all of these facets of societal constructionism, but most critical societal psychologist believes in most of the constructs.

The philosophical base point of societal constructionism has had an of import impact towards developments in certain strands of psychological science – peculiarly in the political sphere – for illustration, feminism, socialism and anti-racism research and application. For illustration, for Stainton-Rogers et Al, ( 1995 ) , feminism is about us being able to ‘recognise the semblances which constitute our ‘social realities’ and non as really-real realities’ . Thus feminism is concerned with seeking to place and dispute those illusive facets within society that specifically relate to adult females. For illustration, Nicolson ( 1995 ) believes that the precedences of western society attaches to the scientific method ( i.e. find of factual ‘truths’ ) is gender-biased, due to the relationship of scientific discipline has with the media. In bend this influences human socialization. To besides add, societal constructionism has made an of import impact on the rules of societal representation theory ( SRT ) . This is basically an extension of societal constructionism – in that it encourages theoretician to see people as inactive persons who merely perceive or misperceive their societal universe – SRT argues that it is the societal universes that are buildings, and societal representation is a device for making this building. For illustration, it allows person to do sense of something potentially unfamiliar and to measure it. Therefore constructs, thoughts and images are invariably go arounding in people’s head and around society. Therefore, it is the societal interactions within society that conveying these constructs and thoughts to visible radiation.

To reason, the cardinal subjects of societal constructionism are that cognition and the construct of societal truths are bound up in taken for granted cognition. This taken-for-granted cognition is produced through societal interaction between each other and the different environments that we encounter. Knowledge can be changed through societal interaction, strengthen through it, or weaken as a effect of it. The impact of societal constructionism has encouraged people and psychologists to dispute the traditional positions of psychological science and the manner we see society. The constructs of societal constructionism add range for us to analyze why certain sectors of society are disadvantaged, and how other sectors of society can warrant their privileges. However, if one considers that there is no such thing as ‘truth’ , how can one critically argue that people truly are oppressed, that racism and sexism truly be, and that equality is better than inequality? Post-modernist theory would reason that aren’t societal buildings of society merely narratives – which can so be deconstructed to intend something different? Social constructionist would associate this to power – and how power is reflected in the linguistic communication the people use to convey their information and beliefs. This can be demonstrated in the manner historical and cultural beliefs have affected the manner society has been portrayed over clip and different states – and by whom, for illustration, propaganda through the war, compared to the lived experiences of the ground forces on the front line. Therefore, societal constructionism is of import in the regard that it challenges the abuse of thoughts in universe and challenges the manner psychologists analyse and interpret people’s actions.


Burr, V. ( 1995 ) . An Introduction to Social Constructionism. London: Routledge

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

Nicolson, P. ( 1995 ) Feminism and Psychology. In Smith, J.A. , Harre, R and Van Lanehove, L ( Eds ) . Rethinking Psychology. London. Sage.

Stainton-Rogers, W. , Stenner, P. , Gleeson, K. , and Stainton Rogers W, ( 1995 ) . Social Psychology. A Critical Agenda. Cambridge. Policy Press.


Anderson, W.T. ( 1997 ) . The truth about the Truth: De-confusing and Reconstructing the Post-modern World. New York. Putnam.

Gross, R.(2001 ) . Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour ( 4th erectile dysfunction )Hodder Arnold H & A ; S

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