The critical schools of social psychology came about in response to a growing dissatisfaction with the scientific paradigm that had become entrenched in psychology in the first half of the twentieth century. Social psychology developed two separate strands, the Psychological Social Psychology strand, in America, and the Sociological Social Psychology schools in Europe. While the American school developed into an experimental, empiricist discipline that relied on the scientific method, the European traditions became more qualitative, with one example being the phenomenological school that believed it was more important to look at experience rather than explanation.
Cognitive social psychology emerged in the mid-twentieth century as a
…show more content…
In order to understand an issue, the cognitive social psychologist will identify the variables that may affect the issue and then design an experiment that allows the variables to be manipulated, usually in a laboratory setting but more often in the field. This immediately produces a power relation between the researcher and the subject, which informs the entire proceeding. A famous example of this is Stanley Milgram’s (1965) investigation into the nature of obedience where subjects would “give” an actor shocks until the apparent death of the person being shocked on the instructions of an experimenter.
The power relationship between experimenter and subject also raises ethical questions, especially as most experiments involve some sort of deception in order to make sure the subject’s knowledge does not affect the outcome. In fact, it is often considered necessary and valid to deceive participants where there is a scientific case (Haslam, 2007). As noted in DVD 1 (2007) the subject can become upset and worried when unexpected events occur in the course of an experiment and a thorough de-briefing is usual to make sure no lasting upset remains.
The statistical nature of experimental psychology means that it relies on statistical methods to attempt to generalise findings from the sample tested and apply them to society as a whole. The idea that knowledge is situated in a