Instructions: Drawing on at least two topics from across the module, discuss how the theme of situated knowledges can contribute to our understanding of social psychology.
‘Situated knowledges’ is an interrogative theme of DD307. It is introduced in Video clip 1 (module website) and discussed specifically in Section 4.2 of Book 1, Chapter 2. These would be good starting points for your plan of the answer. In Section 4.2 of Book 1, Chapter 2 Hollway discusses the importance of knowledge production that is contingent on the local context of research, and so not easily transferrable to other contexts despite the use of particular methods which claim to permit this. This is one understanding of situated knowledges, and it forms a key part of understanding the value of qualitative research, such as the interviews you undertook for your TMA 04 project. Also, Hollway introduces a wider application of situated knowledges; situating research in its historical (and by extension, political) era.
It is important to remember that the word ‘discuss’ invites you to critically discuss a topic. In developing your critical discussion, you should also find Book 1, Chapter 9 useful. In Book 1, Chapter 9, Hollway points to situated knowledges as an important way of paying attention to some of the taken-for-granted assumptions which can frame social psychological research. For example, historical assumptions of what constitutes a family can frame how researchers study it. Hollway also points to the inseparability of situated knowledges and power relations, a theme you could give some attention to. Situated knowledges help us see how power can be inherent in the assumptions of ontology (what it means to be human) and methodology. It would be useful if you drew on particular examples from the module which demonstrate the situatedness of methodological assumptions, and how they are linked to the distribution of power. For example, by drawing on parts of Cherry’s critique of Darley and Latané’s research on bystander intervention (Book 2, Chapter 8), you could discuss the dominance of a cognitive social approach which requires the use of measurable variables in order to test the theory of diffusion of responsibility, linking situated knowledges to power relations both in the context of the research and from a historical perspective.
When thinking about how situated knowledges can contribute to our understanding of social psychology, it would be very useful to turn to the idea of critical evaluation, and how situated knowledges can help us construct this. You are advised to draw on Motzkau’s online commentary chapter (available from the module website) as a primary source for a discussion of this aspect of situated knowledges. In this online chapter Motzkau comments on how consideration of situated knowledges produces a ‘productive scepticism’ about the claims that are made in social psychology, particularly those relating to facts and certainty. This sceptical approach, Motzkau argues, is an important aspect of the researchers’ responsibility as they pursue social psychological research. Motzkau also discusses ‘situated knowledges’ as an important part of critical mode 3, the ‘meta-perspective’. In the online chapter, she proposes questions which can be asked of research when applying situated knowledges as a critical tool which relate to critical mode 3. These include considering how the political, ethical and social spirit of the time impacts on the assumptions, design, procedure and interpretation of research in social psychology. This takes up and amplifies Hollway’s (Book 1, Chapter 2 and Chapter 9) ‘historical’ point about situated knowledges. So, to develop the historical aspect of situated knowledges, it would be very useful to consider some of these questions posed in the online chapter, and apply them to at least two research topics from DD307. For example, Motzkau asks: ‘How far does a piece of research or a perspective appreciate or overlook the situatedness of knowledge?’, a question that could be used to explore the cognitive social approach to individual differences (Book 2, Chapter 3), for example, or the two perspectives discussed in the psychology of families (Book1, Chapter 4) for example. We would not expect you to use all of the questions in Motzkau’s chapter, but a careful selection would make a good starting point for the discussion of how useful the theme of situated knowledges is in helping us understand the diversity and critical aspects of social psychology.
One of the purposes of TMA 06 is to invite you to begin to draw from across the module to link core ideas with several examples of research. On this point, the question also asks you to refer to at least two topics of research from DD307. There are many to choose from. For example, as mentioned above, Cherry’s critique of Darley and Latané’s research on bystander intervention could be a relevant example to support your critical discussion. Others may include attitude research (Book 2, Chapter 4); the two very different understandings of close relationships in Book 2, Chapter 2; the historical context of discourses and their application to the body and body practices in Book 1, Chapter 8 (embodiment), or emotion (Book 1, Chapter 6). It may be tempting to refer to issues which you have covered in previous TMAs, and though this is acceptable, you need to make them relevant to this question. If you choose to use more than two topics to support your answer, remember to do so in a concise and focused way in support of your key points. Finally, although a brief explanation of situated knowledges is required, the main focus of the essay should be the critical discussion of how it contributes to our understanding of social psychology. Due to the many ideas and examples which you can draw for this option, you will need to plan your essay around key points and select carefully only those topics which best support your argument.
Situated Knowledges Essay.
The field of social psychology focuses on the thoughts behaviors and feelings of human beings and how others influence them. Situated knowledge thus becomes imperative for critical evaluation. Situated knowledge refers to the embedded knowledge which is affected by history, values and the language of the person who is acquiring the knowledge of it. The term coined by social constructionists where the perspectives which draw on the concept that it is possible to gain universal knowledge was emphasized. In situated knowledge there is an implication that cultural, social and historical factors have the ability to constrain the process of constructing knowledge. It is a theme that is interrogative in nature that is used in the analysis of social psychology knowledge by focusing on its history and context(Cartwright, 1979). It highlights the relationships that are reciprocal between the social world and researchers they investigate. One of the complementary dynamics which reshapes and contributes to the reality of the people who are under investigation is referred to as power relations. Critically evaluating the effects that the power relations produce regarding a particular context, may, in turn, lead to the growth of judgment concerning how right or wrong it may be and for whom that is through providing a clearer understanding of the social interaction. Situated knowledge also helps to develop a comprehensive skepticism concerning certainty in social psychology as well as purported facts.
The history of social psychology is situated in the local contexts, places and times in which those who research live and work. The product, which is the knowledge it produces, is evaluated and best understood when it is measured against the context in which it was acquired from and which it endeavors to explain which limits the ease at which the knowledge from social psychology can be transferred to other given contexts (Cartwright, 1979). The history of social psychology draws back to more than a hundred years in Europe and the United States of America. It has produced many changed to its methods, theories, topics of investigation ever since. An example is an experimental approach which dominated research until the mid-ninety were when the process was criticized for overlooking the individual’s ability and capacity to act. Social psychology then became characterized dualistically that is people were viewed as possessing agency and determined by social structures which they reside in. An example is how cognitive, social psychology defines people as individuals who process information and exist separately from the social context they are in while discursive psychology describes people as being intertwined with their environments. Both given perspectives investigate the same thing which is language using different methods but produce knowledge which is both contrasting and complimentary. Lacking awareness of situated knowledge when carrying out research leads to individual overlooking contextual information that is critical.
Gaining an understanding in how the knowledge of social psychology is established in its context and history provides a leeway of evaluating its research in a critical way. It’s a tool which is used in the interpretation of certainty and facts that are purported. Reciprocal dynamism which is Motzkau’s concept provides a solid and significant tool which makes it possible to evaluate social psychology’s ‘situatedness’. It highlights the vitality that exists between researches and the world which they carry out investigations(Fitch, 2001).
Motzkaus concept shows how research questions even those which are used in social psychology as a whole are influenced by historical, political and psychological concepts. An example is the title of the classic paper of Zimbardo, which lays emphasis on the negative consequences that crowds have giving a suggestion that they are always wrong and irrational. Given this example, it is clearly seen how data that is presented by researchers who are pre-eminent could be broadly accepted and highly convincing. The findings could inform the behavior of the people being researched and the researchers. Years later many historians and theorists of social movements show how crowds do as a matter of fact play a crucial role in creating real processes of social change for example through civil rights protests. Which thus reveals aspects that could have been overlooked priorly such as how crowds can have positive pro-social effects that are productive? The example is a clear illustration of how reciprocal dynamism contributes and continuously shapes the realities of those being researched and researchers. As Motzkau suggests creating power relations is always present whenever knowledge is produced, taken up and generated. A better understanding of social interaction may be achieved by considering the effects that power relations create given a particular context. The benefits may be better education policies and preventing insights from being overgeneralized as universal. Accepted knowledge and the resultant effects may also be challenged or evaluated as a result of understanding power relations(Fitch, 2001). Oppressive effects of certain knowledge and the effects which reinforce history and contextually situated stereotypes, as well as political agendas which are nor beneficial for the nation, may also be overcome. A critical stance being adopted can be helpful in evaluating social psychology knowledge through the development of skepticism which is productive concerning certainty and facts which are purported.
Russell approached research of emotions with skepticism that was productive challenging the use of self-report in experiments that investigated emotions. Doosje and the colleagues more often than not employed the self-report method when measuring their participant’s emotions. The results that were collected suggested that it was possible to elicit feelings that were based on group guilt which was distinct from the feelings one could hold of personal guilt. Thus, Russell criticized their given results suggesting that they revealed little about an individual’s emotions and were based more on subjective interpretation. He further stated that self-report experiments overlook how the representations of emotions do not match up well with the phenomena that are being researched. He states how the implied categories that were cognitive representations of emotions were ambiguous. His critique led to shift which in turn resulted in the development of a different way of defining emotions. Researchers then presented a whole new model of emotions which was based on the understanding of how situated the knowledge which is produced is in nature. Their focus shifted to exploring language and not to make any given assumptions concerning what emotions are and what they entail. They assumed that speakers in their discourse drew from already existing cultural ideas which are situated contextually and historically. For example, anger is perceived as a varying combination of assumptions concerning how the episodes of violence unfold (Fitch, 2001).
Derek Edwards approach to researching emotions which was discursive revealed how emotion formulations which are flexible may be used for rhetorical or persuasive purposes. An example is if a person says that they acted out of anger it might have been utilized for the purpose of undermining another person’s response. When discursive psychological perspectives are used in the exploration of social phenomena and interpreting experimental data, a high explanatory power is produced which challenges and also compliments quantitative approaches. The approach has contested the dualism of the individual-society revealing how people are affected by power and possess agency. The new paradigms form a basis for new research perspectives, but they rarely do replace the traditional ones that they criticize. Productive skepticism has transformed and challenges social psychology into multiple view fields within psychology. While different perspectives are often complimentary, they are not always compatible. Therefore, it is of great importance that researchers employ an approach that is skeptical when carrying out research as Motzkau brings it out in the meta perspective concept which has a requirement on the evaluator to begin from no particular perspective and focus more on the procedure and the way the research is carried out.Meta perspective concept provides a way of applying the situated knowledge theory as a critical tool in multiple perspectives. It provides a structure on how to raise questions concerning ethics, politics and society of the time and how they impact the procedure, design, assumptions and interpretations of research done in social psychology (Fitch, 2001). For example, questions such as how a perspective or a piece of the investigation overlooks or appreciates the situations of knowledge are raised.
Situated knowledge is crucial when it comes to critically evaluating social psychology. It underlies how the knowledge in social psychology is situated both contextually and historically. It also denotes that it is subject to relationships that are reciprocal in nature between the social world and the researchers creating a dynamic that is reciprocal. Situated knowledge contributed and reshapes the realities of the people who are being investigated through power relations which are produced about specific contexts (Cartwright, 1979). It has provided the perspective of productive skepticism which has gone a long way in questioning the certainty and purported facts in social psychology. The reliability of knowledge that has remained accepted over the years has happened as a result has been challenged as well as the overlooking of the situated-ness of both participants and researchers and the limitations of the experimentation method. It has produced the meta perspective concept which handles the diverse views that have arisen in social psychology this providing a new way to reinterpret many given phenomena such as the by stander effect.
Conclusively the concept of situated knowledge is imperative when it comes to critically evaluating social psychology. It reveals how knowledge is situated historically within given locations and contexts where it is produced. Concepts such as productive skepticism, reciprocal dynamism, and Meta perspective concept have raised critical questions concerning the reliability of facts which are created using the experimental method. Situated knowledge has shown how far research or different approaches overlook the situatedness of knowledge (Fitch, 2001).
Cartwright, D. (1979). Contemporary Social Psychology in Historical Perspective. Social Psychology Quarterly, 42(1), p.82.
Fitch, J. (2001). Situated Knowledge: Responding to Lucretius. Arethusa, 34(2), pp.211-220.