The Situationist

Perspectives on Psychological Science – Articles of Interest

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 20, 2008

Perspectives on Psychological Science CoverPerspectives on Psychological Science CoverPerspectives on Psychological Science

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Introduction: From Philosophical Thinking to Psychological Empiricism – Page 1

By Constantine Sedikides: “The authors of [the articles in this issue] received a rather tall order. They were requested to (a) identify an important, broad, and vibrant topic in their area of expertise; (b) trace historically the foundations of this topic to philosophers (and, if needed, to thinkers in other fields such as sociology, politics, or economics); (c) cover briefly how knowledge on this topic progressed to the present; (d) provide an overview of psychology’s contribution by explaining how psychology has framed ideas about this topic and how empirical research has provided answers; and (e) identify new questions for this topic and highlight how psychological research is likely to shape them new questions.”

Free Will in Scientific Psychology – Pages 14 -19

By Roy F. Baumeister: ABSTRACT—Some actions are freer than others, and the difference is palpably important in terms of inner process, subjective perception, and social consequences. Psychology can study the difference between freer and less free actions without making dubious metaphysical commitments. Human evolution seems to have created a relatively new, more complex form of action control that corresponds to popular notions of free will. It is marked by self-control and rational choice, both of which are highly adaptive, especially for functioning within culture. The processes that create these forms of free will may be biologically costly and therefore are only used occasionally, so that people are likely to remain only incompletely self-disciplined, virtuous, and rational.

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Why Heuristics Work – Pages 20 – 29

By Gerd Gigerenzer: ABSTRACT—The adaptive toolbox is a Darwinian-inspired theory that conceives of the mind as a modular system that is composed of heuristics, their building blocks, and evolved capacities. The study of the adaptive toolbox is descriptive and analyzes the selection and structure of heuristics in social and physical environments. The study of ecological rationality is prescriptive and identifies the structure of environments in which specific heuristics either succeed or fail. Results have been used for designing heuristics and environments to improve professional decision making in the real world.

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Language: A Toolbox for Sharing and Influencing Social Reality – Pages 38 -47

By Klaus Fiedler: ABSTRACT—The key role of language is often neglected in explicitly formulated theories of cognition, affect, and social behavior. Implicitly, though, the relationship between language and mind is at the heart of psychological science. Two major research programs—linguistic universals and linguistic relativity—originate in opposite philosophical positions, assuming either that language reflects the mind’s ideas and free will or that language differences govern and restrict the mind. However, modern psychological research was able to begin illuminating the power and richness of linguistic influences only after the priority debate was given up and language and cognition were treated as integral parts of the same process. Beyond the confines of referential communication, conceived as cooperative transfer of symbols referring to common world knowledge, some of the most intriguing phenomena are detached from referential bonds, reflecting unintended, emergent, or even random outcomes of verbal interaction. Indeed, the effectiveness of verbal priming may be actually contingent on language users’ failure to understand the primes’ referential meanings and implications.

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Understanding the Vital Human Quest for Self-Esteem – Pages 48 – 55

By Jeff Greenberg: ABSTRACT—Authors have long noted the human penchant for self-esteem. Experimental research has revealed that this desire for self-esteem has wide-ranging effects on cognition, emotion, and behavior. Terror management theory explains that this desire for self-esteem results from a fundamental need for psychological security, which is engendered by humans’ awareness of their own vulnerability and mortality. A large body of evidence has supported this explanation. Specifically, substantial lines of research have shown that self-esteem buffers anxiety and reduces defenses against death and that reminders of mortality increase efforts to defend and bolster self-esteem. Complementary findings have helped clarify the role of culture in self-esteem striving and the ways in which people can vary in their level, stability, and sources of self-esteem. I conclude by briefly considering how this contemporary knowledge regarding the quest for self-esteem informs current events and daily life.

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Morality – Pages 65 – 72

By Jonathan Haidt: ABSTRACT—Moral psychology is a rapidly growing field with two principle lineages. The main line began with Jean Piaget and includes developmental psychologists who have studied the acquisition of moral concepts and reasoning. The alternative line began in the 1990s with a new synthesis of evolutionary, neurological, and social-psychological research in which the central phenomena are moral emotions and intuitions. In this essay, I show how both of these lines have been shaped by an older debate between two 19th century narratives about modernity: one celebrating the liberation of individuals, the other mourning the loss of community and moral authority. I suggest that both lines of moral psychology have limited themselves to the moral domain prescribed by the liberation narrative, and so one future step for moral psychology should be to study alternative moral perspectives, particularly religious and politically conservative ones in which morality is, in part, about protecting groups, institutions, and souls.

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The Unconscious Mind – Pages 73 – 79

By [Situationist Contributor] John A. Bargh & Ezequiel Morsell: ABSTRACT—The unconscious mind is still viewed by many psychological scientists as the shadow of a “real” conscious mind, though there now exists substantial evidence that the unconscious is not identifiably less flexible, complex, controlling, deliberative, or action-oriented than is its counterpart. This “conscious-centric” bias is due in part to the operational definition within cognitive psychology that equates unconscious with subliminal. We review the evidence challenging this restricted view of the unconscious emerging from contemporary social cognition research, which has traditionally defined the unconscious in terms of its unintentional nature; this research has demonstrated the existence of several independent unconscious behavioral guidance systems: perceptual, evaluative, and motivational. From this perspective, it is concluded that in both phylogeny and ontogeny, actions of an unconscious mind precede the arrival of a conscious mind—that action precedes reflection.

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Love: What Is It, Why Does It Matter, and How Does It Operate? – Page 80 – 86

By Harry T. Reis, Arthur Aron: ABSTRACT—Love is a perennial topic of fascination for scholars and laypersons alike. Whereas psychological science was slow to develop active interest in love, the past few decades have seen considerable growth in research on the subject, to the point where a uniquely psychological perspective on love can be identified. This article describes some of the more central and well-established findings from psychologically informed research on love and its influence in adult human relationships. We discuss research on how love is defined, the significance of love for human activity and well-being, and evidence about the mechanisms by which love is believed to operate. We conclude by describing several key questions and potentially important new directions for the next wave of psychological science.

Go to Journal’s full Table of Contents

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