Social psychology and the wrong revolution



Many social psychologists take increasing comfort in cognitive explanations of human action. This paper first attempts to demonstrate that cognitively based formulations not only delimit the possibilities for social understanding, but create a range of intractable conceptual problems. If real world events are reduced to cognitive representations of the world, then social events cease to exist for the discipline as legitimate foci of concern. Further, once the reality of cognition is granted, there is no conceptual means of viably explaining either the origins or acquisition of cognitive categories (schemas, representations, etc.), or the relationship between cognition and action. The paper then goes on to argue that the cognitive revolution in psychology blinds the discipline to the far more pervasive revolution occurring elsewhere in the intellectual world, that of social epistemology. When cognition is replaced by language as the major means for representing the world, then the individual is replaced by the social relationship as the central focus of concern. Theory and research within the framework of social epistemology are reviewed and their implications discussed.