Critical Comments on Experimental, Discursive, and General Social Psychology



The historical background of the contrasting traditions of experimental and discursive social psychologies is outlined, and two illustrative experimental and discursive studies are described in detail and critically scrutinised. Among the major weaknesses of the experimental approach is an increasing tendency towards an a-social computer-mediated procedure and a decontextualised setting. While experimental methods and results are clearly set out, the discursive research presents only small and highly selected fragments of masses of data. Hence the actual ways in which findings are arrived at remain largely obscure. Experimental, and to a lesser extent discursive social psychology, make implicit and unjustified claims for universality. The scientific pretensions of mainstream social psychology texts are also questioned in a brief discussion of the implications of these critiques for social psychology at large.