Critical Psychology: What It Is and What It Is Not



Critical psychology alerts us to the limitations of mainstream research in the discipline, and it promises to put ‘social’ issues on the agenda in the whole of psychology. A starting point of the stance of critical psychological research is that the claims that psychologists make about human beings often seem to vanish almost as quickly as they are discovered. People, a group or culture do not behave or think like the model would predict, and, more importantly, we find that our awareness, our reflection on a process described by a psychologist changes that process. It is in the nature of human nature to change, to change as different linguistic resources, social practices, and representations of the self become available, and for human nature to change itself as people reflect on who they are and who they may become. That means that any attempt to fix us in place must fail. But it will only fail in such a way that something productive emerges from it if we do something different, and one place to do something different is in psychology. We need to step back and look at the images of the self, mind and behaviour that psychologists have produced, the types of practices they engage in, and the power those practices, those ‘technologies of the self’ have to set limits on change. When we appreciate this, we can start to look at what psychologists might do instead as part of a genuinely critical approach.