Social constructionism and experimental social psychology represent two complementary paradigms for understanding human social behavior, but over the last quarter century they have remained oddly and unnecessarily estranged from one another. In this article, we trace the history of social constructionist thought and find that the intellectual lineage and guiding assumptions of these two subcultures of social psychology are essentially the same. Next, we clarify the philosophical and ideological bases of their divide to determine how wide the rift really is. Although the differences may appear to be unbridgeable, we argue that a rapprochement is both possible and desirable. At the level of metatheory, Donald Campbell and William J. McGuire have demonstrated that constructionist and empirical insights can be usefully integrated in social psychology. At the level of empirical research, studies of the situated self-concept, social identity, collective representation, attitudes as temporary constructions, communication and shared reality, and cultural psychology have progressed through the incorporation of constructionist themes. Similar opportunities await researchers who explore the contextual bases of history, ideology, and other shared systems of meaning and their implications for social psychology. Finally, we identify some substantive and stylistic complementarities of social constructionism and experimental social psychology and analyze their joint potential for contributing to a well-balanced discipline of social psychology that is worthy of both parts of its name.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology