➊ Social Constructionism Psychology

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Social Constructionism Psychology



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What is Social Constructionism? (See link below for \

The idea that knowledge is socially constructed has been applied to other disciplines such as geography and sociology. Social constructionism was first introduced into the study of international relations in the s by three different groups of scholars. The first feminist IR theorists were Drucilla K. The third group includes constructivists who question social scientific methods for studying human behavior while also incorporating ideas from Marxism, feminism, and critical theory. Social constructivism is a variety of cognitive constructivism that emphasizes the collaborative nature of much learning.

Social constructivism was developed by post-revolutionary Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky. Vygotsky was cognitivist but rejected the assumption made by cognitivist such as Piaget and Perry that it was possible to separate learning from its social context. He argued that all cognitive functions originate in and must therefore be explained as products of social interactions and that learning did not simply comprise the assimilation and accommodation of new knowledge by learners; it was the process by which learners were integrated into a knowledge community. For example, Vygotsky states that cognitive development stems from social interactions from guided learning within the proximal development zone as children and their partner co-construct knowledge. Social Constructionism believes that society and culture are created by people, while social constructivism believes that knowledge, ideas, and beliefs are all constructed by society.

Social constructionism argues for an objective reality based on what we know about history and science. Social constructivism argues against this idea of a fixed reality; instead, it believes in subjective reality. Social constructionism focuses on how language shapes our perception of the world, while social constructivism focuses more on how language reflects our perceptions. Social constructionism relies heavily on qualitative methods to study human behavior, whereas social constructivism uses quantitative methods. The two theories have different views on how people create their own realities in life: for example;. Someone who subscribes to social constructionism would argue that an individual creates their own reality based on what they have learned from others around them.

The idea that reality is constructed by society and not inherent to the world; creates our own reality, which can be seen as a form of power or privilege. Reality is created through social interaction and communication with others; we construct our realities together rather than individually. Friday, September 10, Home Culture. Table of Contents. Related Posts. Deindividuation Psychology Definition Deindividuation Examples.

Signs and words serve children first and foremost as a means of social contact with other people. The cognitive and communicative functions of language then become the basis of a new and superior form of activity in children, distinguishing them from animals. Vygotsky, , pp. The internalization of socially rooted and historically developed activities is the distinguishing feature in human psychology, the basis of the qualitative leap from animal to human psychology. Ibid, p. By highlighting the effects of social interactions on cognitive development, Vygotsky reveals a critical role that external activities play in sparking internal mental constructions.

Understanding this interplay, as Papert indicated above, is at the heart of constructionism's paradigm. Although these internal and external dynamics are cyclic, Vygotsky clearly views the external component the shared and communicated experiences as being primary in many key instances, in that they initiate certain critical internal components through the process of internalization. We call the internal reconstruction of an external operation internalization. A good example of this process may be found in the development of pointing. Initially, this gesture is nothing more than an unsuccessful attempt to grasp something, a movement aimed at a certain object which designates forthcoming activity. The child attempts to grasp an object placed beyond his reach; his hands, stretched toward that object, remain poised in the air.

His fingers make grasping movements. At this initial stage pointing is represented by the child's movement, which seems to be pointing to an object--that and nothing more. When the mother comes to the child's aid and realizes his movement indicates something, the situation changes fundamentally. Pointing becomes a gesture for others. The child's unsuccessful attempt engenders a reaction not from the object he seeks but from another person. Consequently, the primary meaning of that unsuccessful grasping movement is established by others. Only later, when the child can link his unsuccessful grasping movement to the objective situation as a whole, does he begin to understand this movement as pointing.

At this juncture there occurs a change in that movement's function: from an object-oriented movement it becomes a movement aimed at another person, a means of establishing relations. The grasping movement changes to the act of pointing. As a result of this change, the movement itself is then physically simplified, and what results is the form of pointing that we may call a true gesture. It becomes a true gesture only after it objectively manifests all the functions of pointing for others and is understood by others as a gesture. Its meaning and functions are created at first by an objective situation and then by people who surround the child.

In this, Vygotsky gives us a picture of the early stages of the child's use of signs for representation and communication. The communicative use of a sign by the child requires some type of internalized intellectual order which can allow it to become meaningful and reusable to the child, and Vygotsky demonstrates that this internal order can be initiated by the external context of social relations. This primary role played by external relations suggests profound implications are involved in the effects that social and cultural settings have on individuals during developmental stages.

In fact, Vygotsky goes so far as to claim that all higher mental functions evolve from social relations. Every function in the child's cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first between people interpsychological , and then inside the child intrapsychological. This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts. All the higher functions originate as actual relations between human individuals. Vygotsky's emphasis on the priority of the social level in all higher mental functions has drawn considerable fire from constructivist critiques which argue that many internalized mental structures evolve before being exposed to the sociocultural milieu Carey and Gelman, ; Bereiter However, it is essential not to let this important critique detract from the idea that the social and the individual areas of intellectual development are both critical planes to consider.

Vygotsky's sociocultural focus and the more classical constructivist's individualized focus can find harmony, as Paul Cobb recently argued from a constructivist viewpoint when he stated, "Each of the two perspectives, the sociocultural and the constructivist, tells half of a good story, and each can be used to complement the other" Cobb, , p. He developed this point further when comparing Barbara Rogoff's sociocultural viewpoint to Ernst von Glasersfeld's Piagetian perspective. In comparing Rogoff's and von Glasersfeld's work, it can be noted that Rogoff's view of learning as acculturation via guided participation implicitly assumes an actively constructing child. Conversely, von Glasersfeld's view of learning as cognitive self-organization implicitly assumes that the child is participating in cultural practices.

In effect, active individual construction constitutes the background against which guided participation in cultural practices comes to the fore for Rogoff, and this participation is the background against which self-organization comes to the fore for von Glasersfeld. From the viewpoint of urban social anthropology, Elizabeth Bott came to a similar conclusion. She argued that the sociological concept of internalization of sociocultural experiences needs to be balanced with the psychological concept of internal cognitive reorganization. The basic argument of both chapters is that people do not acquire their ideology, norms, and values solely by internalizing them from outside.

They also re-work the standards they have internalized, conceptualize them in a new form, and project them back on to the external situation. The more varied their social experience and the more unconnected the standards they internalize, the more internal rearrangement they must make. Bott, , p. In brief, I had to give up the attempt to interpret norms and roles as social and entirely externally determined and role performance as internal and psychologically determined.

Sociological and psychological concepts were now used simultaneously at every stage of the analysis. Constructionism offers an important bridge for the sociocultural and constructivist viewpoints by arguing that individual developmental cycles are enhanced by shared constructive activity in the social setting. Social constructionism adds further harmony to sociocultural and constructivist views by revealing that the social setting is also enhanced by the developmental activity of the individual. The duality of this interplay has important ramifications for urban social conditions.

If the constructionist notion that shared constructions and social relations are key to individual development, then social settings that are marked by fractured and limited shared social activity and less cohesive social relations--as is the case in many urban settings--may present troubling developmental barriers. However, since the social setting is not immutable, introducing activities which are socially constructive may provide rectifying responses. Indeed, this possibility speaks to the need for better insight into the nature of the developmental processes involved in social settings. This insight is the goal of social constructionism's inquiry. If the constructionist notion that shared external constructions and social relations are key to individual development cycles, what effects do social settings have when they are marked by fractured, less cohesive social relations, as is the case in many urban settings?

Indeed, this question speaks to the need for insight into the nature of social settings as they influence individual relations and shared constructions. Papert offers this type of insight when he addresses the subject's need for appropriate materials in the process of building shared constructions, and how sociocultural settings need to provide a source for these materials:. All builders need materials to build with.

Where I am at variance with Piaget is in the role I attribute to the surrounding cultures as a source of these materials. In some cases the culture supplies them in abundance, thus facilitating constructive Piagetian learning. For example, the fact that so many important things knives and forks, mothers and fathers, shoes and socks come in pairs is a "material" for the construction of an intuitive sense of number. But in many cases where Piaget would explain the slower development of a particular concept by its greater complexity or formality, I see the critical factor as the relative poverty of the culture in those materials that would make the concept simple and concrete. In yet other cases the culture may provide materials but block their use.

Papert, By indicating that the cultural context plays an important role in individual development, Papert points us to the broader sociocultural component of the constructionist viewpoint that has some connections to fields like social anthropology. Theorists from such fields focus on broader sociocultural and corporate factors--rather than individual processes--that help to produce outcomes and artifacts in particular populations and groups. These outcomes and artifacts can be constructs in particular academic fields or they can be broader social and cultural constructs. To Thomas Kuhn, for example, the constructs produced by the community of researchers who focus on "normal science" can be described as "shared paradigms" Kuhn, , pp.

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