What are two major differences between common sense understandings and social psychological theories?  What is the danger in relying on common sense or intuition when learning about the...

What are two major differences between common sense understandings and social psychological theories?  What is the danger in relying on common sense or intuition when learning about the relationship between the individual and his or her environment?

Asked on by monique06

1 Answer | Add Yours

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

One distinct difference between common sense understandings and social psychological theories is the presence of scholarly rigor.  Common sense understandings fit social expectation.  There is a sense of the elemental in the common sense understanding of social psychology.  It is accepted widely and something that is shared amongst the people of a common social setting. Social psychology is different because it is less "folksy."  In social psychological theories, there are studies and work within the field that generate its understandings.  These theories are rooted in scientific analysis, complete with hypotheses, adhere to the rigor of data collection with conclusions and implications generated from these trials.  Social psychological theories have the scientific method attached to them.  The community that discusses them does so with the rigor of scientific analysis in mind.  For example, Dr. Stanley Milgram's experiment on obedience is undertaken with scientific rigor and strict data collection techniques to reveal aspects of human behavior and social psychology that challenged common sense understandings. The rigor attached to social psychology makes it fundamentally distinct from common sense understanding.

Another major difference between common sense and social psychology is the challenging to accepted social norms.  By definition, common sense accepts what is standard thinking within the social context.  Common sense is seen as an affirmation of individual temperament shared by society.  For example, it was a "common sense" understanding that men could only love women and vice versa and that a woman's place was solely in the domestic capacity. Social psychology is not afraid to challenge the way in which individuals and society views themselves.  In contrast to common sense, social psychology is led by what the data says.  Social psychology uses data collection and scientific evidence and, in doing so, occasionally, "upsets the order."  For example, social psychologist Henry Tajfel used his work to explain how easily human beings conform and develop grouping affiliations, work that seemingly flew in the face of the idea that human beings are completely independent thinkers.  This is one example of how social psychology.  Tajfel's work was groundbreaking in its discussion of social identity theory because it resulted in challenging what was seen as "common sense understanding."

I think that this would constitute a potential danger on sole reliance on common sense and intuition when learning about the relationship between the individual and his or her environment.  Simply put, it's complicated.  Social psychologists seek to delve into some of the most basic and yet challenging aspects of individual identity and its connection to larger notions of the good. The psychological frame of reference between the individual and the larger, external connective bonds that exist are intricate and nuanced.  Intuition and common sense understandings are, by definition, simplistic and reductive. Applying such tendencies to a complex and nuanced entity can translate into bad or difficult realities.  It is in this light where there might exist a fundamental danger in trying to reduce social psychology to something of common sense and intuition.  In failing to acknowledge the varied and intricate landscape of the human mind and its connection to social notions of the good, important and essential concepts within both are missed.  This helps to explain why sole reliance on common sense and intuition might inhibit efforts to fully understand the nature of the individual and society.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,915 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question