The Social Context of Research Practice and the History of Psychology
The empirical domains about which psychologists theorize are not raw natural phenomena but carefully constructed products of psychological practice. The rules governing the construction of such products are enforced by communities of practitioners. Such communities are themselves part of the history of the societies in which they flourish. They adapt to the demands imposed on them by their social context by modifying the rules governing their professional activity, including the production of empirical domains. These rules are subject to historical change, and the knowledge products that are constructed with their help are historical products. At the same time, rules for the production of acceptable empirical domains are based on theoretical presuppositions about the nature of psychological reality. Changes in these rules are also theoretical changes. On this level there is a profound historicity of theory, but the theorizing at issue here is that which goes on implicitly before and during the construction of empirical domains rather than explicitly afterwards. A major historical change in rules of practice and their implicit theories occurred when psychology switched to a preference for certain types of statistical data. This preference can be traced to practititoners’ need to legitimize their activity in terms of a particular interpretation of what constitutes science and a limited interpretation of what constitutes socially useful knowledge.
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