Social Psychology and Literature: Toward Possible Correspondence

  • Alberta Contarello


“We are all social psychologists” declare Tajfel and Fraser (1978) and, by way of explanation, they offer one of the most complete definitions of the discipline. It is the study of “the various aspects of the interaction between individuals, between and within social groups, and between individuals and social systems, small or large, of which they are part” (Tajfel and Fraser 1978, p. 22). Similar in their interests and passions, what, above all, distinguishes a professional social psychologist from an “amateur” or naive one is the method, or rather methods, used. The former follows strict research rules and procedures which are logical and systematic, explicitly sets out the hypotheses and tries to support them with references to scholarly shared criteria. The latter worries much less about the logical consistency of his or her convictions, develops naive, often post hoc, theories to explain events — especially when faced with the unexpected — and, being closely tied to pre-existing ideas, tends to confirm the underlying bias in a kind of vicious circle. There is, however, a third category. Because of their mastery and competence in treating psychosocial phenomena, authors of literary texts emerge as bearers of a type of knowledge which is different both from that of the scientist and that of the “practical” person, busy getting on with everyday life. Psychologists tend to appreciate this ability and often refer to the richness and depth shown by poets and writers when considering the psychic and relational aspects of life, or the familiarity with which they approach such extreme themes as life, love and death.


Social Psychology Social Representation Literary Critic Literary Work Literary Text 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adamopoulos J (1982) Analysis of interpersonal structures in literary works of three historical periods. J Cross-Cult Psychol 13:157–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adamopoulos J (2002) The perception of interpersonal behaviors across cultures. In: Lonner WJ, Dinnel DL, Hayes SA, Sattler DN (Eds) Online readings in psychology and culture (Unit 15, Chapter 2). Retrieved September 13, 2006 from Western Washington University, Center for Cross-Cultural Research website:
  3. Adamopoulos J, Bontempo RT (1986) Diachronic universals in interpersonal structures. J Cross-Cult Psychol 17:169–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Adamopoulos J, Kashima Y (Eds) (1999) Social psychology and cultural context. Sage, Thousand Oaks CAGoogle Scholar
  5. Barthes R (1970) S/Z. Editions du Seuil, ParisGoogle Scholar
  6. Baxter L (1988) A dialectical perspective on communication strategies in relationship development. In: Duck S, Hay D, Hobfoll S, Ickes W, Montgomery B (Eds) Handbook of personal relationships: theory, research and interventions. Wiley, Chichester, pp 257–274Google Scholar
  7. Baxter L, Montgomery BM (1996) Relating. Dialogues and dialectics. Guilford, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  8. Benzecri JP et al. (1973) L’analyse des données. II L’analyse des correspondance. Dunod, ParisGoogle Scholar
  9. Billig M (1982) Ideology and social psychology. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  10. Brislin RW (1980) Translation and content analysis of oral and written material. In: Triandis HC, Berry JW (Eds) Handbook of cross-cultural psychology, vol. 2: methodology. Allyn & Bacon, Boston MA, pp 389–444Google Scholar
  11. Bruner J (1964) On knowing. Essays for the left hand. Belknap Press, Cambridge MAGoogle Scholar
  12. Bruner J (1986) Actual minds, possible worlds. Harvard University Press, Cambridge MAGoogle Scholar
  13. Bruner J (1990) Acts of meaning. Harvard University Press, Cambridge MAGoogle Scholar
  14. Bruner J (2001) Self-making and world-making. In: Brockmeier J, Carbaugh D (Eds) Narrative and identity. Studies in autobiography, self and culture. John Benjamins, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  15. Bruner J (2003) Making stories: law, literature, life. Harvard University Press, Cambridge MAGoogle Scholar
  16. Bruner J, Feldman FC (1996) Group narrative as a cultural context of autobiography. In: Rubin DC (Ed) Remembering our past. Studies in autobiographical memory. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 291–317Google Scholar
  17. Claridge G, Pryor R, Watkins G (1990) Sounds from the Bell Jar. Ten psychotic authors. St Martin’s Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. Contarello A, Gargioni M, Mazzotta A (2003) Individuals in societies. The potential of literary texts analysis for societal psychology. In: Làszlò J, Wagner W (Eds) Theories and controversies in societal psychology. New Mandate, Budapest Hungary, pp 131–152Google Scholar
  19. Contarello A, Mazzara BM (1999) Membership, practices and values. Social constructionism in context. Paper presented at the I Berlin Conference on Social Constructionism in Psychology and Related Disciplines. Free University, Berlin, November 4th–6thGoogle Scholar
  20. Contarello A, Vellico E (2003) Social psychology and literary texts: an empirical analysis of a contemporary Indian novel. Empir Stud Arts 21:21–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Contarello A, Volpato C (1991) Images of friendship. Literary depictions through the ages. J Soc Pers Relat 8:49–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Contarello A, Volpato C (1995) Women and family relationships in cultural transition. An analysis of autobiographical texts. In: Quaderni di Psicologia Sociale. TPM Edizioni, Padova, pp 1–16Google Scholar
  23. Contarello A, Volpato C (2002) Social representations, narrative, and literary texts. In: László J, Stainton Rogers W (Eds) Narrative approaches in social psychology. New Mandate, Budapest, pp 74–87Google Scholar
  24. Culler J (1981) The pursuit of signs: semiotic, literature, deconstruction. Routledge & Kegan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  25. Doise W, Clémence A, Lorenzi-Cioldi F (1992) Représentations socials et analyse des données. Presses Universitaires de Grenoble, GrenobleGoogle Scholar
  26. Eco U (1979) Lector in fabula. La cooperazione interpretativa nei testi narrativi. Bompiani, MilanoGoogle Scholar
  27. Endicott J, Spitzer RL (1978) A diagnostic interview: the schedule for affective disorders and schizophrenia. Arch Gen Psychiatry 25:837–844Google Scholar
  28. Flick U (1998) Social representations in knowledge and language as approaches to a psychology of the social. In: Flick U (Ed) The psychology of the social. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 1–12Google Scholar
  29. Gergen KJ (1973) Social psychology as history. J Pers Soc Psychol 36:309–320Google Scholar
  30. Gergen KJ (1989) Warranting voice and the elaboration of the self. In: Shotter J, Gergen KJ (Eds) Texts of identity. Sage, London, pp 70–81Google Scholar
  31. Gergen KJ (1991) The saturated self. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  32. Gergen KJ (1994) Realities and relationships. Soundings in social construction. Harvard University Press, Cambridge MAGoogle Scholar
  33. Gergen KJ, Gergen MM (1984) Historical social psychology. Erlbaum, Hillsdale NJGoogle Scholar
  34. Gergen KJ, Gergen MM (1987) Narratives of relationships. In: Ghee M. Mc Clarke DD, Burnett R (Eds) Accounting for relationships. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 269–288Google Scholar
  35. Gergen KJ, Gergen MM (1988) Narrative and the Self as relationships. In: Berkowitz L (Ed) Advances in experimental social psychology, vol. 21. Academic Press, New York, pp 17–56Google Scholar
  36. Gergen MM (1994) The social construction of personal histories: gendered lives in popular autobiographies. In: Sarbin TR, Kitsuse JI (Eds) Constructing the social. Sage, London, pp 19–44Google Scholar
  37. Gergen MM, Gergen KJ (1993) Narratives of the gendered body in popular autobiography. In: Josselson R, Lieblich A (Eds) The narrative study of lives, vol. 1. Sage, London, pp 191–218Google Scholar
  38. Harary F (1963) Così fan tutte. A structural study. Psychol Rep 13:466.Google Scholar
  39. Harary F (1966) Structural study of “a severed head”. Psychol Rep 19:473–474PubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Harré R (1979) Social being. A theory for social psychology. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  41. Harré R, Gillett G (1994) The discursive mind. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  42. Heider F (1958) The psychology of interpersonal relations. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  43. Kearns MS (1987) Metaphors of mind in fiction and psychology. Kentucky University Press, LexingtonGoogle Scholar
  44. Levinger G (1994) Figure versus ground: micro and macroperspectives on the social psychology of personal relationships. In: Erber R, Gilmour R (Eds) Theoretical frameworks for personal relationships. Erlbaum, Hillsdale NJ, pp 1–28Google Scholar
  45. László J, Rogers SW (Eds) (2002) Narrative approaches in social psychology. New Mandate, BudapestGoogle Scholar
  46. László J, Vince O (2002) Coping with historical tasks. The role of historical novels in transmitting psychological patterns of national identity. SPIEL (Siegener Periodicum zur Internationalen Empirischen Literaturwissenschaft) 21:76–88Google Scholar
  47. László J, Wagner W (Eds) (2003) Theories and controversies in societal psychology. New Mandate, BudapestGoogle Scholar
  48. László J, Vince O, Somogyvari IK (2003) Representation of national identity in successful historical novels. Empir Stud Arts 21:69–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Mayer JD (1994) Emotion over time within a religious culture: a lexical analysis of the old testament. J Psychohist 22:235–248PubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. McClelland DC (1961) The achieving society. van Nostrand, Princeton NJGoogle Scholar
  51. Mecacci L (1999) Psicologia moderna e postmoderna. Laterza, Roma-BariGoogle Scholar
  52. Mininni G (2004) Psicologia e media. Laterza, Roma-BariGoogle Scholar
  53. Moghaddam F (2004) From psychology in literature to psychology is literature. Theory Psychol 14:503–525CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Montgomery BM (1992) Communication as the interface between couples and cultures. Commun Yearb 15:475–507Google Scholar
  55. Moretti F (2005) Graphs, maps, trees. Abstract models for literary history. Verso, LondonGoogle Scholar
  56. Moscovici S (1981) Social representations. In: Forgas JP (Ed) Social cognition. Academic Press, London, pp 181–209Google Scholar
  57. Moscovici S (1986) The Dreyfus affair, Proust and social psychology. Soc Res 53:23–56Google Scholar
  58. Musil R (1997) The Man without Qualities. Picador, LondonGoogle Scholar
  59. Oatley K (1992) Best laid schemes. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  60. Oatley K, Johnson-Laird PN (1987) Towards a cognitive theory of emotions. Cogn Emot 1:29–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Pepitone A, Triandis HC (1987) On the universality of social psychological theories. J Cross-Cult Psychol 18:471–498CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Potter J (1996) Representing reality. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  63. Potter J, Wetherell M (1987) Discourse and social psychology. Beyond attitudes and behaviour. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  64. Potter J, Stringer P, Wetherell M (1984) Social texts and contexts. Literature and social psychology. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  65. Propp VJ (1928) Morfologija skazki. Academia.Google Scholar
  66. Péley B (2002) Narrative psychological study of self and object representation with young deviant people. In: László J, Stainton Rogers W (Eds) Narrative approaches in social psychology. New Mandate, Budapest, pp 125–145Google Scholar
  67. Rawlins WK (1992) Friendship matters. Aldine, New York.Google Scholar
  68. Ricoeur P (1984–85) Time and narrative, vol. 1–2. University of Chicago Press, Chicago ILGoogle Scholar
  69. Ricoeur P (1991) L’identité narrative. Revues des Sciences Humaines 221:35–47Google Scholar
  70. Rosenberg S (1988) Self and others: studies in social personality and autobiography. Adv Exp Soc Psychol 21:57–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Rosenberg S (1990) Personality and affect: a quantitative approach and comparison. In: Martindale C (Ed) Psychological approaches to the study of literary narratives. Buske Verlag, Hamburg, pp 1–19Google Scholar
  72. Rosenberg S (1997) Multiplicity of selves. In: Ashmore RD, Jussim LJ, Lee J (Eds) Self and identity: fundamental issues. Rutger’s series on self and social identity, vol. 1. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 23–45Google Scholar
  73. Rosenberg S, Jones R (1972) A method for investigating and representing a person’s implicit theory of personality: Theodore Dreiser’s view of people. J Pers Soc Psychol 22:372–386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Sarbin TR (Ed) (1986) Narrative psychology. The storied nature of human conduct. Praeger, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  75. Scheff TJ (1997) Emotions, the social bond and human reality: part/whole analysis. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  76. Smorti A (1994) Il pensiero narrativo. Giunti, FirenzeGoogle Scholar
  77. Tajfel H, Fraser C (1978) Introducing social psychology. Penguin, LondonGoogle Scholar
  78. Taylor SE (1998) The social being in social psychology. In: Gilbert DT, Fiske ST, Lindzey G (Eds) The handbook of social psychology. McGraw-Hill, Boston MA, pp 58–95Google Scholar
  79. Triandis HC (1978) Some universals of social behavior. Pers Soc Psychol Bull 4:1–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Triandis HC, Bontempo R, Villareal MJ, Asai M, Lucca N (1988) Individualism and collectivism: cross cultural perspectives on Self-Ingroup relationships. J Pers Soc Psychol 54:323–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Trzebinski J (1997) Il Sé narrativo. In: Smorti A (Ed) Il Sé come testo. Giunti, FirenzeGoogle Scholar
  82. Volpato C, Contarello A (1995) Relations personelles et culture: une analyse de textes littéraires. Soc Sci Inf 34:205–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Volpato C, Contarello A (1999) Towards a social psychology of extreme situations: Primo Levi’s “If This is a Man” and social identity theory. Eur J Soc Psychol 29:239–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Vygotskij LS (1971) The psychology of art. MIT, CambridgeGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alberta Contarello
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of General PsychologyUniversity of PadovaPadovaItaly

Personalised recommendations