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Fictional things, the dead mother in the loft, and the dog that didn’t growl: Social Psychology for the 21 st century Professor Chris McVittie 20 February.

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Presentation on theme: "Fictional things, the dead mother in the loft, and the dog that didn’t growl: Social Psychology for the 21 st century Professor Chris McVittie 20 February."— Presentation transcript:

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2 Fictional things, the dead mother in the loft, and the dog that didn’t growl: Social Psychology for the 21 st century Professor Chris McVittie 20 February 2013 QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

3 life in the 21 st century across the globe, many instances of conflict / between different groups (e.g. Palestinian/Israeli conflict, uprising in Syria, Arab Spring and its aftermath etc.) nearer to home, collective events and their meanings (London riots, 2012 Diamond Jubilee, 2012 Summer Olympics & Paralympic Games / Team GB) issues of identity within the UK and relationships with other nations, such as members of European Union QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

4 life in 21 st century multiplicity of forms of communication that  inform us of events  enable communication and interaction with others  provide endless(?) possibilities for us to identify ourselves in diverse ways QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

5 aim of social psychology ‘social psychology aims to explain how people are influenced in what they say and do by actual or potential interaction with other people’ (McKinlay & McVittie, 2008, p. 255) QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

6 potential contribution of social psychology often undervalued or neglected due to  external factors – other disciplines, funders, policy-makers, REF 2014  internal factors – social psychology itself QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

7 external factors  other disciplines (such as behavioural economics, neuroscience) provide explanations for human social behaviour  these competing explanations can be more definite, cleaner, sexier (?) than what social psychology has to say  often such explanations are preferred by funders, policy-makers, etc.  reflected in make-up of 2014 REF U of A 4 - ‘Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience’  wider preference for definite explanations QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

8 internal factors much social psychology has given up studying people –  Billig, M. (2011). Writing social psychology: Fictional things and unpopulated texts. ‘Most outsiders would expect social psychologists to write about people; and so they would expect social psychology to be populated with accounts of people and their actions’ (p. 4) QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

9 fictional things ‘Social psychologists have invented a technical terminology that in the main seems to denote an array of things. What kind of ‘things’ are these things?... by turning processes rhetorically into things, scientists routinely are creating ‘fictional things’ – namely entities, which cannot actually exist as things, but which are treated as if they were things... there are problems when we confuse the imagined world of our fictional things with the world that we are using these fictions to understand. The problems are likely to be acute if we take our fictional things to be more real than the things that ordinary people recognize in the social world’. (Billig, 2011, pp ) QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

10 Solomon Asch (1951; 1956) – studies of independence and conformity QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

11 line judgment task participants are shown two cards with lines and required to state aloud which of the three comparison lines is similar in length to the reference line QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

12 line judgment task under ordinary conditions this is an easy task, individuals make mistakes in matching the lines <1% of the time in Asch’s studies  a naïve participant was placed in room with four to six confederates of Asch  Asch had instructed the confederates to give unanimous incorrect answers on 12 out of 18 trials  the naïve participant was seated next to last and heard the incorrect answers of the others how would the naïve participant respond? QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

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14 This naïve participant (the one in the middle) has just heard the previous five participants give the same wrong answer. He has to decide whether he will give the right answer or give the wrong answer, and conform to the majority’s opinion QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

15 evidence of conformity under group pressure, participant agreed with (incorrect) majority view in 36.8% of selections over the 12 trials, 75% of naïve participants conformed at least once QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

16 concern “That we have found the tendency to conformity in our society so strong... is a matter of concern. It raises questions about our ways of education and about the values that guide our conduct.” (Asch, 1956, p.34) QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

17 the move towards fictional things ‘Studies of independence and conformity: A minority of one against a unanimous majority’ (Asch,1956) ‘A study of normative and informational social influences upon individual judgment’ (Deutsch & Gerard, 1955) ‘Surface-level diversity and decision-making in groups: When does deep- level similarity help?’ (Phillips et al., 2006) ‘Mental construal and the emergence of assimilation and contrast effects: The inclusion/exclusion model’ (Bless & Schwartz, 2010) ‘Group heterogeneity and social validation of everyday knowledge: The mediating role of perceived group participation’ (Vala et al., 2011) QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

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19 a new beginning Potter, J. & Wetherell, M. (1987). Discourse and social psychology: Beyond attitudes and behaviour.  argument for treating discourse as topic not as resource for studying extra-discursive (fictional) entities QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

20 Discourse and social psychology ‘This book is about language and its importance for social psychology. It looks at the subtle ways in which language orders our perceptions and makes things happen and thus shows how language can be used to construct and create social interaction and diverse social worlds... ‘(p. 1) ‘One of the advantages of discourse analysis is that the data are everywhere... If we have indicated the interest and value of the systematic analysis of accounts of all kinds this book will have succeeded in its aim.’ (p. 187) QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

21 Discourse and social psychology  as of 19 / 02/2013 has been cited 5219 times (Google Scholar)  annual citation rate > 500 per annum (Potter, 2012) QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

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23 ‘It all fits into place’: Psychiatrists’ linguistic strategies in challenging media representations of their profession Chris McVittie Andy McKinlay (in press) QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

24 the study to examine how professional psychiatrists talk about cinematic representations of psychiatry QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

25 data  from set of interviews conducted by a professional journalist with 13 internationally renowned practising psychiatrists  interviews were to provide background research and material for use in radio programmes that were subsequently broadcast on a UK national radio station  the participants were asked about different sorts of cinematic representations of psychiatry QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

26 background  psychiatrists are often presented in negative ways in the cinema (e.g. Silence of the Lambs)  however, they regard positive descriptions of their profession as also being inaccurate – ‘In a brief golden age of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis in the cinema between 1957 and 1963, idealized portrayals of dramatic healing misrepresented psychotherapy as badly as the negative portrayals’ (Gabbard, 2002, p. 7) QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

27 background  psychiatrists are well-positioned to comment on what they regard as inaccurate representations of psychiatry as members of that profession, they are entitled to comment on what it is or is not as psychiatrists, they are treated as entitled to comment on what is real-life and what is not real-life, and to provide explanations for why people do what they do QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

28 Extract 1 Moore (pseudonym) is responding to a question about whether 20 th century views of the power of science are reflected in films QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

29 Extract 1 QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

30 Extract 1 QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

31 critique – cinematic version QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

32 critique - irony QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

33 alignment with audience QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

34 total rejection of cinematic version QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

35 Extract 2 Extract 2 follows a question that asks Hunt (pseudonym) whether cinematic portrayals of psychiatry are inaccurate in suggesting that people with psychiatric problems often get better by falling in love or through their own efforts (rather than due to psychiatric intervention) QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

36 Extract 2 QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

37 critique – not real life QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

38 critique – one way of speaking QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

39 why? – psychiatric explanation QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

40 Extract 2 according to Hunt  cinema is not real-life  what we see ‘in Woody Allen movies and other movies’ is one (incorrect) way of presenting psychiatry  why this happens can be explained in psychiatric terms QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

41 psychiatric explanation  more tentative – ‘I think’, ‘might’  conditional – repeated use of ‘if’  less obvious – ‘a subtler issue’  doing psychiatry involves explanations that are ‘messier’ than seen in Extract 1 QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

42 The dog that didn’t growl: Confabulation as an interactional accomplishment Chris McVittie Andy McKinlay Sergio Della Sala Sarah MacPherson (under review) QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

43 clinical neuroscience clinical neuroscience uses range of methods to study its patients  results of fMRI scans  results of diagnostic tests  verbal reports elicited from patients QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

44 verbal reports from patients verbal reports are usually treated as providing evidence that confirms what is found elsewhere the descriptions that patients provide can be evaluated against normative expectations or external realities provide evidence of individual cognitive capacities or impairments QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

45 confabulations confabulations are usually defined as false narratives or statements about world and/or self due to some pathological mechanisms or factors, but with no intention of lying ‘statements or actions that involve unintentional but obvious distortions of memory’ (Moscovitch and Melo, 1997: 1018) QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

46 the present study data  set of verbal reports given by two confabulating patients in interviews conducted by a clinical researcher aim  to see what these reports can tell us about the confabulations that patients produce QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

47 Patient OV a 59 year old male at the time of testing (2003) had nine years of formal education and had been employed as a lorry driver in July 2003, he had a severe head injury led to lesion that was centred on frontal and limbic- diencephalic brain regions, manifesting in anosognosia (deficit in self-awareness) QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

48 Patient OV had a predicted IQ of 95 in his clinical evaluation, he did not have any naming, perceptual or attentional deficits but his memory performance was poor on all tests showed clear signs of a dysexecutive syndrome he was formally assessed six months post onset and presented with florid confabulations QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

49 Patient OV QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

50 Extract 3 QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

51 Extract 3 and impairment QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

52 Extract 3 and impairment OV’s report in Extract 3 provides a vivid account of a particular event, but  Winston Churchill died in 1965  supposed event must have occurred approximately 40 years prior to time of testing  unlikely that OV ever met Churchill  OV displays poor performance across all memory tasks and appears highly unlikely to be able to recall details of such an event even if it had occurred report therefore appears to exemplify florid confabulation by OV QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

53 Extract 3 and impairment why does OV confabulate?  he has suffered head injury  led to brain lesion  resulted in anosognosia and subsequent confabulation QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

54 Extract 3 - interaction QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

55 Extract 3 - turn-taking QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

56 Extract 3 - humour QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

57 Extract 3 - problem QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

58 Extract 3 and interaction  OV selects out one feature of bulldogs, that they growl  does this in humorous way  interviewer however does not treat it as humorous and indeed signals that it is problematic QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

59 Extract 3 and interaction this interactional problem sets the context for the remainder of the exchange  OV attends to interactional problem by positively evaluating the dog, stating that it was ‘a lovely old bulldog’  but he then has to provide some warrant for stating this – meeting Churchill and bulldog etc. QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

60 OV’s descriptions what OV is doing therefore in some ways demonstrates his competence rather than his incompetence  he remains on topic  he provides rich detail in account  he uses reported speech of Winston Churchill to warrant his descriptions all of this displays his understanding of how everyday conversations work  but OV does not have recourse to the memories required and he ends up in the mists of confabulation QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

61 OV’s descriptions but OV does not get there on his own  the interviewer withholds acknowledgement of a correct answer to her initial question  she treats OV’s continuation as humorous leading to his next turn  she treats OV’s next turn as problematic, leading to the extended description of meeting Winston Churchill and the bulldog  she does not challenge any aspects of OV’s further account and indeed accepts that account (‘mm hm (.) what did you do yesterday?’) QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

62 Conclusions - Social psychology for the 21 st century social psychology can readily contribute to issues that are important to psychiatry, neuroscience, & other disciplines it can do so by studying people and what they do this involves  a focus on discourse  abandoning the construction of ‘fictional things’ in such ways, social psychology can demonstrate its relevance and value and can offer us the explanations that we seek of life in the 21 st century QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013

63 References  Asch, S. E. (1951). Effects of group pressure upon the modification and distortion of judgment. In H. Guetzkow (ed.) Groups, leadership and men (pp ). Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie Press.  Asch, S.E. (1956). Studies of independence and conformity: A minority of one against a unanimous majority. Psychological Monographs: General and Applied, 70,  Billig, M. (2011). Writing social psychology: Fictional things and unpopulated texts. British Journal of Social Psychology, 50,  McKinlay, A. & McVittie, C. (2008). Social Psychology and Discourse. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.  McKinlay, A. & McVittie, C. (2011). Identities in context: Individuals and discourse in action. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.  McVittie, C. & McKinlay, A. (in press). ‘It all fits into place’: Psychiatrists’ linguistic strategies in challenging media representations of their profession. Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice.  McVittie, C., McKinlay, A., Della Sala, S. & Macpherson, S. (under review). The dog that didn’t growl: Confabulation as an interactional accomplishment.  Potter, J. (2012). Re-reading Discourse and Social Psychology: Transforming social psychology. British Journal of Social Psychology, 51,  Potter, J. & Wetherell, M. (1987). Discourse and social psychology: Beyond attitudes and behaviour. London: Sage. QMU Professorial Lecture 20 February 2013


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