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A constructivists perspective on Objectivity in Psychological science

Mr Michael Bibby s4032484 at student.uq.edu.au
Mon Jan 19 00:29:59 EST 2004

The following is an excert which I have taken from a (full text) article
available at the 'virtual factulty' which is a great source of 'postmodern'
psychological literature: http://www.massey.ac.nz/~alock/virtual/welcome.htm 

from: 'Constructivism and narrative psychology'
© Luis Botella Ramon Llull University

During a significant part of its not so long history, psychology uncritically
accepted the basic assumptions of what has been termed an objectivist
epistemology. Some of these basic assumptions, chiefly derived from positivism
and logical empiricism, are as follows. First, objectivist psychology endorses a
mechanistic worldview, seeing the world--and its inhabitants--as a complex
machine, and events in nature as the product of the transmittal of forces.
Second, objectivist psychology views knowledge as a process of value-free
observation and accumulation of discrete pieces of evidence; that is, what Kelly
termed accumulative fragmentalism. Third, objectivist psychology accepts
truth-value as the only valid criteria for justifying a proposition. Fourth, the
objectivist application of these and other assumptions to the study of human
beings gives place to a view of people as reactive and passive organisms,
determined by their environment in an almost unidirectional way. 

However, during the last decades a growing body of research has acknowledged the
general inadequacy of objectivism applied to the study of human beings. Among
them, constructivism and narrative psychology represent two of the most
promising alternatives to objectivist psychology. To a broad extent, both
approaches share epistemological assumptions that stand in contrast to the
objectivist ones. First, constructivism and narrative psychology endorse a
contextualist worldview, seeing the world as an ever-changing text that has to
be actively interpreted and construed in order to be understood. Second,
constructivism and narrative psychology view knowledge as a process of
construction and reconstruction of personal or social meanings, a process that
Kelly termed constructive alternativism. Third, constructivism and narrative
psychology adopt pragmatic and predictive usefulness as justification criteria,
since the ultimate truth of any proposition is not considered to be available.
Fourth, constructivism and narrative psychology adopt a view of human beings as
proactive and future-oriented. Both theories also view the relation between
people and environment as a dialectical one, in which both parts are modified by
their mutual and reciprocal action.

Despite the broad similarities between constructivism and narrative psychology,
it is worth noting that the two approaches adopt different root metaphors to
characterize the core of human psychological processes. While constructivism,
and particularly PCP, adopts the metaphor of knowledge as a personal theory,
narrative psychology uses the metaphor of knowledge as a personal narrative. The
aim of the rest of this work will be to elucidate to what extent these two
metaphors are compatible or reflect a different understanding of human
psychological processes--and, particularly, of self-identity construction
processes. This comparison is in itself a valuable goal, since a
cross-fertilization between constructivism and narrative psychology could
potentially result in a stronger alternative to the stagnating objectivist
paradigm in psychology. …


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