After having concentrated solely on economics, and deciding that i’m going to have to accept that i’ll struggle to find an obvious link between my research issue (reputation on the web) and the discipline, i thought i’d spend this week looking at a psychology. I’ve had a bit more exposure to this area than economics, but i’d never claim to have significant knowledge of the approach. So more basics i’m afraid.
My principle texts have been:
Psychology – The Science of mind and Behaviour by Richard Gross
Psychology by Bernstein et al
Psychology by Neil Martin
The clearest definition that i managed to find in the three books was in Gross, and states that psychology is the scientific study of behaviour and cognitive processes. There is also an interesting proposition in Bernstein and Gross that we can all be considered psychologists insofar as we all develop theories about what other people are like, and use these theories to help us explain / understand, predict and control other’s behaviour. The discipline is also branched into a number of distinct but interrelated areas; i’d heard of several of these (Behavioural, Cognitive, Clinical and Educational), but was surprised to learn there is such a thing as Biopsychology. I briefly scanned the definitions of each in order to have a fuller understanding of where i might like to concentrate my reading after i’ve got a firmer grasp of the basics, and at the moment i’m thinking of Behavioural and Cognitive (although Personality Psychology sounds like it could be relevant if it is sufficiently widely recognised as a distinct area.)
I then found that these different branches are themselves sub-branches of a divide further up the chain between ‘basic’ and ‘applied’ psychology. I was beginning to get a bit lost, as each book seemed to have a slightly different take on where the divisions lay, but the first chapter of Gross seemed to provide the clearest explanation. His way of distinguishing between the different aspects of psychology quotes Legge (1975), and gives a good flavour of the overlaps and interconnected nature of the discipline: research carried out under the banner of psychology can be divided into that which focuses on processes or mechanisms underlying various aspects of behaviour and those which focus more directly on the person.
The Process Approach
This consists of the biological bases of behaviour, learning, cognitive processes and comparitive and is often referred to as experimental psychology (with the term ‘experimental’ being used to distinguish scientific psychology from the philosophy from which it emerged.)
The Person Approach
This consists of social psychology, developmental psychology and individual differences. It is this branch which i believe will be of more use to me in terms of being able to apply the approach of the discipline to my research question, and as such i began to concentrate my reading in this area. In particular, social psychology seems like it will have much to offer.
I managed to find a fairly succinct definition by Gordon Allport which seems to sum up the text books’ definition in their introductory sections: social psychology is concerned with understanding how how the thought, feeling and behaviour of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined or implied presence of other human beings. Given the nature of reputation, tied up as it is with trust and relationship building, I’m certain I need to concentrate on this area. A little bit of reading around the edges led me to find several chapters in Gross and one in Martin that discussed aspects of social psychology, but having gone through these I think it would be more useful to get several books that are specifically about it.
So i’ve managed to find the area i need to concetrate on, and have an appreciation of the distinctions that exist within the discipline. I’m feeling much more confident about psychology being useful to my question than economics! I will get some social psychology texts this week, and try and focus in further on the area that i think will be of most use.