Critical Psychology Teaching Materials

References on Epistemological Assumptions

Rhoda Unger

September 1997


I think we are dealing with a number of related conceptualizations which derive from differing theoretical constructs and research traditions, but which could be helpful to each other if various researchers become aware of the others' work. In the interest of my own clarity, I have organized the responses I received into four categories of research and theory (which, of course, overlap to some extent):

Please also note that I am not making any judgments about the quality or importance of the work--this is just a list of fairly current, potentially applicable resources.

1. The epistemological assumptions of psychologists

Altman, I. & Rogoff, B. (1987). World views in psychology: Trait, interactional, organismic, and transactional. In D. Stokols & I. Altman (Eds.). Handbook of environmental psychology, Vol. 1. NY: Wiley (pp. 1 - 32).

McGrath, J. et al. (1993). Chapter in S. Oskamp & M. Costanza (Eds.). Gender issues in contemporary society. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Ricketts, M. (1992). The feminist graduate student in psychology: Stranger in a strange land? In J. C. Chrisler & D. Howard (Eds.). New directions in feminist psychology. NY: Springer, (pp. 116 - 129).

Unger, R. K. (1985). Epistemological consistency and its scientific implications. American Psychologist, 40, 1413 - 1414.

Wilkinson, W. K. & Migotsky, C. P. (1994). A factor analytic study of epistemic style inventories. Journal of Psychology, 128, 499 - 516.

2. General ways that people make sense about the world

Catlin, G. & Epstein, S. (1993). Unforgettable experiences: The relation of life events to basic beliefs about the self and world. Social Cognition, 10, 189 - 209.

Kruglanski, A. H. (1989). Lay epistemics and human knowledge. NY: Plenum.

Malle, B. F. & Knobe, J. (1997a). The folk concept of intentionality. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 33, 101 - 121.

Malle, B. F. & Knobe, J. (1997b). Which behaviors do people explain? A basic actor-observer asymmetry. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 72, 288 - 304.

3. Individual differences in implicit assumptions

Altemeyer, B. (1988). Enemies of freedom: Understanding right-wing authoritarianism. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Chiu, C., Hong, Y., & Dweck, C. S. (1997). Lay dispositions and implicit theories of personality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 19 - 30.

de St. Aubin, E. (1996). Personal ideology polarity: Its emotional foundation and its manifestation in individual value systems, religiosity, political orientation, and assumptions concerning human nature. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 152 - 165.

Dweck, C. S., Chiu, C., & Hong, Y. (1995). Implicit theories and their role in judgments and reactions: A world from two perspectives. Psychological Inquiry, 6, 267 - 285.

Dweck, C. S., Hong, Y., & Chiu, C. (1993). Implicit theories: Individual differences in the likelihood and meaning of dispositional inference. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 19, 644 - 656.

Hong, Y., Chiu, C., Dweck, C. S., & Sacks, R. (1997). Implicit theories and evaluative processes in person perception. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 33, 296 - 323.

Jackson, L. A. & Jeffers, D. L. (1989). The Attitudes about Reality Scale: A new measure of personal epistemology. Journal of Personality Assessment, 53, 353 - 365.

Peterson, B. E., Doty, R. M., & Winters, D. G. (1993). Authoritarianism and attitudes toward contemporary social issues. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 19, 174 - 184.

Sorentino, R. Chapters 1, 2, & 3 of the Handbook of Motivation and Cognition (Sorentino & Higgins, Eds., 1986, 1990, 1996). " Our work challenges the assumption that everyone is more or less motivated by the need to know and to understand his or her self and the world around them. That assumption is held primarily by academics and does not fit the world outside the 'Halls of Ivy.'"

Stone, W. F. (1986). Personality and ideology: Empirical support for Tomkins' polarity theory. Political Psychology, 53, 689 - 708.

Stone, W. F. (1997). Tomkins' Polarity Scale: Recent developments. Paper presented at the 20th Annual Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology, Krakow, Poland, July 21 - 24.

Unger, R. K., Draper, R. D., & Pendergrass, M. L. (1986). Personal epistemology and personal experience. Journal of Social Issues, 42, 67 - 79.

Unger, R. K. (1996). Using the master's tools: Epistemology and empiricism. In S. Wilkinson (Ed.). Feminist social psychologies: International perspectives. Milton Keynes: Open University Press (pp. 165 - 181).

Wrightsman, L. S. (1992). Assumptions about human nature, 2nd edition. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

4. The relationship of culture to epistemology

Crandall, C. S. & Martinez, R. (1996). Culture, ideology, and anti-fat attitudes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 1165 - 1176.

Lillard, A. S. (1997). Other folks' theories of mind and behavior. Psychological Science, 8, 268 - 274.

Lillard, A. S. (In press). Ethnopsychologies: Cultural variations in theories of mind. Psychological Bulletin,

Markus, H. R. & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review, 98, 224 - 253.

Shweder, R. A. & Sullivan, M. A. (1990). The semiotic subject of cultural psychology. In L. A. Pervin (Ed.). Handbook of personality. NY: Guilford (pp. 399 - 416).

5. Materials I am not sure how to classify

Fletcher, G. J. O. (1995). Two uses of folk psychology: Implications for psychological science. Philosophical Psychology, 8, 221 - 238.

Janoff-Bulman, R. (1992). Shattered assumptions: Toward a new theory of trauma. NY: Free Press.

I hope this is helpful. I would welcome discussion of the implications of these various research threads.

Rhoda Unger
Professor of Psychology
Montclair State University
Upper Montclair, NJ 07043

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