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Description: I was not intending to post three conceptually focused pieces (another one, a third one) when I sat down at my computer this week. By conceptual, I mean looking at articles that ask us if we are looking at or thinking about some aspect of human psychological functioning properly or whether a different conceptual (theoretic) perspective might be important to consider. Maybe this is a good way to start a new year by considering alternate conceptual directions in our thinking about psychology. So, here goes again. I have posted before on some of the issues associated with the strongly individual focus of much of the research and theoretic work in psychology. An individual focus can go a long way towards accounting for LOT of behavior but treating social relations and culture simply as backdrops for individual behavior downplays or ignores the powerful impacts that relationships, community, and culture has upon our behavior. Think about (sorry to bring them up again) the many debates about how to deal with the psychology of the Covid pandemic. Questions like “How do we get people to wear masks” or “How do we get people to get vaccinated” or “How do we get people to focus clearly and rationally on the science?” all assume that individual decisions are the key turning point of how we might manage the epidemic. What if we started thinking about things like the pandemic and about health issues in general by acknowledging the essential role that our connections to others play in building an understanding of human psychology and in figuring out how best to understand and influence human health decision-making? Think about what this might look like and then have a read through the article linked below to see what this approach might involve.

Source: We can’t view health as an exclusively personal matter – it’s a collective endeavor. Wency Leung, The Globe and Mail.

Date: January 6, 2022

Image by Bob Dmyt from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, while I appreciate that you may have done far more Covid reflection than you would want to do by now, what did you take away from the broad argument offered in the article that “the collective” should be playing at least an equal role in our theorizing and research about human decision making to that of the individual? Understanding what it means to be a social species involves more than just stating, in relation to Covid for example, that “we are in this together”.  A perspective that more actively respects the role of the collective (and the impact of current decisions on broader and future generations) may not just lead to different approaches and different decisions but, maybe, to more effective decisions and approaches. Worth thinking about!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some problems with conceptualizing health decisions like getting vaccinated or wearing a ask as matters of individual choice?
  2. How might our public health strategies in relation to issues like Covid, change if we broaden the role of “the collective” in our thinking about and development of those strategies?
  3. What are some other areas within psychology that would shift (potentially dramatically) with the inclusion of a focus on “the collective” and what might the resulting theories and approaches look like?

References (Read Further):

Fotaki, M. (2013). Is patient choice the future of health care systems?. International Journal of Health Policy and Management, 1(2), 121. Link

Goldberg, D. S. (2012). Social justice, health inequalities and methodological individualism in US health promotion. Public Health Ethics, 5(2), 104-115. Link

Haslanger, S. (2020). Failures of methodological individualism: the materiality of social systems. Link

Valsiner, J. (2019). Culture & psychology: 25 constructive years. Culture & Psychology, 25(4), 429-469. Link

Lomas, T., Waters, L., Williams, P., Oades, L. G., & Kern, M. L. (2021). Third wave positive psychology: broadening towards complexity. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 16(5), 660-674. Link

Murphy, J., Vallières, F., Bentall, R. P., Shevlin, M., McBride, O., Hartman, T. K., … & Hyland, P. (2021). Psychological characteristics associated with COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and resistance in Ireland and the United Kingdom. Nature communications, 12(1), 1-15. Link

Barello, S., Palamenghi, L., & Graffigna, G. (2021). Looking inside the ‘black box’of vaccine hesitancy: Unlocking the effect of psychological attitudes and beliefs on COVID-19 vaccine acceptance and implications for public health communication. Psychological Medicine, 1-2. Link

Böhm, R., & Betsch, C. (2022). Prosocial vaccination. Current opinion in psychology, 43, 307-311. Link

Butter, Sarah, Emily McGlinchey, Emma Berry, and Cherie Armour. “Psychological, social, and situational factors associated with COVID‐19 vaccination intentions: A study of UK key workers and non‐key workers.” British Journal of Health Psychology 27, no. 1 (2022): 13-29. Link