Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 2015

Mind, the Meaning Maker: New General Psychology of Being Human

Lecturer: Professor Jaan Valsiner,
Niels Bohr Professorship Centre for Cultural Psychology,
Department of Communication and Psychology,
Aalborg University, Denmark

Main disciplines: Psychology, Cultural Psychology,
Cultural Anthropology, Sociology

Dates: 20 - 24 July 2015
Course Credits: 10 pts (ECTS)
Limitation: 25 participants


Objectives
This course provides its participants with a systematic overview of ideas and potential research applications of a theoretical perspective that synthesizes cultural, developmental, personality, and social psychological perspectives under the label New General Psychology. It is a profoundly trans-disciplinary new system of thought that is closely connected with cultural anthropology, history, semiotics, and sociology. In that framework, psychology is the study of the processes of human ways of being—the dynamic processes that set the representatives of Homo sapiens apart from their animal counterparts in their relating with their worlds. All human psychological functions operate on biological bases, but are not reducible to these.


Background
As is well known in psychology, it was in 1913 when J. B. Watson published a programmatic article that has become recognized in the past hundred years as “The Behaviorist Manifesto.” It reflected the move of the whole discipline into the empirical investigation of directly observable phenomena (“behavior”) thus eliminating the non-observable or not-yet-emerged psychological phenomena from psychology’s conceptualization. The “behaviorist turn”, as well as its half-way reversal in the subsequent “cognitive revolution” have kept psychology successfully away from specifically human ways of relating with their worlds — through intentional actions; creation of complex tools for warfare, entertainment, and tools for creating still other tools.

Human inventing of religious systems and notions of economic rationality and legal systems are examples of highest psychological processes that have guided human conduct over history. Likewise, aesthetic enjoyment of various aspects of life in art, music, and literature are facets of being human that general psychology needs to analyze. Human constructions are ambivalent - capability of inventing national identities that can be summoned both to legitimate one’s killing of one’s neighbors (or being killed oneself), and helping that very same neighbor to survive. All in all - psychology as science needs to start from the phenomena of higher psychological functions, and look at how their lower counterparts are re-organized from above. 


ESSENTIAL BOOKS FOR PREPARATION
Participants must obtain and read these books in advance of the course:

  • Valsiner, J. (2012). A guided science: History of psychology in the mirror of its making. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
  • Valsiner, J. (2014). Invitation to Cultural Psychology. London: Sage.
  • Valsiner, J (Ed.) (2012). The Oxford handbook of culture and psychology. (pp. 710-729). New York: Oxford University Press. [Available in paperback]


ESSENTIAL ARTICLES FOR PREPARATION

  • Diriwächter, R. (2013). Structure and hierarchies in Ganzheitspsychologie. In L. Rudolph (Ed.), Qualitative mathematics for the social sciences (pp. 189-226).  London: Routledge.
  • Maruyama, M. (1963). The second cybernetics: Deviation-amplifying mutual causal processes. American Scientist, 51, 164-179.
  • Valsiner, J. (2014). Needed for cultural psychology: Methodology in a new key. Culture & Psychology, 20, 1, 3-30.


PLAN OF LECTURES

Monday, July 20, 2015

Lecture 1. (10.15—12.00). What is New General Psychology (Nye Allgemene Psykologi - NAP) and why do we need it?
— theoretical system that builds psychology from the top — starting from higher psychological functions (willful, goals-oriented conduct) and complex human inventions (aesthetics). Culture — in the form mediation of the human psyche by signs — is in the core of NAP. The focus of NAP is on the border zones of person-environment relations as the general psychological processes operate in the maintenance, amplification (including qualitative innovation) and attenuation (including destruction) of these relations.

Readings:

  • Valsiner, J. (2012). A guided science: History of psychology in the mirror of its making. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers [chapters 7, pp. 135-152; 8, pp. 153-163]
  • Valsiner, J. (2014). Invitation to Cultural Psychology. London: Sage [chapter 2, pp. 26-49]:
  • Clegg, J. (2010). Uncertainty as a fundamental scientific value.  IPBS: Integrative Psychological & Behavioral Science, 44, 245-251.
  • Freeman, M. (2011). Toward poetic science.  IPBS: Integrative Psychological & Behavioral Science, 45, 389-396.
  • Neuman, Y. (2003). Toward a phenomenology of boundaries. In Y. Neuman, Processes and boundaries of the mind (pp. 99-104) New York: Kluwer/Plenum
  • Zittoun, T. (2012). Life course: A socio-cultural perspective.  In J. Valsiner (ed.), The Oxford handbook of culture and psychology.  (pp. 525-535). New York: Oxford University Press.


Lecture 2. (13.30—15.30). The ever-increasing complexity of the human psyche in its social environment.
Biological, psychological, and social systems operate under conditions of constant production of heterogeneity that is adaptive under conditions of expected variability of the environmental conditions. Mutuality of person and environment in the human case leads to the need to think of meanings-constructed ecology that transcends the traditional ecological approach in psychology. Human beings not merely adapt to the natural environment, but through purposeful actions transform the environment into new states that are meaningful for them, and become further resources for human lives through the meanbingfulness of the re-constructed physical environments.

Readings:

  • Diriwächter, R. (2013). Structure and hierarchies in Ganzheitspsychologie. In L. Rudolph (ed.), Qualitative mathematics for the social sciences (pp. 189-226).  London: Routledge.
  • Maruyama, M. (1963). The second cybernetics: Deviation-amplifying mutual causal processes. American Scientist, 51, 164-179.
  • Maruyama, M. (1988). Citation classic. Current Contents: S&BS, 20, 8, 12.
  • Musaeus, P., and Brinkmann, S. (2011). The semiosis of family conflict: A case study of home-based psychotherapy. Culture & Psychology, 17, 1, 47-63.
  • Rommetveit, R. (1985). Language acquisition as increasing linguistic structuring of experience and symbolic behavior control.  In J. Wertsch (ed.), Culture, communication, and cognition: Vygotskian perspectives (pp.183-204). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Rommetveit, R. (1992). Outlines of a dialogically based social-cognitive approach to human cognition and communication. In A. H. Wold (ed.), The dialogical alternative: Towards a theory of language and mind (pp. 19-44). Oslo: Scandinavian Universities Press.
  • Valsiner, J. (2012). A guided science: History of psychology in the mirror of its making. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers [chapter 11, pp. 229-259]


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Lecture 3. (10.15—12.00). Historical roots of NAP.
The roots of NAP go back to Willam Stern’s personology, its immediate role in establishing Person-Centered approaches in general psychology. In addition, the focus on transformation of Gestalts. Importance of aesthetic synthesis. Appearance and disappearance of dialectical perspectives in psychology. Dialectical ideas are important for NAP: (a) focus on synthesis and (b) recognition of the primacy of dynamics of the psyche. Why human beings have been substituted by dogs, rats, pigeons, and apes in the history of psychology as analogs of humans? NAP restores the primacy of human beings as non-reducible to other species. The question of comparative psychology and its role in NAP will be discussed.

Readings:

  • Eckensberger, L. H. (2012). Culture-inclusive Action Theory: Action theory in dialectics and dialectics in action theory. In J. Valsiner (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of culture and psychology.  (pp. 357-402). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Stern, W. (1938). General Psychology. New York: Macmillan [ch 6  pp. 68-100]
  • Valsiner, J. (2012). A guided science: History of psychology in the mirror of its making. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers [chapter  9, pp. 175-194]
  • Valsiner, J., and  Van der Veer, R. (2014). The encoding of distance.  In A. Yasnitsky and R. van der Veer (Eds.)., Handbook of cultural-historical psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Lecture 4. (13.30—15.30). What kind of methodology fits the study of highest psychological functions?
Contrast between low/higher (intentional)/highest (affective values) levels of the human psyche. Focus on methodology as a cycle, rather than a “toolbox” from which selections are made. Psyche as an open system and its implications for methodology. Frederic Bartlett’s methodological credo and its possible transformations (Wagoner). Elaborating the dialectical perspective: transforming structures through double negation. Explanatory system of NAP is built on the notion of cyclical catalytic processes, rather than on a search for causal links.

Readings:

  • Valsiner, J. (2014). Needed for cultural psychology: Methodology in a new key. Culture & Psychology, 20, 1, 3-30.
  • Valsiner, J. (2014). Breaking the arrows of causality: The idea of catalysis in its making. In K. R. Cabell and J. Valsiner (Eds.), The catalyzing mind: Beyond models of causality (pp. 17-32) New York: Springer.
  • Valsiner, J. (2012). A guided science: History of psychology in the mirror of its making. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers [chapter, 10, pp. 195-228]
  • Wagoner, B. (2009). The experimental methodology of constructive microgenesis. In J. Valsiner, P. Molenaar, M. Lyra and N. Chaudhary (Eds.), Dynamic process methodology in the social and developmental sciences (pp. 99-121). New York: Springer.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Lecture 5. (10.15—12.00). Sign hierarchies at work in the meaning-making mind.
Basic overview of the dynamic sign hierarchies perspective.  Importance of unity of construction and destruction in the construction of such hierarchies.  Processes of fixation and liberation of human feelings-full thought.  Roots of religious ideations as psychological adaptation. Ascetism and dieting as forms of meaning construction.

Readings:

  • Beckstead, Z. (2012).  Crossing thresholds: movement as a means of transformation. In J. Valsiner (ed.), The Oxford handbook of culture and psychology.  (pp. 710-729). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Valsiner, J. (2014). Invitation to Cultural Psychology. London: Sage [chapters: 4, 5,, 6, pp. 63-157]
  • Valsiner, J. (2013). Creating sign hierarchies: Social representation in its dynamic context. Papers on Social Representations, 22, 16.1-16.32.
  • Wagoner, B. (2012). Notes on social psychology of thinking. Papers on Social Representations, 21, 6.1-16.14


Lecture 6. (13.30—15.30). Guidance for the meaning-making minds: systemic mechanisms of social control.
Human meaning-makers are guided by social institutions as to the direction and value of meanings they make, leaving the particulars open for individuals. This creates a powerful social control system where persons and social institutions co-construct their own allegiances to the social systems. Such hyper-generalized commitments are masked as if these were personal inventions, while their reality involves construction and maintenance on the border of person<>society encounters.

Readings:

  • Valsiner, J. (2005) Civility of Basic Distrust: A cultural-psychological view on persons-in-society. Paper that should have been presented at the Symposium Risk, Trust, and Civility Toronto, Victoria College--May 6-8, 2005  (convened by Paul Bouissac), Actually dated July, 4, 2005 Available at http://www.semioticon.com/virtuals/risk/distrust.pdf
  • Valsiner, J. (2014). Invitation to Cultural Psychology. London: Sage [chapters: 7, 9, 10, pp. 135-240]
  • Smith, B. (1999). Truth and the visual field. In J. Petitiot, F. J. Varela, B. Pachoud and J.-M. Roy (Eds.), Naturalizing phenomenology: Issues in contemporary phenomenology and cognitive science (pp. 317-329). Stanford, Ca,: Stanford University Press.
  • Marsico, G. and Iannaccone, A. (2012). The work of schooling. In J. Valsiner (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of culture and psychology. (pp. 830-868). New York: Oxford University Press.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Lecture 7. (10.15—12.00). Making meanings, making peace (and war).
Human highest psychological functions, mediated by signs and operating under social guidance, are vehicles of both construction and destruction. Both aggression and affiliation are meanings-based processes. How human psyche becomes transformed between war and peace is a major social task of prevention of war and maintenance of peace.

Readings:

  • Simmel, G. (1904). The sociology of conflict.  III. American Journal of Sociology, 9, 298-311.
  • Valsiner, J. (2009). War in peace: Cultural regulation of the construction-destruction dynamic. In J de Rivera (ed.), Handbook on building cultures of peace (pp. 43-55). New York: Springer.

Lecture 8. (13.30—15.30). Making meanings, making morality.
Human beings construct distinctions that become marked by normative values, at the intersection of rights and duties. Moral values are hypergeneralized signs that constrain human affect in its guidance of cognitive functions.

Readings:

  • Moghaddam, F., Novoa, C., and Warren, Z. (2012). Duties and rights. In J. Valsiner (ed.), The Oxford handbook of culture and psychology.  (pp. 796-813). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Shweder, R, Much, N (1987). Determinations of meaning: Discourse and moral socialization. In W. Kurtines and J. Gewirtz (eds.), Moral development through social interaction. (pp. 197-244). New York: Wiley.
  • Valsiner, J. (2014). Invitation to Cultural Psychology. London: Sage [chapter 8, pp. 174-200]


Friday, July 24, 2015

Lecture 9. (10.15—12.00). Making meanings, making love.
Human affective allegiances take many forms—as they are constructed through sign hierarchies in the course of ordinary experiencing. Human beings are passionate creatures who set their goals and satisfy their desires in the context of multi-level meaning fields with the primacy of affect.  Human affective processes are built upon the sensual experiences of the total body (of which sexuality is a minor part belonging to the general functions of alimentation). Basic sensuality becomes organized by meaning makers into various forms of hyper-generalized feelings all classified under the generic label of love (parents’ love, erotic love, etc.) which guide human life course from birth to death.

Readings:

  • Flandrin, J. C. (1985). Sex and married life in the early Middle Ages: the Church’s teaching and behavioural reality. In P. Aries and A. Béjin (eds.), Western sexuality: Practice and precept in Past and Present times (pp. 114-129) Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Hawley, J. S. (2005). Mirabai as wife and yogi. In J. S. Hawley, Three Bhakti voices (pp. 117-138). New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
  • Valsiner, J. (1996). Devadasi temple dancers and cultural construction of persons-in-society. In M. K. Raha (ed.), Dimensions of human society and culture (pp. 443-476). New Delhi: Gyan Publishing House.
  • Valsiner, J. (2014). The place for synthesis: Vygotsky’s analysis of affective generalization. History of Human Sciences, 20,


Lecture 10. (13.30—15.30). Final Conclusion: Mind the meaning maker!
The new personological look at the meanings-constructing human beings reveals a complex dynamic picture of the processes of human being that is socially guided but personally created. Human beings internalize and fortify social expectations in their own personally unique ways and act in ways that transcend the very social suggestions on which “Mind, the meaning maker” is based.  This includes both socially valued acts, as well as anti-social ones, so — the final word of caution is — “Mind the meaning-maker!”. Aside from focusing on the person as meaning-maker, new general psychology (NAP) considers its own social context in a self-reflexive manner. NAP includes analyses of its own social role in a society.

Readings:

  • Kvale, S. (2003). The church, the factory and the market: scenarios for psychology in a postmodern age. Theory & Psychology, 13, 5, 579–603.
  • Valsiner, J. (2012). A guided science: History of psychology in the mirror of its making. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers [General Conclusions, pp. 261-281]

 

COMPLETE READING LIST

  • Clegg, J. (2010). “Uncertainty as a fundamental scientific value.”  IPBS: Integrative Psychological & Behavioral Science, 44, 245-251.
  • Diriwächter, R. (2013). Structure and hierarchies in Ganzheitspsychologie. In L. Rudolph (ed.), Qualitative mathematics for the social sciences (pp. 189-226).  London: Routledge.
  • Eckensberger, L. H. (2012). Culture-inclusive Action Theory: Action theory in dialectics and dialectics in action theory. In J. Valsiner (ed.), The Oxford handbook of culture and psychology.  (pp. 357-402). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Flandrin, J. C. (1985). Sex and married life in the early Middle Ages: the Church’s teaching and behavioural reality. In P. Aries and A. Béjin (eds.), Western sexuality: Practice and precept in Past and Present times (pp. 114-129) Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Freeman, M. (2011). “Toward poetic science. “ IPBS: Integrative Psychological & Behavioral Science, 45, 389-396.
  • Hawley, J. S. (2005). Mirabai as wife and yogi. In J. S. Hawley, Three Bhakti voices (pp. 117-138). New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
  • Kvale, S. (2003). “The church, the factory and the market: scenarios for psychology in a postmodern age,” Theory & Psychology, 13, 5, 579–603.
  • Moghaddam, F., Novoa, C., and Warren, Z. (2012). Duties and rights. In J. Valsiner (ed.), The Oxford handbook of culture and psychology.  (pp. 796-813). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Maruyama, M. (1963). “The second cybernetics: Deviation-amplifying mutual causal processes,” American Scientist, 51, 164-179.
  • Maruyama, M. (1988). Citation classic. Current Contents: S&BS, 20, 8, 12.
  • Musaeus, P., and Brinkmann, S. (2011). “The semiosis of family conflict: A case study of home-based psychotherapy.” Culture & Psychology, 17, 1, 47-63.
  • Marsico, G. and Iannaccone, A. (2012). The work of schooling. In J. Valsiner (ed.), The Oxford handbook of culture and psychology. (pp. 830-868). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Neuman, Y. (2003). Toward a phenomenology of boundaries. In Y. Neuman, Processes and boundaries of the mind (pp. 99-104) New York: Kluwer/Plenum
  • Rommetveit, R. (1985). Language acquisition as increasing linguistic structuring of experience and symbolic behavior control.  In J. Wertsch (ed.), Culture, communication, and cognition: Vygotskian perspectives (pp.183-204). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Rommetveit, R. (1992). Outlines of a dialogically based social-cognitive approach to human cognition and communication. In A. H. Wold (Ed.), The dialogical alternative: Towards a theory of language and mind (pp. 19-44). Oslo: Scandinavian Universities Press.
  • Shweder, R, Much, N (1987). Determinations of meaning: Discourse and moral socialization. In W. Kurtines and J. Gewirtz (eds.), Moral development through social interaction. (pp. 197-244).  New York: Wiley.
  • Simmel, G. (1904).” The sociology of conflict: III,” American Journal of Sociology, 9, 298-311.
  • Smith, B. (1999). Truth and the visual field. In J. Petitiot, F. J. Varela, B. Pachoud and J.-M. Roy (eds.), Naturalizing phenomenology: Issues in contemporary phenomenology and cognitive science (pp. 317-329). Stanford, Ca,: Stanford University Press.
  • Stern, W. (1938). General Psychology. New York: Macmillan [ch 6  pp. 68-100]
  • Valsiner, J. (1996). Devadasi temple dancers and cultural construction of persons-in-society. In M. K. Raha (ed.), Dimensions of human society and culture (pp. 443-476). New Delhi: Gyan Publishing House.
  • Valsiner, J. (2005) “Civility of Basic Distrust: A cultural-psychological view on persons-in-society.” Paper that should have been presented at the Symposium Risk, Trust, and Civility Toronto, Victoria College--May 6-8, 2005  (convened by Paul Bouissac), Actually dated July, 4, 2005 Available at http://www.semioticon.com/virtuals/risk/distrust.pdf
  • Valsiner, J. (2009). War in peace: Cultural regulation of the construction-destruction dynamic. In J de Rivera (ed.), Handbook on building cultures of peace (pp. 43-55). New York: Springer.
  • Valsiner, J. (2012). A guided science: History of psychology in the mirror of its making. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers [chapters 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, General Conclusions]
  • Valsiner, J. (2014). “The place for synthesis: Vygotsky’s analysis of affective generalization,” History of Human Sciences, 20,
  • Valsiner, J. (2014). Invitation to Cultural Psychology. London: Sage [chapters 2, 7, 8, 9, 10]:
  • Valsiner, J., and Van der Veer, R. (2014). The encoding of distance.  In A. Yasnitsky and R. van der Veer (eds.), Handbook of cultural-historical psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Valsiner, J. (2014). “Needed for cultural psychology: Methodology in a new key.” Culture & Psychology, 20, 1, 3-30.
  • Valsiner, J. (2014). Breaking the arrows of causality: The idea of catalysis in its making. In K. R. Cabell and J. Valsiner (eds.), The catalyzing mind: Beyond models of causality (pp. 17-32) New York: Springer.
  • Wagoner, B. (2009). The experimental methodology of constructive microgenesis. In J. Valsiner, P. Molenaar, M. Lyra and N. Chaudhary (eds.), Dynamic process methodology in the social and developmental sciences (pp. 99-121). New York: Springer.
  • Zittoun, T. (2012). Life course: A socio-cultural perspective.  In J. Valsiner (ed.), The Oxford handbook of culture and psychology.  (pp. 525-535). New York: Oxford University Press.


The lecturer
Jan Vaalsiner is (since 2013) the Niels Bohr Professor of Cultural Psychology at Aalborg University, Denmark where he leads Europe’s first Center of Cultural Psychology. He is a cultural psychologist with a consistently developmental axiomatic base that is brought to analyses of any psychological or social phenomena. He is the founding editor (1995) of the Sage journal, Culture & Psychology and since 2007 the Editor-in-Chief of Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Sciences (Springer). His most pertinent work is published in books, among which the following might be mentioned: The guided mind (Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press, 1998), Culture in minds and societies (New Delhi: Sage, 2007), and Invitation to Cultural Psychology (London: Sage, 2014).

He has edited (with Kevin Connolly) the Handbook of Developmental Psychology (London: Sage, 2003) as well as the Cambridge Handbook of Socio-Cultural Psychology (2007, with Alberto Rosa) and The Oxford Handbook of Culture and Psychology (2012). In 1995 he was awarded the Alexander von Humboldt Prize in Germany for his interdisciplinary work on human development, and Senior Fulbright Lecturing Award in Brazil 1995-1997. He has been a visiting professor in Brazil, Japan, Australia, Estonia. Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. E-mail: jvalsiner@gmail.com

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Published Nov. 3, 2014 10:38 AM - Last modified Aug. 14, 2017 1:11 PM