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social categorization


Subject Psychology

Key-Topics social issues

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631202899.1996.x


This process cuts to the very heart of social psychology, bringing together the social with the psychological, reality and representation. Within psychology it is a widely held view that how we see and understand the world is a function of the categories we use to interpret it, and (sometimes less commonly acknowledged) that this depends on the categories the world imposes on us. The problem of how we can know an external world and avoid the twin perils of Kantian idealism on the one hand, and mechanical materialism on the other, has arguably been one of the major problems of epistemology. Fortunately perhaps, such questions do not seem to have impeded the activity of social psychologists, with the result that it has variously fallen prey to the problems of both camps. Theoretical approaches differ as to how they conceive of the process of social categorization, and in their view of the epistemological and ontological status of social categories. They vary in the role they accord to reality and cognition, but also with respect to the additional mediating role of language, communication, and action (if these are recognized at all). At one pole, some radical social constructionist and discourse analytic approaches are antirealist in denying the ontological status of social categories as such but see these as social constructions of discourse, created and disputed in negotiation (i.e., ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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