International Journal of Group Tensions

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 31–51 | Cite as

Toward a Psychology of Societal Change and Stability: The Case of Human Rights and Duties

  • Fathali M. Moghaddam
  • Elena Lvina


A distinction is made between two types of psychology concerned with: performance capacity, the abilities of individuals tested in isolation; and performance style, the way things get done and the meanings ascribed to phenomena. Causal explanations are appropriate for performance capacity, and normative ones for performance style. Traditional psychology has focused predominantly on performance capacity and causation. Societal change and stability, it is argued, involves meaning systems and are best understood in terms of performance style and normative models. Stability is achieved through “carriers,” flexible vehicles that help to sustain meaning systems. As our illustrative example, we consider the topic of human rights and duties. Carriers in some situations widen a gap between formal law and actual behavior. This gap, we argue, is in part due to the faster maximum speed of change in legal and other macrolevel spheres, relative to the psychological level.

cultural change rights duties globalization 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. American Psychological Association (1992). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. American Psychologist, 47, 1597–1611.Google Scholar
  2. Amnesty International U.S.A. (1998). Rights for all. New York: Author.Google Scholar
  3. Amnesty International U.S.A. (1999). Statement of Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director, Amnesty International U.S.A. Press Release, June 8, 1999, Washington DC.Google Scholar
  4. Asian Journal of Social Psychology. (1998), 1.Google Scholar
  5. Avineri, S., & de-Shalit, A. (Eds.). (1992). Communitarianism and individualism. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Baron, R. A., & Byrne, D. (2000). Social psychology (9th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
  7. Berlin, I. (1958). Two concepts of liberty. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bright, S. B. (1995). Discrimination, death, and denial: The toleration of racial discrimination in infliction of the death penalty. Santa Clara Law Review, February, 107–113.Google Scholar
  9. Caplan, N., Choy, M. H., & Whitmore, J. K. (1992). Indochinese refugee families and academic achievement. Scientific American, 266, 36–42.Google Scholar
  10. Carroll, L. (1998). The annotated Alice: Alice's adventures in wonderland; Through the looking glass. New York: Random House (original work published 1871).Google Scholar
  11. Cassin, R. (1972). La pens´ee et l'action. Paris: Lalou.Google Scholar
  12. Chirot, D., & Seligman, M. E. P. (Eds). (2001). Ethnopolitical warfare: Causes, consequences, and possible solutions. Washington DC: American Psychological Association Press.Google Scholar
  13. Clémence, A., Doise, W., de Rosa, A. S., & Gonzalez, L. (1995). La représentation sociale des droits de l'homme: Une recherche internationale sur l'étendue et les limites de l'universalité. International Journal of Psychology, 30, 181–212.Google Scholar
  14. Doise, W., Spini, D., & Clémence, A. (1999). Human rights studied as social representations in a cross-national context. European Journal of Social Psychology, 29, 1–29.Google Scholar
  15. Doise, W., Staerklé, C., Clémence, A., & Savory, F. (1998). Human rights and Genevan youth: A developmental study of social representations. The Swiss Journal of Psychology, 57, 86–100.Google Scholar
  16. Eimas, A. (1993). The perception of speech in early infancy. Scientific American, 204, 66–72.Google Scholar
  17. Emler, N. P., Renwick, S., & Malone, B. (1983). The relationship between moral reasoning and political orientation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 1073–1080.Google Scholar
  18. Engel, S. (2000). Context is everything: The nature of memory. New York: Freeman.Google Scholar
  19. Figes, O., & Kolonitskii, B. (1999). Interpreting the Russian Revolution: The language and symbols of 1917. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Finkel, N. (1995). Commonsense justice: Jurors' notions of the law. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Fox, D., & Prilleltensky, I. (Eds.). (1997). Critical psychology: An introduction. London, UK: Sage.Google Scholar
  22. Gallatin, J., & Adelson, J. (1971). Legal guarantees of individual freedom: A crossnationalstudy of the development of political thought. Journal of Social Issues, 27, 93–108.Google Scholar
  23. Gazzaniga, M. S., Ivry, R. B., & Mangun, G. R. (1998). Cognitive neuroscience: The biology of the mind. New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  24. Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  25. Greenwald, A. G., & Banaji, M. R. (1995). Implicit social cognition: Attitudes, selfesteem, and stereotypes. Psychological Review, 102, 4–27.Google Scholar
  26. Harff, B. (1987). Empathy for victims of massive human rights violations and support for government intervention: A comparative study of American and Australian attitudes. Political Psychology, 8, 1–20.Google Scholar
  27. Hogue, A. R. (1966). Origins of the common law. Bloomingdale: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Jorm, A. F. (1990). The epidemiology of Alzheimer's and related disorders. London: Chapman & Hall.Google Scholar
  29. Kalat, J. W. (1999). Introduction to psychology (5th ed.). Pacific Grove: Brooks Cole.Google Scholar
  30. Lauren, P. G. (1998). The evolution of international human rights: Visions seen. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  31. Lessnoff, M. (Ed.). (1990). Social contract theory. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Lott, B., & Maluso, D. (Eds.). (1995). The social psychology of interpersonal discrimination. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  33. Mays, V. M., Rubin, J., Sabourin, M., & Walker, L. (1996). Moving toward a global psychology: Changing theories and practice to meet the needs of a changing world. American Psychologist, 51, 485–487.Google Scholar
  34. Midlebrook, D., & Edwards, D. (Eds.). (1990). Collective remembering. London, UK: Sage.Google Scholar
  35. Middlebrook, K. J. (1995). The paradox of revolution: Labor, state, and authoritarianism in Mexico. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Miller, J. G., & Bersoff, D. M. (1994). Cultural influences on the moral status of reciprocity and the discounting of endogenous motivation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 20, 592–602.Google Scholar
  37. Moghaddam, F. M. (1997). The specialized society: The plight of the individual in an age of individualism. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
  38. Moghaddam, F. M. (1998). Social psychology: Exploring universals across cultures. New York: Freeman.Google Scholar
  39. Moghaddam, F. M. (1999). Carriers and change. Cross-Cultural Psychology Bulletin, 33, 11–17, 31.Google Scholar
  40. Moghaddam, F. M. (2002). The individual and society: A cultural integration. New York: Worth.Google Scholar
  41. Moghaddam, F. M. (2000). Toward a cultural theory of human rights. Theory & Psychology, 10, 291–312.Google Scholar
  42. Moghaddam, F. M., Bianchi, C., Daniels, K., & Harré, R. (1999). Psychology and national development. Psychology and Developing Societies, 11, 119–141.Google Scholar
  43. Moghaddam, F. M., & Crystal, D. (1997). Reductons, samurai and revolutions: The paradoxes of change and continuity in Iran and Japan. Journal of Political Psychology, 18, 355–384.Google Scholar
  44. Moghaddam, F. M., & Harré, R. (1995). But is it science? Traditional and alternative approaches to the study of social behavior. World Psychology, 1, 47–78.Google Scholar
  45. Moghaddam, F. M., & Harré, R. (1996). Psychological limitations to political revolutions: An application of social reducton theory. In E. Hasselberg, L. Martienssen & F. Radtke (Eds.), Der Dialogbegriff am Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts [The concept of dialogue at the end of the 20th century]. Berlin: Hegel Institute.Google Scholar
  46. Moghaddam, F. M., & Taylor, D. M. (1985). Psychology in the developing world: An evaluation through the concepts of “dual perception” and “parallel growth.” American Psychologist, 40, 1144–1146.Google Scholar
  47. Moghaddam, F. M., & Vuksanovic, V. (1990). Attitudes and behavior toward human rights across different contexts: The role of right-wing authoritarianism, political ideology, and religiosity. International Journal of Psychology, 25, 455–474.Google Scholar
  48. Prilleltensky, I. (1997). Values, assumptions, and practices: Assessing the moral implications of psychological discourse and action. American Psychologist, 52, 517–535.Google Scholar
  49. Robertson, A. H., & Merrillis, J. G. (1996). Human rights in the world. New York: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Rosenzweig, M. R. (1988). Psychology and United Nations Human Rights efforts. American Psychologist, 43, 79–86.Google Scholar
  51. Sabat, S. (2001). The experience of Alzheimer's disease: Life through a tangled veil. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  52. Sampson, E. E. (1981). Cognitive psychology as ideology. American Psychologist, 36, 730–743.Google Scholar
  53. Schachter, D. L. (1996). Searching for memory. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  54. Sonnert, G., & Holton, G. (1995). Gender differences in science careers: The project access study. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Sparks, P., & Durkin, K. (1987). Moral reasoning and political orientation: The context sensitivity of political rights and democratic principles. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 931–936.Google Scholar
  56. Spini, D., & Doise, W. (1998). Organizing principles of involvement in human rights and their social anchoring in value priorities. European Journal of Social Psychology, 28, 603–622.Google Scholar
  57. Steele, C. M. (1997). A threat in the air: How stereotypes shape intellectual identity and performance. American Psychologist, 52, 613–629.Google Scholar
  58. Stover, E., & Nightingale, E. O. (Eds.). (1985). The breaking of bodies and minds: Torture, psychiatric abuse, and the health professions. New York: W. H. Freeman.Google Scholar
  59. Strong, F. R. (1986). Substantive due process of law. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.Google Scholar
  60. Taylor, D. M., & Moghaddam, F. M. (1994). Theories of intergroup relations: International social psychological perspectives. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
  61. Triandis, H. (1995). Individualism & collectivism. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  62. Worchel, S. (1999). Written in blood: Ethnic identity and the struggle for human harmony. New York: Worth.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fathali M. Moghaddam
    • 1
  • Elena Lvina
    • 2
  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentGeorgetown UniversityWashington DC
  2. 2.Samara State Teachers Training UniversityRussia

Personalised recommendations