The Invisible Legacy
Although social psychology is mainly about people’s attitudes, communications, and behavior, it sometimes takes as a problem those matters that are, superficially at least, to do with people’s bodies. When one thinks of questions of gender, of racial difference, of aggression, of crowding, of attractiveness, or of nonverbal communication, one needs little persuasion as to the relevance of the human body to these matters. Yet, a survey of a sample of books or research papers dealing with these topics will show that the body in general, or the bodies of subjects in particular, have no place in the speculations and theories of the authors concerned. Of course, this is not to say that certain parts of the body might not be mentioned; in studies of social perception, the face is a focus of inquiry, while in nonverbal communication research, the various parts of the body might be detailed as to their capacities for either sending or receiving messages. In spite of these isolated and disparate citings of hands or faces, social psychology has not yet come to grips with the fact that the people who are its subject matter enjoy and suffer a bodily existence. An examination of virtually any textbook introducing the discipline shows that this omission goes quite unrecognized. Select one of these tomes and scan the subject index for the wordbody;likely as not, there is no entry for this term. Sometimes one finds reference to “bodily communication,” to “body language,” or to “body movement,” but examination of the material reveals that the reader is being referred to matters that lie either in society or within the thoughts of the subjects under study.
KeywordsSocial Psychology Social Psychological Research Physical Existence Bodily Existence Word Body
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