Developmental psychology

The turn to deconstruction

Authored by: Erica Burman

Handbook of Critical Psychology

Print publication date:  April  2015
Online publication date:  April  2015

Print ISBN: 9781848722187
eBook ISBN: 9781315726526
Adobe ISBN: 9781317537182

10.4324/9781315726526.ch7

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Abstract

Formed amid emerging European nation-states at the tail end of their colonial powers, psychology – and perhaps particularly British psychology – was deeply involved in providing the state with instruments for surveying and evaluating the state of its colonial populations, as well as assessing its home-grown workers and conscripts for waging its wars. As further evidence for the relation between cultural and methodological orientations, we should also not forget how many of the key statistical tests and criteria for ‘significance’ that continue to structure psychological research were invented by British psychologists such as Galton (who was Darwin’s cousin), Pearson, and Spearman. These British architects of quantitative psychology were also advocates of eugenics (Rose 1985), a fact that – along with the recognition by 1980 that Cyril Burt, another key British psychologist (in fact the first British person to be employed as a psychologist) closely associated with the highly controversial debates over the heritability of IQ had forged his results (Hearnshaw 1979) – invites some sober reflection on British social science practices.

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