The discursive turn in psychology which began around 30 years ago is a central defining feature of critical social psychology. DA—the systematic study of text and talk—has led to the radical re-specification of social psychology’s central topics: topics such as attitudes, social influence, identity, attributions and prejudice. DP rejects the search for internal mental representations and the reliance on internal mechanisms to understand social life. Instead, discourse is seen as constitutive and functional and hence is claimed to be the proper site of social psychological analysis. Discursive interaction is patterned and ordered, drawing on shared discursive resources such as interpretive repertoires to bring social reality into being and to manage people’s identities. Unfortunately, however, social psychology remains largely unaffected by recent developments in DP The following quote by Holtgraves and Kashima (2008) demonstrates the extent to which mainstream social psychology has remained impervious and blissfully unaware of the discursive turn in psychology.
Many of the processes that are most central to social cognition—attribution, person perception, stereotyping and so on—involve language in some manner. People use language to communicate to one another (and to researchers) their attributions, perceptions, and stereotypes, for example, with language use sometimes shaping the very products being communicated. ... It is, in fact, difficult to think of any social-cognitive processes that do not involve language in some manner. Clearly the study of language can contribute greatly to the understanding of social thought and action. ... Unfortunately ... The role of language has not received the focal attention that it deserves in social cognition. (2008, p. 73)
Hopefully this chapter has demonstrated that this is clearly not the case and that in the last 30 years there has been a systematic and rigorous programme of research that specifically addresses the role of language in social psychology’s central topics. Later chapters in this book will demonstrate precisely how this has led to the theoretical and empirical re-specification of such topics.