Friday, March 11, 2005

Position paper:
Critical research issues inPsychology
The National Research Foundation’s
‘Shifting the boundaries ofknowledge – the role of social sciences, law and humanities’ project
July 2004

Catriona Macleod
Department of Psychology
University of Fort Hare
P O Box 742
6East London5200
Tel: (043) 7047036Fax: (043) 7047107

Position Paper:
Critical research issues in Psychology


"During Apartheid, Psychology was accused of being irrelevant, and of advertently orinadvertently bolstering Apartheid. Since 1994 much has changed in Psychology, but muchhas remained the same. In a situational analysis of research in Psychology over the last fiveyears (South African Journal of Psychology articles and PsycINFO abstracts under the keywords ‘South Africa’) it emerged that quantitative methods based on ‘hard’ science theoryas well as the traditional topics of assessment, psychotherapy/counselling, psychopathologyand stress continue to dominate psychological research. A minority of studies utilisetheoretical frameworks and tackle topics that illuminate the interweaving of the individualwith the socio-political context. An analysis of the location and participants of researchindicates that knowledge is being generated chiefly about urban, middle-class adults livingin the three wealthiest provinces, with university students being the most popular source ofparticipants. This is in contradistinction to the demographic realities of the country.Historically white universities continue to dominate the publishing scene, and collaborationtakes place chiefly with countries from the ‘developed’ world. A comparison of theseresults with the key issues raised in the Eastern Cape’s Provincial Growth and DevelopmentPlan shows that Psychology has long way to go before it can establish its ‘relevance’credentials. Future challenges for Psychology include:· theoretical development that brings insights from South Africa’s unique sociohistorical-political context into local and international theoretical debates· expanding traditional approaches, topics and participants to ones that speak to thesocio-political concerns of South Africa, and that represent South Africa’s demography; forging links with researchers in the rest of Africa and other developing countries."

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