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Political plasticity refers to limitations on how fast, how much, and in what ways political behavior does (or does not) change. In a number of important areas of behavior, such as leader-follower relations, ethnicity, religion, and the rich-poor divide, there has been long-term continuity of human behavior. These continuities are little impacted by factors assumed to bring about change such as electronic technologies, major wars, globalization, and revolutions. In addition to such areas of low political plasticity, areas of high political plasticity are considered. For example, women in education is discussed to illustrate how rapid societal change can be achieved. This book explains the psychological and social mechanisms that limit political plasticity, and shape the possibility of changes in both democratic and dictatorial countries. Students, teachers, and anyone interested in political behavior and social psychology will benefit from this volume.
Psychology is a discipline with global influence, but continues to neglect disadvantaged minorities and continues to adopt an incorrect model of science. This volume explains what has gone wrong, and what steps should be taken for psychology to become a constructive international force. Historically, psychologists have focused only on causal explanations of behavior, neglecting normatively regulated behavior and intentionality. By giving greater importance to context and collective processes, moving from 'societies to cells,' psychologists can better understand and explain individual behavior. Poverty is an extremely powerful context that shapes cognitions and actions, with destructive consequences for disadvantaged individuals. The advocation of 'be happy psychology' and 'resilience' as solutions to problems faced by the disadvantaged leads to entrenched group-based inequalities, with the poor stuck at the bottom. Moving forwards, this volume proposes that psychologists should focus on normative systems to ultimately foster a more balanced field of study for the future.
On the surface and on the basis of twenty-first-century criteria, Galileo and Shakespeare live in different worlds: One is in science and the other is in art. But at a deeper level, Galileo and Shakespeare have a foundational similarity: They both rely heavily on thought experiments. Besides, in their era science and art were not separated in the unhealthy way they are today. Thought experiments have been essential and central to the development of both science and art. Contemporary psychology has focused exclusively on experimentally discovering the “causes” of behavior, even though much of a person’s behavior is normatively regulated rather than causally determined. Closer ties with literature and a fuller appreciation of thought experiments will enable psychology to better understand normatively regulated behavior.
Shakespeare’s play Henry IV, Part I explores the self through different types of thought experiments. Positioning theory is used in this chapter to reveal the details of several thought experiments. Positoning theory was developed to help better explain small-scale social interactions that are regulated by local moral conventions. “Position” is one corner of the positioning triangle, the other two corners of which are “acts,” the social meaning of actions, and “storylines,” a loose cluster of narrative conventions according to which social episodes unfold and positions arise. Central to this play is an an experiment in which Prince Hal plays the role of his father the king, and Falstaff plays Prince Hal. When the prince steps into his father’s shoes, his self-perception and, evetually, his public positioning of himself and others changes. However, he prevents Falstaff from repositioning himself.
Shakespeare’s play Hamlet contains two psycological experiments. The first experiment tests Hamlet’s hypothesis that his uncle killed his father. Hamlet gets a group of actors to perform a play, acting out how he assumes his father was murdered. Horatio watches the reactions of the king and the rest of the audience to the play, thus serving as a reliability check on Hamlet’s observations. Thus, the independent variable is the play and the dependent varible is the reactions of the audience (including the king) to the play. Polonius’s experiment tests the hypothesis that Hamlet has become mad because of unrequited love for Ophelia. The king and Polonius observe from their secret hiding place as Hamlet unexpectedly encounters Ophelia. The presence of Ophelia is the independent variable, and Hamlet’s reaction the dependent variable.
Shakespeare’s thought experiment in the play Julius Caesar is focused on the power of context and the continuation of individual behavior through the influence of context. The readiness of the springboard to dictatorship meant that the conditions were ready for Julius Caesar or another potential dictator to spring to power. The conspirators correctly judged Julius Caesar to be a potential dictator who would bring an end to the Roman Republic. Brutus and the other conspirators made the mistake of assuming that by killing Caesar they had saved the republic and avoided dictatorship. But in terms of personality characteristics, Caesar was only one of a number of potential dictators who could take advantage of the springboard to dictatorship. Eliminating Caesar without changing the context simply created space and new opportunities for other potential dictators to spring to power. The civil war that followed the assassination of Caesar bled into the collapse of the republic; context shaped the kind of leadership that rose to govern Rome.
Gain a better understanding of human behavior by exploring thought experiments in Shakespearean plays and the historical roots of experimental psychology within early modern literature. This book combines scientific psychology with English literature to discuss thought experiments in selected Shakespeare plays and examine the central role of thought experiments in the natural sciences. Thought experiments are essential for progress in scientific research. Indeed, Albert Einstein and a number of other leading scientists relied almost exclusively on thought experiments. Thought experiments also play a pivotal role in English literature, particularly in Shakespeare plays. By focussing on thought experiments and experimental psychology's place within early modern English literature, the volume establishes a more wholistic approach to understanding human behavior.
Iago serves as an experimenter, setting up a powerful context in which Othello is positioned to behave as a “jealous husband.” Othello has certain characteristics that made him especially susceptible to Iago’s manipulations, including his chosen lieutenant’s flirtatiousness and weakness for alcohol. However, the more important factor shaping behavior is the context set up by Iago, within the militaristic context of an island (Cyprus) facing an invasion. Iago first schemes to get Othello to dismiss Cassio as his lieutenant. Next, he persuades Cassio to get Othello’s wife, Desdemona, to plead for his reinstatement. At the same time, her persuades Othello that Desdemona is sexually pursuing Cassio. The more Desdemona pleads for Cassio to be reinstated, the more she damns herself in Othello’s eyes. The power of this trap is too much for Othello, who falls victim to it – as would most other individuals in this context, as demonstrated by psychological research.
The play King Lear is a thought experiment on sudden and drastic changes in power distribution and the consequent changes in the behavior of the individuals who have changed power positions. The change in power distribution serves as the independent variable, with the behavioral changes that follow serving as dependent variables. King Lear impulsively decides to abandon his royal duties, but not necessarily his royal privileges. He hands over his duties and his properties to his two older daughters; his third daughter is disinherited because she fails to subserviently express devotion to him. But the influence of the power shifts on the three daughters is not according to Lear’s plans: the two older daughters turn against him, while his youngest, disinherited daughter remains loyal. In line with psychological research on power and corruption, some individuals who gain absolute power become absolutely corrupt.
The play Richard III represents a thought experiment that brilliantly demonstrates the interdependence of the individual and social context. The potential dictator can only leap to power if and when the springboard to dictatorship becomes available. But as Stalin, Hitler, and many other cases attest, the potential dictator can become active and effective in manufacturing the springboard to dictatorship. Richard achieves this task step by step, starting by transforming the context of “peace” that does not suit him. He commits himself to creating a context of chaos, distrust, threats, deception, and violence. Richard is particularly effective at manipulating religion in order to help manufacture the springboard to dictatorship, which he uses to leap to power. The alliance of Richard with religious authority reflects the historic tendency for authoritarian strongmen to gain the support of certain religious groups.
Shakespeare’s thought experiments are part of a revolution underway in scientific thinking during his era. Early examples of psychological thought experiments are found in Shakespeare’s plays. These thought experiments provide the fertile soil from which there eventually grew twenty-first-century experimental psychology. Although the power of context is highlighted in Shakespeare’s thought experiments, so is intentionality and some measure of free will. The underlying assumption is that not all behavior is causally determined, as is mistakenly assumed in mainstream psychology. Reflecting on Shakespeare’s thought experiments, clearly psychological science needs to accept that much behavior is normatively regulated, not causally determined. But Shakespeare’s writings were also integral to broader changes in the worldview and critical thinking that nourished transfomations toward actualized democracy. By highlighting and celebrating the central role of thought experiments in science and art, we can construct a bridge that helps end the huge gap that has opened up between science and art in our time.
Prospero carries out an experiment that involves manipulating the context (independent variable) in order to bring about certain behavioral changes (dependent variable). Just as in a laboratory, Prospero keeps tight control of events and timing. Prospero’s manipulation of context is through a huge storm, which (apparently) sinks a ship and leaves everyone on board stranded on an island controlled by Prospero. Among those standed are his brother and others who expelled Prospero and his daughter Miranda from his dukedom. Prospero brings together Miranda and Prince Ferdinand, the son of the king who wronged him. Through the union of Miranda and Ferdinand, Prospero creates a bridge that enables him to repair his relationship with those who wronged him. Even though Prospero gains power over his former enemies, he forgives them. He also abandons his life as a secluded scientist and rejoins society.