What is critical research?
Critical research acknowledges power at the level of society, e.g., class in the United Kingdom.
Critical psychological research
Psychological research rarely takes a critical approach. The work of Stuart Carr at Massey in New Zealand on poverty and say, how expats justify their high salaries, is critical.
Steps for critical research
Here are six steps for a fundamentally critical approach to psychological research.
- We are both not fully conscious of the choices we make every day (e.g., hegemony) and, we can see conceal our interests (e.g., models of society’s conflict).
- Practically, we will not attend to issues unless something outside of the everyday prompts us to do so.
- New ideas often come from the “boy commenting on the lack of the Emperors’ clothes”. The comments may be challenging but they often are dismissed as being naïve.
- Though we’re sensitized by the critical literature, and our role as academics, we are biased to
- The behavioural, observable data, or signal, that something interesting is going on is when people are silenced. We can detect that from texts using corpus linguistics (e.g., passive voice) but we’ll also pick it up by watching. This is a fundamental tool for psychologists – what is making someone uncomfortable? From their point of view, something doesn’t stack up.
- This method contrasts with much of the qualitative work which analyses what is said rather than what was not said. I am not proposing thematic analysis but a way to consider counterfactuals and to consider what brings about the agenda of a group.
When to use this methodology
To use this methodology, you will need to be sufficiently trusted to be able to observe a group or the situation needs to be public.
You also need a reason to believe that taking a ‘broader angle lens’ so the group can see itself against the backdrop of what is happening in the wider world.
These methodologies are labour-intensive and the deeper investigations should begin with a compassionate intent and a reasonable belief that greater value is possible with greater sociological imagination or a historical view. And you should have time and resources to follow through to help the group digest and absorb the conversations that follow from this approach.