Seminars & Events

12 December 2022
15:15 - 16:45
Online - see link below

Seminar: Charis Psaltis – Genetic Social Psychology: A once and future discipline

Title: Genetic Social Psychology: A once and future discipline


Abstract: The 21st century beyond the imminent threat of climate change has led humanity to changes that saw increasing inequalities, and more internal fragmentation, wars and suffering within and between various societies. Various group based identities and representations have been mobilised for collective struggles to fight off historical animosities, marginalisation, exclusion and inequalities on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, ethnic, linguistic, regional or country divisions. Elections in the USA, the Brexit Referendum and the COVID-19 pandemic have also made clear that the circulation of fake news, alternative truths and manipulated propaganda as well as an increasing anti-intellectualism is becoming not only a threat to democracy but also a threat to life itself. All these developments lead to the conclusion that both social and developmental psychology need to rethink their purpose and whether they are up to the task to contribute in any way to a holistic understanding of changing representations and identities that are at the basis of the collective problems currently faced by humanity. I claim in this chapter that this can be done through an understanding of human development as the development of the ‘social psychological subject’ (Duveen & Psaltis, 2008) and his/her representations and identities. This chapter answers to the call of the late Gerard Duveen to construct a theory that captures the dynamics of societal change and to his last paper’s call (Duveen, 2008) to return to the study of heterogeneity in social psychology by moving away from an understanding of social identity as that which holds groups together and toward the study of distinct communicative forms and social organisations. Such an understanding takes us back to Willem Doise’s (1986) dictum that we need to understand social phenomena by articulating four different levels of analysis (intrapersonal, Interpersonal, 2 Inter-group, social representations/ideological). I will argue that such an articulation can only be achieved through a change orientated understanding of the interlocking processes of microgenesis, ontogenesis and sociogenesis of social representations (Lloyd and Duveen, 1990) through the extension of the theoretical framework of Genetic Social Psychology, which follows the key insights of late Gerard Duveen and our joint work in Cambridge (Psaltis & Duveen, 2006; 2007; Duveen & Psaltis, 2008; Psaltis, 2005). This will be done by critically extending Piaget’s social psychology, Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, Serge Moscovici’s theories of Social Representations and Genetic Model of Social Influence as well as the work of Social Genevans (Doise, Mugny & Perret-Clermont, 1976). I will argue that the work of Lucien Goldmann (1954, 1955, 1964, 1969) here is crucial in offering a broader theoretical, epistemological and methodological framework for understanding some basic questions that Gerard Duveen was struggling with throughout his academic career that stem from western Marxist thought and discussions around genesis and structure (Wartkofsky, 1982). This is a line of theoretical work with important parallels in its developments with the three generations of post-Vygotskian research in the CHAT tradition but as I will also argue it covers one of its main theoretical weaknesses, namely the handling of asymmetries and social inequalities. This absence was already there from the early beginnings of this tradition in Vygotsky’s own work. I will take as a case study the deeply divided society of Cyprus, along ethnic lines, and the struggles for its reunification or partition to explore the processes of microgenesis, ontogenesis and sociogenesis of social representations of otherness and the Cyprus problem in various research samples from both communities covering childhood to old age in the historical time of 2003-2021, starting with the opening of checkpoints in the UN Patrolled Buffer Zone in Cyprus. As it will become clear both continuity and change of the system of values, ideas and practices about otherness can be observed and is largely regulated by adherence to social representations of the past/history, past and present intergroup contact and realistic and symbolic threats. The role of peers, family, mass media and politics in the context of a geopolitical conflict of interests will be discussed in the presentation of the case study.


Bio: Charis Psaltis received his MPhil and PhD in Social and Developmental Psychology from the University of Cambridge on a Cambridge Commonwealth Trust Scholarship.  He is a  Professor of Social and Developmental Psychology at the University of Cyprus. He  worked as a  post-doctoral researcher at the Oxford Centre for the Study of Intergroup Conflict where he studied intergroup relations between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. His main research interests are social developmental psychology, genetic epistemology, social representations, intergroup contact and intergroup relations, history teaching and collective memory. He co-authored with Anna Zapiti the book Interaction, Communication and Development: Psychological Development as a social Process (Routledge, 2014) and co-edited with Alex Gillespie and Anne-Nelly Perret-Clermont Social Relations in Human and Societal Development(Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). He also co-edited with Mario Carretero and Sabina Cehajic-Clancy History Education and Conflict Transformation: Social Psychological Theories, History Teaching and reconciliation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). He currently runs the University Centre for Field Studies at the University of Cyprus and co-directs the Genetic Social Psychology Lab. He was the national coordinator of Cyprus for Round 10 of the European Social Survey (ESS).



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