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Culture in psychology: Perennial problems and the contemporary methodological crisis

Psychology in Russia: State of the Art. 2015. Vol. 8. No. 4. P. 35-45.
Sorokin P. S., Mironenko I. A.

This article begins by discussing the origins of the methodological crisis in psychology. In
the literature the idea of a permanent methodological crisis in psychology, lasting since
the 1890s, dominates. We contest this view and argue that the contemporary methodological
problems in psychology should be considered within the context of the novel
and larger crisis challenging all socio-humanitarian knowledge in the face of the transformations
in social reality in recent decades. The nature of these transformations and
their implications for the theory and methodology of the socio-humanitarian sciences
are analyzed by drawing on the sociological literature, which is more sensitive to changes
in social life than is psychology.
Prominent sociologists argue that the “old” theories and interpretations of the “social”
are no longer relevant in the new, highly complex, and globally unstable reality; this
new reality has largely transformed the dimensions of human beings’ existence. Meanwhile
psychology still tends to comprehend the universal nature of the human. This position
undermines the relevance of both psychology’s theoretical models and the practical
implications derived from these methodological assumptions.
We argue for revision of the perennial psychological problem of the biology-culture
interaction in human nature. To resolve the contemporary methodological crisis in psychology,
a shift is needed from theories of universal and immutable human nature to the
idea of the human as an infinitely changing creature. Because culture is, primarily, the
ability to change, wherein the speed and extent of changes are unique for humans, distinguishing
them from other living beings.