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Int J Aging Hum Dev. 1989;29(3):225-39.

Social psychology, contexts of aging, and a contextual world view.

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  • 1University of Connecticut.


Two world views-mechanism and organicism-have dominated the youthful history of social psychological study of adult development and aging. Despite differences, both assume a stable, universal, transhistorical structure underlying social psychology; the goal of research is to discover and delineate such universals. A third world view, contextualism, begins with an assumption that action and thought are developed within relationships, which form the contexts for particular actions. It stresses the negotiated, constructed nature of "reality,"the historical embeddedness and unique quality of action as it unfolds, and the importance of negotiation making use of multiple perspectives. The approach and contextualist goals are significantly different from more typical approaches. Three areas of research in social gerontology and social psychology-environmental relations, attribution, and social relations in a social reconstruction/social breakdown model-illustrate a contextualist approach. Control and a "voice" in a negotiation of relationships and the characteristics of one's contexts are central to a contextual approach to all three.

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