This article is reprinted from Wedding, D., & Stevens, M. J. (Eds). (2009). Psychology: IUPsyS Global Resource (Edition 2009) [CD-ROM]. International Journal of Psychology, 44 (Suppl. 1).
Social psychology in India: Social roots and development
Janak Pandey and Purnima Singh
University of Allahabad, India
Although applied practical knowledge of social behaviours can be traced to the rich Indian intellectual traditions in philosophy, religious texts, social-political treatises and reform movements from the ancient period, the scientific social psychology in India began in the 1920s mostly as a borrowed discipline from the West. This article reviews briefly the historical background of psychology as a scientific discipline from the founding of the first university departments at Calcutta in 1916, Mysore in 1924, and Patna in 1946. Soon after independence in 1947, the discipline slowly but widely expanded in universities and in research, technology, and management institutes throughout the country. Some early classical studies on rumour, group influences, and prejudice not only appeared in the international literature, but also influenced theoretical developments in the West. One widely cited example is Leon Festinger's use of Indian rumour transmission research in the development of cognitive dissonance theory. Later research has been influenced by the social and cultural milieu as well as national priorities. Dominant thematic areas of research have been identified. These include: attitude, prejudice, and intergroup relations; social motives and development; social influence processes; poverty, deprivation, and social justice; environment and behaviour; health beliefs and behaviour; and social values and development. Over the years social psychology in India has witnessed serious debates regarding the nature of the discipline and research methodology. These debates have centred on issues related to relevance, indigenization, and cultural appropriateness of the discipline. Such discussions are aimed at giving social psychology a distinctive look and making it more “social”. Some of these concerns are shared by social psychologists in other countries. Social psychology is and will be a prolific discipline in India as it fits with the democratic sociopolitical context that promotes and facilitates the agenda for social research. Some challenges and concerns that would make social psychology more socially and culturally relevant are discussed.
Quoique les connaissances pratiques appliquées de comportements sociaux peuvent trouver leur origine dans les riches traditions intellectuelles indiennes de la philosophie, des textes religieux, des traités sociopolitiques et des mouvements de réforme de l'Antiquité, la psychologie sociale scientifique en Inde a débuté au cours des années 1920, surtout comme une discipline empruntée au monde occidental. Cet article fait une brève revue du contexte historique de la psychologie en tant que discipline scientifique, à partir de la fondation des premiers départements universitaires à Calcutta en 1916, à Mysore en 1924 et à Patna en 1946. Peu après l'indépendance en 1947, la discipline s'est lentement mais largement étendue dans les universités et la recherche, dans la technologie et dans les instituts de gestion à travers le pays. Certaines des premières études portant sur la rumeur, les influences de groupe et les préjugés ne sont pas seulement apparues dans les écrits internationaux, mais ont aussi influencé les développements théoriques occidentaux. Un exemple largement cité est celui de l'utilisation qu'a faite Leon Festinger de la recherche indienne sur la transmission de la rumeur pour développer la théorie de la dissonance cognitive. Les recherches ultérieures ont été influencées par le milieu social et culturel tout comme par les priorités nationales. Des thèmes de recherche dominants ont été identifiés, incluant: les attitudes, les préjugés et les relations intergroupes; les motivations sociales et le développement; les processus d'influence sociale; la pauvreté, la privation et la justice sociale; l'environnement et le comportement; les croyances en matière de santé et le comportement et; les valeurs sociales et le développement. À travers les années, la psychologie sociale en Inde a été témoin de sérieux débats concernant la nature de la discipline et la méthodologie de recherche. Ces débats étaient centrés sur des questions reliées à la pertinence, à la tendance indigène et à la justesse culturelle de la discipline. De telles discussions ont permis de donner à la psychologie sociale un visage distinctif et de la rendre plus «sociale». Certaines de ses préoccupations sont partagées par les psychologues sociaux dans d'autres pays. La psychologie sociale est et sera une discipline prolifique en Inde étant donné qu'elle s'accorde avec le contexte sociopolitique démocratique lequel promeut et facilite la mise en place de la recherche sociale. Des défis et préoccupations qui vont faire de la psychologie sociale un domaine plus socialement et culturellement pertinent sont discutés.
A pesar de que el conocimiento práctico aplicado de las conductas sociales puede evocar de las ricas tradiciones intelectuales Indias en la filosofia, los textos religiosos, los tratados sociopolíticos y los movimientos de reforma del periodo antiguo, la psicología social científica empezó en India en los años veinte, principalmente como una disciplina tomada prestada del occidente. Este artículo reseña brevemente el antecedente histórico de la psicología como una disciplina científica desde la fundación de los primeros departamentos de psicología en las universidades de Calcuta en 1916, Mysore en 1924, y Patna en 1946. Poco después de la independencia en 1947, lenta pero ampliamente la disciplina se expandió en universidades y en la investigación, la tecnología, y la administración de institutos en todo el país. Algunos estudios clásicos iniciales sobre el rumor, las influencias grupales, y el prejuicio no sólo aparecieron en la literatura internacional, sino que también influyeron en el desarrollo teórico en el occidente. Un ejemplo citado ampliamente por parte de Leon Festinger de la investigación sobre la transmisión del rumor para el desarrollo de la teoría de la disonancia cognoscitiva. Tanto el medio social y cultural como las prioridades nacionales han influido en la investigación posterior. Se han identificado áreas de investigación dominantes. Éstas incluyen: actitud, prejuicio y relaciones intergrupales; motivos sociales y desarrollo; procesos de influencia social; pobreza, marginación y justicia social; ambiente y comportamiento; creencias sobre la salud y comportamiento; y valores sociales y desarrollo. A lo largo de los años la psicología social en India ha sido testigo de debates serios respecto a la naturaleza de la disciplina y la metodología de investigación. Estos debates se han centrado en asuntos relativos a la relevancia, recuperación de lo autóctono y pertinencia cultural de la disciplina. Tales discusiones tienen como propósito dotar a la psicología social de una apariencia característica y hacerla más ‘social’. Los psicólogos sociales en otros países comparten algunas de estas preocupaciones. La psicología social es y será una disciplina prolífica en India conforme se ajusta al contexto sociopolítico democrático que promueve y facilita la agenda para la investigación social. Se discuten algunos retos y preocupaciones que harían a la psicología social socialmente y culturalmente más relevante.
In the Indian intellectual tradition, analyses, discourse, and interpretations of social interactions and behaviours may be traced as the focus of religious texts and philosophy as early as 1500 BC. Thus, from the Rigvedic times to the present era, examples of analysis of social behaviour can be elucidated. An apt example is Mahatma Gandhi's (fondly addressed as the father of the Indian nation) insightful understanding of the social, collective, and spiritual aspects of the human psyche. He advocated for nonviolent resistance, locally called Satyagrah, and applied it to mobilize people for political and social emancipation as well as for handling group conflicts in India and South Africa (Erikson, 1970). Satyagrah is based on the philosophy of Ahimsa (nonviolence). This philosophy, which Gandhi advocated and successfully applied during the freedom movement, can be traced back to the period (1200 BC) of the Upanishads (Rastogi, 1969) and later became the essence of Buddhism and Jainism. Gandhi is to be credited for his understanding of the Indian masses and the society, and use of Ahimsa during the freedom struggle. He was probably ahead of the scientific social psychology of his time. Although sociopolitical leaders, thinkers, and philosophers of India and other societies had rich knowledge regarding social behaviour, mainstream scientific social psychology originated in Western intellectual soil in the latter part of the nineteenth century and proliferated elsewhere. Research thrived in the US and in western European countries, and it was this discipline of social psychology that was exported worldwide.
Although Western countries continued to be major contributors to scientific social psychology, teaching and research of the discipline also became rooted in many developing countries. Still only 2 to 3% of the total research cited in prominent contemporary Euro-American social psychology texts referred to studies conducted in non-Western contexts (Smith & Bond, 1994). This citation statistic, however, does not represent the range of non-Western research due to the ethnocentric character of mainstream psychology. In the last three decades, social psychology has become a popular discipline in many Asian countries. Asian social psychologists have formed their own professional association and have established a journal named the Asian Journal of Social Psychology.
This paper reviews the history of social psychology in India, its evolution over the years, and the contemporary status and possible future directions of the discipline. The development of scientific social psychology in India has been influenced by a host of factors, ranging from rich philosophical traditions to changes in the research priorities within the discipline itself, along with current events and societal and national concerns. As an academic discipline, it has traversed a fairly long path, having completed nearly eight decades of existence. This long journey is replete with illustrations of both achievements and crises, which together need to be understood in order to have an appreciation for the present status and concerns of the discipline. Several extensive reviews of social psychology (Dalal & Misra, 2001; D. Sinha, 1981, 1998; J. B. P. Sinha, 1993) have been published at successive intervals. These reviews, four rounds of the ICSSR psychology surveys (Mitra, 1972; Pandey, 1988a, 2000a, 2001; 2004; Pareek, 1980, 1981), and other sources form the basis for this paper.
PSYCHOLOGY IN INDIA: A BRIEF HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
Psychology as a scientific discipline in the country is indebted to the colonial rulers and to the leadership of Sir Brojendra Nath Seal, who was instrumental in introducing it as a subject in the philosophy department at Calcutta University in the year 1905. In 1916 the first department of psychology was established in Calcutta. Later, in 1924, the second department was established at Mysore University; the third at Patna University in 1946.
The scientific nature of research was recognized quite early in India; in 1923, the Indian Science Congress Association introduced a separate section of psychology. The formation of Indian Psychological Association in 1924 and the publication of the first psychology journal, the Indian Journal of Psychology, were major landmarks. After independence in 1947 there was a remarkable expansion of the discipline, with psychology courses being taught in large numbers of university departments. Dalal (2002) observed that though this rapid expansion of the discipline was impressive, it was quite unplanned. In spite of this, a few departments became recognized for their research in specific areas, e.g., Allahabad for social change and development, Utkal for the study of social disadvantage, and the A. N. Sinha Institute for the study of social values, motives, and leadership.
Roots of social psychology discipline in Indian intellectual tradition
Multiple forces within the Indian intellectual tradition have influenced the study of social life and behaviour. The roots of social psychology in India lie in religion, various sociopolitical treatises, popular narratives, commonsense conceptions, and the reform movements. India has a vast repertoire of spiritual and religious texts, e.g., the Shrutis including the Vedas, the Upanishads, and the Smritis, the Puranas, and the Manusmriti, all containing enlightening discourses and insights on various aspects of social life. Although speculative and intuitive, they certainly are vast storehouses of knowledge of social thoughts and behaviour. These documents also provide a range of ideas that may be used to develop a number of social psychological concepts and principles. The eclectic past of India depicted in epics like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana contains social, economic, and political insights relevant for the present social reality. In Kautilya's Arthashashtra, which is a discourse on power and politics, one finds lucid descriptions of political manipulations and intrigues that can certainly enrich understanding of contemporary analysis of power and politics. The Islamic heritage of India provides insights about human nature and social life. The idea of brotherhood of man in Islam is an illustration of community life. Prolific writings of several Sufi saints are not only sources of spiritual bounty but provide valuable insights, e.g., the doctrine of sabr (patience), preached by a number of Sufi saints enables humans to accept all tribulations and afflictions as the manifestations of God's love (Farooqi, 2002). Such insights can help in the understanding of coping processes in stressful social situations. Kabir the great poet, through his popular Dohas or poetic verses, emphasized equality of human beings and brotherhood of mankind. He regarded members of different groups as “pots made of the same clay” and hence presented a case for a “distinction-less” society. One can draw a long list of practical applications of rich knowledge of social nature of mankind and find relevance of teachings and insights of medieval and ancient periods to contemporary times.
Sociopolitical and economic reform movements in any society are led by great reformers who influence, lead, and change the masses. In the last two centuries Indian society has witnessed a series of religious, political, and social reform movements spearheaded by many; notable amongst them are Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, and Swami Vivekanand. Although not trained as scientific social psychologists, they were great practitioners of social psychology at the mass level. Their writings and speeches are another valuable storehouse of knowledge.
Indian society has been rich in classical folk narratives like Jatak kathas and the Panchtantra, which provide meaningful insights and norms regarding various life issues (J. B. P. Sinha, 2002). In Jatak kathas a blend of both virtues and vices are associated with the mythical characters, reflecting the dual nature of human beings. The characters in the Panchtantra represent mundane social behaviour. These folk tales have served as both determinants and explanatory tools of social behaviour.
Another source of knowledge about social behaviour is common-sense wisdom. Similar to others, Indian society has a rich repertoire of social psychological knowledge in the form of ordinary ideas, beliefs, and insights accepted as unspoken general principles of social behaviour. Aphorisms, sayings, and anecdotes based on lay conceptions and common sense embody the collective wisdom of people. These are full of insights about human nature and interactions. The real question is why such a fertile indigenous knowledge system, which has withstood the test of time, and which consists of both basic principles and applications, has not been utilized in the development of scientific social psychology. What has prevented its integration into the science of behaviour? It is high time that common-sense psychology be reviewed, tested, critically appraised, and replicated by scientific social psychology. Careful analysis and utilization in scientific formulations will provide credibility to or discredit this informal wisdom and knowledge.
Milestones in the development of social psychology as a discipline
Social psychological research and publications began as early as the 1920s. One such landmark is the publication of the first textbook in social psychology by Indian social psychologists (R. K. Mukherjee & Sengupta, 1928). This combined effort of Mukherjee, a renowned sociologist and Sengupta, a Harvard-trained experimental psychologist, was widely acclaimed. Thus, the beginning of social psychology in India was interdisciplinary in nature. The extent to which this interdisciplinary approach was followed later, however, could be a matter for discussion.
One of the earliest experimental investigations was on group effects on performance by Sengupta and Singh (1926). Although it was modelled on experiments first carried out by Allport and his colleagues, it did lay the foundation for experimental social psychology in India. Another notable early research contribution was conducted by Prasad (1935, 1950) and D. Sinha (1952) on rumour studies. Prasad (1935) examined the responses to the devastating earthquake in Bihar in 1934. Later, he published a comparative analysis of many earthquake rumours (1950). Prasad's work illustrates the fact that, right from the beginning, Indian social psychologists had focused on group-level variables. Bordia and DiFonzo (2002) have recently revisited the “legacy” of Prasad and highlighted the significance of his work, which has hitherto remained unrecognized. At a time when mainstream social psychology was preoccupied with individual-level variables, we have an example of an Indian social psychologist who introduced group and cultural variables in the study of rumours. However, the emphasis on social and contextual variables was not evident in the later researches and only recently has there been a resurgence of emphasis on social and cultural context. Later, D. Sinha (1952) studied rumours and behaviour of people in catastrophic situations. These three early studies were used by Leon Festinger (1957) in the formulation of his theory of cognitive dissonance.
Adinarayan's (1941) research on colour prejudice published in the British Journal of Psychology laid the foundation for later work in the area of attitude and prejudice. Group influence on behaviour has been a concern of Indian social psychologists since the early period of development of the discipline. N. P. Mukherjee (1940) examined ability differentials in work in group and isolation situations and Mohsin (1954) analysed the effects of individual and group frustrations on problem-solving behaviours. These early, experimental, quasi-experimental, and field studies of the '40s and '50s paved the way for future research developments in this area.
Social psychology in India has witnessed changes in thrust areas as well as research methodology. The trend of unconnected studies and replications of Western findings is part of the Indian research reality. However, there have been shifts in the nature of the discipline as well as in research themes and methodology. This was partly due to the nature of training of social psychologists. In the '60s and '70s, a number of social psychologists returned after their training in experimental social psychology in Western universities and they pursued their research programmes in accordance with their training background, in a few cases culminating in excellent examples of programmatic research. For example, the National Seminar on Perspectives on Experimental Social Psychology in India at Allahabad in 1979 provided a platform for presentation and discussion of experimental social research, which was published later in book form (Pandey, 1981). In the late '70s and '80s social psychology in the country was in the throes of serious debates and dialogues concerning experimental social psychology, the methodological and theoretical challenges faced by the discipline, and its ability to provide solutions to complex social problems. Some of these debates moved to the centre stage, shaping the course of the discipline. This was a period when senior social psychologists, D. Sinha (1966, 1983) and others, urged social psychologists to enter the arena of social change and development. Quite unlike some other social sciences, social psychology has been on the periphery of socioeconomic change and development.
The establishment of the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) in 1969 was another landmark. The ICSSR started supporting research, training, and publications such as the periodical research surveys in psychology and other social science disciplines. The surveys of psychological research over the years have critically reviewed Indian research and examined constructs, model building, conceptualization of problems, methodological appropriateness, and the relevance of this research. The first survey (Mitra, 1972) covered the period of research from the beginning in the 1920s to 1969. The first survey included only one chapter on social psychology (Rath, 1972). The second survey (Pareek, 1980, 1981) covered the research conducted from 1971 to 1976 and identified major thematic dimensions of Indian psychology, including eight chapters devoted to various aspects of social behaviour. The contents of these chapters reflect an increased emphasis on applied social psychology research covering areas such as communication and influence processes, psychology of work, political processes, environmental issues, poverty, inequality, population, and dynamics of social change. The third survey (Pandey, 1988a) covered publications from 1977 to 1982 and one of its three volumes was exclusively devoted to Basic and Applied Social Psychology. It contained review chapters on attitudes and social cognitions, social influence processes, inter-group relations and social tensions, dynamics of rural development, social psychology of education, and on applied social psychology, covering topics such as development and change, fertility behaviour, health, social disadvantage, poverty, and deprivation. The third survey recorded significant progress in basic and applied social psychological research.
The '70s and '80s witnessed the beginnings of Doctoral programmes with course work, first at the Indian Institutes of Technology, especially at Kanpur, and later at the Department of Psychology, Allahabad. In a limited way, these proliferated to other institutions in the form of M Phil programmes (e.g., Delhi, Meerut). These programmes provided opportunity for young researchers to get quality training at home, leading to the advent of a new generation of social psychologists, trained in the indigenous context and more appreciative of the social reality. They have raised a number of issues related to methodological artifacts and incompatibility between social psychological
theories and Indian social reality. Greater emphasis on applied social psychology became visible. The National Seminar on Applied Social Psychology in India at Bhopal in 1987 sought to explore the role of social psychology in the solution of social problems related to change and development, culminating in publication of the book Applied Social Psychology in India (Misra, 1990).
EXPANSION OF THE DISCIPLINE: DOMINANT RESEARCH THEMES
The post-Independence era saw the prodigious growth of social psychology in terms of programmes, publications, and the recognition of its significance for societal and national development. Social psychological research in India, as elsewhere, has been influenced by the zeitgeist, i.e., the spirit of the times, as well as the ortgeist, the way that the spirit of the times specifically manifests itself in different places. After becoming independent in 1947, the challenge of building a developed modern nation was most salient in the minds of the nation's planners and policy makers. Development became the buzzword. The national concern was socioeconomic reconstruction and overall development. The government of India established the Planning Commission, which initiated 5-year plans to promote planned development. This national concern slowly influenced social psychological research to be relevant for development.
We have made an attempt to identify some broad areas that have received greater attention from Indian social psychologists. There are a large number of studies covering varied areas. This review briefly presents thematic research by way of illustration.
Attitude, prejudice, and intergroup relations
Adinaryan's (1941) research on attitudes and prejudice and Murphy's (1953) book In the minds of men, based on a UNESCO sponsored project to study communal (Hindu-Muslim) riots that occurred at the time of partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, laid the base for research in this area. Most of the research until the late '60s employed attitude surveys on various groups of people towards all kinds of social, political, cultural, economic, national, and international issues (Rath, 1972). A number of studies used the popular attitude measurement techniques, e.g., Likert, Thurstone, and Bogardus, on social stereotypes and prejudice. On the whole, the work done up to that time by social psychologists was not adequate enough to give it an edge over other disciplines.
India's unique caste system continues to play a critical role in social relationships. In the recent decades, caste identity has acquired some new functionality, particularly in sociopolitical life. The caste-based identities, self-perceptions, inter-caste relationships, and caste-related tensions are some of the areas studied by social psychologists. For example, Rath and Sircar (1960) analysed inter-caste relationships and examined attitudes and opinions of six caste groups and found that the lower caste groups perceived themselves negatively. Two decades later, Majeed and Ghosh (1989), in their study of scheduled castes (lowest in social hierarchy), found that they do indeed devalue their own group. The authors call this “affective syndrome crisis,” denoting deep-seated unresolved identity crises.
In many ways, research contributions of Indian social psychologists have been seminal in this area. Developmental aspects of caste and religious prejudice and identity were the focus of a series of studies by A. K. Singh (1988) and his associates. Other related areas covered in social psychological research are intergroup attitudes and relative deprivation (R. C. Tripathi & Srivastava, 1981) and sex stereotypes (Williams, Best, Haque, Pandey, & Verma, 1982). We may consider a few more illustrations. Western literature on intergroup relations suggests crossed-categorization as an important strategy for reducing intergroup conflicts. In their study on cross-category membership, Ghosh and Huq (1985) found that in the case of Bengali Hindu and Bengali Muslim respondents in India and Bangladesh, linguistic and national categorizations over-rode the significance of religious categorization. On the basis of a series of studies conducted in the Netherlands and India, De Ridder and Tripathi (1992) recognized the prominence of group norms in intergroup behaviour. In their theory, norm violation by one group leads to a chain of negative reactions by both groups and, if this sequence continues, it is likely to escalate violent behaviour. Hutnik (2004) has proposed a quadrapolar model for the study of ethnic minority identity. Although this work was done on Indian immigrants in the UK, it has undoubtedly significant theoretical implications for understanding intergroup relations in India. Another area of research of special contemporary significance and relevance is terrorism and secessionism, which has yet to receive due attention of social psychologists. A welcome initiative is the work of Angomcha (1999), who has examined the role of relative deprivation and social identity in secessionism and violent actions.
There have also been studies in the area of national stereotypes and international relations. In the wake of Indian-Chinese aggression over the border dispute, A. K. P. Sinha and Upadhyaya (1960) examined attitudes towards the Chinese and reported significant shifts in attitudes from positive to negative in the post-war period. This study is an example of studying change in attitudes as a result of a serious conflict like war between two friendly nations.
Social motives and development
In the post-Independence era, research on achievement motivation and entrepreneurial development was undertaken in response to the national agenda for planning and development. Measurement of achievement motivation in various settings became popular. Low need for achievement was recognized as the root cause of India's under-development (McClelland, 1961). Many Indian social psychologists collaborated with McClelland and participated in entrepreneurial training. Some also questioned the appropriateness of need for achievement theory in the scarce resource society of India. It was argued that resource scarcity presented an enigma for high need for achievement (J. B. P. Sinha, 1968; J. B. P. Sinha & Pandey, 1970). Attempts were made to identify obstacles to economic development and this resulted in examining behavioural bases and correlates of dependence proneness (J. B. P. Sinha, 1970), a typical response repertoire of Indians. In the 1980s, research in this area took a different turn. Agarwal and Misra (1986), using ecocultural and developmental perspective, attempted to understand the meaning of achievement in terms of the subject's notions about achievement goals.
Social influence processes
As social beings, we are always engaged in social influence processes of one kind or another. A range of social behaviours related to communication, helping, interpersonal attraction, leadership, power, and manipulating others, as well as functional and dysfunctional social behaviours, have been studied. Effectiveness of communication in various contexts and variables related to it have been examined. The roles of contextual variables like crowding and extended family have been demonstrated in some cross-cultural studies on competitive behaviours (Carment, 1974; Carment & Hodkin, 1973).
Research on helping and altruism, which started in the '60s in the West, also received the attention of Indian social psychologists. Pandey and Griffitt (1974, 1977) have extended the idea that in the Indian context, dependency can be used as a social instrument to seek help and support. A series of cross-cultural studies on reward disbursement in the US and India (L'Armond & Pepitone, 1975) show that various social motives originate in and are controlled by the individual's social environment. Although a large number of sociocultural variables have been included in the research on helping behaviour there is a need to emphasize the collective, community, and group orientation and also to extend the research to real-life situations by taking sociopolitical variables into consideration, and connecting them to issues related to national development. Commenting on the status of research in this area, Pandey (1988b) remarked that helping research has still to get off the ground in India.
Topics like interpersonal attraction and relationships have been another area of interest. Studies on the reinforcement-affect model of attraction by R. Singh (1974) on US samples led him to formulate a research programme to study judgment and decision-making within the framework of Anderson's information integration theory (Anderson, 1981). His work is one of the few good examples of programmatic research (R. Singh, 1988; R. Singh, Gupta, & Dalal, 1979). In these studies, Singh used mathematical models to structure judgments and decisions, which can certainly be regarded as a new trend. Prior to his work there was a trend of shying away from the use of mathematical models, a trend that seems to be reversed with the recent national seminar on mathematical modelling in behavioural and social sciences held in the Department of Psychology at Allahabad University in May, 2002.
Research in the domain of power and control mechanisms has lagged behind in India. Sporadic references to power appeared in the 1970s. One early example was the work of McClelland (1975), who analysed power within the Indian cultural framework. McClelland observed that Indians are high on need for power and those in power tend to control others by giving more and thereby demanding more from their subordinates. Thus competing and giving operate together in the Indian context and are often incompatible. Kakar's (1974) work on authority in India deserves special mention. His analysis of short stories and textbooks revealed that the image of the superior was either nurturant or assertive, but preference was for the nurturant superior. He suggested that the functioning style of the superior depends upon the personality dynamism, stage of life, and the ideals of the group from which the subordinate derives his sense of identity. J. B. P. Sinha, in his analysis of power relationships in Indian organizations, suggests that such relationships are jointly determined by the power need of the executives and the hierarchical structure. Research on power strategies (J. B. P. Sinha & Singh-Sengupta, 1991) identified strategies that are employed within the Indian social context and suggested which specific strategies were to be employed and under what conditions.
The studies on leadership and its effectiveness date back to the mid-1950s. Following the Western framework, these studies reported the relationship of employee-centred supervision and job satisfaction, morale, and productivity. The work on leadership styles has been innovative in many respects, showing a blend of Indian values with Western psychological principles and processes, while also proposing new models as part of programmatic research. The NT (nurturant task) model of leadership (J. B. P. Sinha, 1980, 1994) shows that effective leadership style in India is personalized and is centred on Shradha (deference) for the leader by the subordinates and nurturance and Sneh (affection) for the subordinates on the part of the leader. Interest in leadership effectiveness research has continued.
Research on manipulative behaviours presents another example of programmatic research (Pandey, 1981; R. C. Tripathi, 1981). Ingratiation and stable disposition of Machiavellianism are generally considered to be pragmatic features of interpersonal behaviour. In a society where resources are limited, as they are in India, where inequality, deprivation, and sociopolitical uncertainty is prevalent, manipulative behaviours become rampant. Pandey found support for ingratiation tactics and their omnipresence and pervasiveness in Indian society. The goal of both ingratiation, a behavioural strategy with a manipulative intent, and Machiavellianism, a disposition involving manipulation of others, is to control and influence others. A series of studies focusing on the ingratiating tactics of the Machiavellians in real-life settings (R. C. Tripathi, 1981) have reported results in consonance with the personality construct.
Poverty, deprivation, and social justice
Poverty, deprivation, and various forms of inequalities are some of the harsh realities of Indian society. Research on poverty and deprivation is now over three decades old, and although one may find substantial publications in this area, not much has yet been done in terms of a theoretical perspective. In the first ICSSR survey (Mitra, 1972), the issue of poverty was hardly mentioned, only when dealing with variables like socioeconomic status and caste (Rath, 1972). The first exhaustive study on poverty initiated by economists (Dandekar & Rath, 1971) discussed sociocultural dimensions. By the time of the second ICSSR survey (Pareek, 1981), poverty and welfare politics became major policy issues with the Garibi Hatao (removal of poverty) slogan of the then government. During this period, interest was shown by researchers and this was quite evident in the second survey, which contained two chapters—one on poverty and the other on the psychology of inequality. Inclusion of poverty as a political agenda reinforced the funding agencies to consider poverty as a priority area of research. A number of projects were taken to investigate poverty and to examine the social-psychological, developmental, and educational processes related to it (Misra & Tripathi, 2004).
Poverty and deprivation was also an important research area in the third survey. R. C. Tripathi (1988a) reviewed studies on poverty, disadvantage, and deprivation in his chapter on applied social psychology. Most studies showed a deleterious effect of poverty on cognition, motivation, and academic achievement. Early research on poverty emphasized macro-level social and economic processes, largely being silent on the subjective experience of poverty and its consequences. J. Pandey and his associates (Pandey, 2000b) have argued for an integrated approach to poverty that includes both objective and subjective criterion. L. B. Tripathi and Misra's (1975) work on prolonged deprivation needs special mention as it led to significant changes in the measurement of deprivation in real-life conditions.
Problems of poverty, inequality, and deprivation raise issues related to providing justice for the vulnerable sections of society. Most social psychologists have been mute in their analysis of the situation. Research in this area began in the 1980s and work has focused on distributive justice. Two cross-cultural studies (Berman, Murphy-Berman, & Singh, 1985; Murphy-Berman, Berman, Singh, Pachauri, & Kumar, 1984), comparing US and Indian subjects, suggested that Indians preferred allocating more on the basis of the need rule than US subjects. Pandey and Singh (1997), in a series of studies, suggested that importance of merit or need was dependent on the context of allocation. A strong research programme on distributive justice in reward allocation within the Indian context (Krishnan, 2000) has demonstrated that there are individual and cultural variations in what people consider to be fair. Socialization and cognitive-moral influences on preferences of justice rules have also been examined (Krishnan, 1999).
Environment and behaviour
Despite the fact that the environment-behaviour relationship has been a major thrust in the West, it has attracted attention of Indian social psychologists only recently. Pandey (1990) posited a close relationship between environment, culture, and behaviour. Some environmental issues have received greater attention. For example, crowding and its impact has been the research focus. In the 1980s and 1990s, some major research programmes in this area were conducted. Based on his research, Jain (1987) published a book on crowding and its consequences. A number of studies were conducted at Allahabad (Nagar & Pandey, 1987; Ruback & Pandey, 1991) to explore the environment-cognition-behaviour relationship. Another research programme on crowding, daily hassles, and coping was initiated at Pune University (Lepore, Evans, & Palsane, 1991). In the backdrop of frequent natural as well as man-made disasters, some studies have investigated the effects of such disasters. A series of studies focused on the famous Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984 (Misra, 1992). Recently Siddiqui and Pandey (2003) have reported on the role of environmental stressors on health.
Health beliefs and behaviour
In India, knowledge regarding health has its origin in the systems of Yoga and Ayurveda (traditional medicine), both of which stress the harmony between mind and body. Although the role of social sciences in health care was recognized much earlier, research in this area has picked up in the last decade. In the first two surveys there were only a few references related to physical health issues. Mental health, however, had been widely studied. In the third survey, physical health received coverage under the chapter on Applied Social Psychology (R. C. Tripathi, 1988a). A number of researchers have concentrated on the study of religious beliefs, yoga, and indigenous healing traditions. Stressors and coping with them in various social contexts have also attracted the attention of researchers. Dalal (1988) proposed a cognitive model of psychological recovery positing a relationship of interdependence between causal attribution and perception of control and found support for the model in his studies. Some attempts have been made to develop cultural and behavioural intervention strategies that would facilitate the recovery process but still much needs to be done to develop a scientific framework. Another research concern has been the study of the physically disabled and their rehabilitation. Although health is a rapidly growing interdisciplinary research area, we are yet to utilize the vast repertoire of Indian traditional knowledge and health practices that can help in promoting good health.
Social values and development
From Independence to the present day, the nation's development has been at the top of the agenda of successive governments in India. This concern gets reflected in the various social psychology research programmes. A close link between social values and the process of development is well documented by D. Sinha and Kao (1988). The relationship of Hindu religion with personality and attitudinal and behavioural patterns and their association with economic development has been the focus of these investigations. The cultural diversity of India is not without a cultural mosaic, consisting of sharing of dispositions, values, and a common outlook to life, making the core of the Indian psyche (D. Sinha, 1988). In a systematic study of middle-class values, J.B.P. Sinha and his associates (J.B.P. Sinha & Sinha, 1974) have identified a set of values that, by and large, are inimical to development. J. B. P. Sinha (1988) has argued for utilization of the existing values, reinterpreting them so as to make them conducive to development. D. Sinha (1988) has suggested identification of values that may be regarded as functional to development as well as those that are dysfunctional for national development. R. C. Tripathi (1988b) made a plea for aligning values to development and emphasized the need to increase the capacities of developing societies by focusing on their own culture-specific values and objectives. Research on individualism and collectivism has identified collectivism as a dominant Indian orientation and examined its relationship within the development process (Verma, 1992). The possibility of using aspects of collectivism—e.g., in-group solidarity—for effective work behaviour and development has also been suggested.
CURRENT TRENDS IN SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY RESEARCH
In the most recent fourth survey, Psychology in India revisited: Developments in the discipline (Pandey, 2000a, 2001, 2004), 8 out of 18 chapters focus on diverse aspects of social behaviour and processes. The topics covered are language behaviour and processes, health psychology, gender issues, attitude, social cognition and justice, social values, psychological dimensions of poverty and deprivation, ethnic minority identity, and environment and behaviour. The various topics covered certainly indicate that the canvas of research interests of social psychologists is expanding and the topics are unquestionably of contemporary relevance. Dominance of applied orientation in social psychology research is also perceptible and some good examples can be identified.
Another resource to evaluate the current status of the discipline of social psychology is the ICSSR-sponsored Indian Psychological Abstracts and Reviews—a semi-annual journal edited by Prof. B. N. Puhan and published by Sage since 1994. This journal also publishes a review article in each issue covering different areas of psychology. From 1994 to 2003, out of the 19 published review articles, 12 relate to different domains of social behaviour: social cognition, leadership and power, polarization, environmental issues and environmental pollution, morality, values, and ethical behaviour. This demonstrates the popularity and productivity of social psychology. There are several reasons for this trend. Many Indian psychologists who had their initial training in experimental areas later moved to social psychology. This change took place due to poor lab facilities and the compelling nature of social problems requiring scientific study. An apt example is D. Sinha, who was trained under Bartlett and later conducted and published research on social phenomenon like rumours (D. Sinha, 1952) and villages in transition (D. Sinha, 1969). Another reason, perhaps, was the ease of conducting social psychology research. Unlike research in other areas, where expensive and sophisticated laboratory facilities and equipments were needed, social psychology research generally does not require all this; it is probably more “do-able.” The main impetus for social psychological research in developing countries originates from the glaring nature of social problems. New socioeconomic and developmental challenges arise from time to time, attracting the attention of social psychologists. Cultural diversity, plurality, human rights issues, social and distributive justice, child labour, gender discrimination and violence against women, and enhancing social capital are concerns of paramount importance in democratic and civil societies. Social psychology fits well with these values and traditions. Thus, one may argue that democratic sociopolitical context promotes and facilitates development of social research. The Indian sociopolitical context has largely determined the issues studied by the social psychologists. The impetus for Gardener Murphy's (1953) In the minds of men originated from the social-political context, viz., partition and its aftermath, which forced social psychologists to understand communal hatred and violence. Similarly, many of the contemporary concerns in social psychology research, distributive-social justice, ethnic identity and intergroup relations, poverty and deprivation, environmental concerns, health issues, gender, values, and development arise from the prevailing sociopolitical-economic concerns in a democratic society. The nature of social reality is constructive and dynamic, and is constantly influenced by ongoing debates. In civil, democratic Indian society, debates on the priorities of socioeconomic and political construction and reconstruction are ongoing. A contextually rooted and sensitive social psychology, therefore, has to be responsive to such debates and ever-changing social conditions.
CRITICAL ISSUES RELATED TO DEVELOPMENT OF THE DISCIPLINE
Issue of relevance
Social psychology research in the country has had its own share of concerns and dilemmas. One must admit at this point that from time to time certain issues have been raised and addressed by social psychologists. One such frequently raised issue is of relevance, well articulated by Pareek (1981). Relevance in itself may not explain much unless one also addresses the related issue, i.e., relevant to what? In other words, specification of the domain or context is necessary to enable one to address this issue. Relevance may have many referents such as individuals, groups, or society. One most obvious referent is the social context. No one would question, taking into account the topics being covered so far, that they are not relevant for society. One must also acknowledge that social processes and situational demands are in a process of constant flux. Hence, relevance of an issue changes due to variations in situation, which in turn is influenced by time and place. But relevance has a much broader meaning for Pareek; “relevance of a science can be defined as its sensitivity to and concern for a referent and its capability to respond to its needs, resulting in a better insight into the problems and a contribution to the search for solution” (1981, p. 805). Pareek treated relevance as a multidimensional concept and proposed several dimensions of relevance. Conceptual relevance refers to a need for a rigorous approach to theory building, integration of researches within the relevant framework, and models. Another aspect of relevance is related to the methodology of social psychology research, and this can be achieved by adopting a multimethod approach and innovations in research methodology. Social psychology should certainly have sociocultural and social relevance, as this would not only help in unravelling some of the complex realities of Indian society but would also have implications for social policy. Thus, these issues related to relevance placed new challenges before social psychologists, whose concerns were reflected in the “crises in social psychology.”
Issue of indigenization
The need to go beyond the Western mindset “swaraj of ideas” (Bhattacharya, 1954) was recognized and a vociferous call for innovative approaches and indigenous thinking was made. This led to extensive questioning of the Western psychological constructs and methods of understanding Indian reality, and initiated Indian social psychologists into a phase of indigenization (Misra & Mohanty, 2002). Appeals for indigenization were also raised from various other quarters. The disenchantment with positivist experimental methods, as well as the advances made in the field of cross-cultural psychology, and the very nature of social problems that plague Indian society, all created a need for problem oriented research—“research that emanates from, adequately represents and reflects back on the culture in which behaviour is studied” (Adair, Puhan, & Vohra, 1993, p. 150). Assessing the progress in indigenization of psychology in Indian research during the periods 1972–1974, 1978–1980, and 1984–1987, Adair et al. concluded that though not substantial, there were definite signs of indigenization emerging as a concern in the discipline.
Issue related to cultural context
The emphasis on indigenization is not just a concern specific to India, but making knowledge culturally embedded and appropriate is a concern shared by social psychologists worldwide (D. Sinha, 1997). Developments in social psychology in Europe have been quite distinctive, with greater emphasis on the social context that has been largely missing in American social psychology. Similarly, the multicultural milieu of Canadian society forced several social psychologists to argue for a social psychology that reflects the Canadian social reality. In many Asian countries social psychologists have accepted that the Western model fails to explain discrete values and characteristics of these societies, hence the need for indigenous models. This has led to emphasis on cultural variables in social behaviour. It is now widely agreed that the ecological, historical, religiophilosophical, political, and overall cultural contexts vary widely across and within societies to determine the world-view of their people. In the '90s, several approaches like ethnopsychology (Diaz-Guerrero, 1993), societal psychology (Berry, 1994), cultural psychology (Shweder & Sullivan, 1993), indigenous psychologies (Kim & Berry, 1993), and cross-cultural psychology (Berry, Poortinga, & Pandey, 1997) have emphasized one perspective or the other for the scientific study of psychological process and behaviour. These approaches have emphasized a knowledge base leading to sound comparative studies without the dominance of theories and epistemological tradition of a particular culture in search of psychological universals. These indigenous psychologies would certainly widen the database for the development of a universal psychology providing alternative perspectives and approaches for the study of psychological phenomenon (D. Sinha, 1997). As such, the present trend is to consider culture and social behaviour as being mutually related and influencing each other (Dalal & Misra, 2001). Thus, the nature of social psychology has been changing from acultural towards a culture-sensitive psychology.
FUTURE OF SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY IN INDIA: SOME CHALLENGES AND CONCERNS
Social psychology as a vibrant discipline is intimately linked with the social, political, and economic life of people. However, at this juncture some serious thinking is needed to make the discipline more relevant as well as to set an agenda for the future of social psychology in India.
The economic and industrial development in the last 55 years since Independence, the advances made in the fields of information technology, biotechnology, and health, have empowered the common man, but at the same time have widened the disparity between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots. As a consequence, poverty and deprivation, social disharmony, and mental health problems are on the rise. Although social psychology has been responsive to the social context, the multiplicity of these problems demands a more sensitive social psychology to deal with the changing contexts of life and circumstances of people. A more empathic attitude and proactive orientation is needed in place of the dispassionate approach to research displayed so far.
Although social psychology in India has been advantaged in comparison to Euro-American social psychology in terms of the varied nature of samples that have been studied, it has still been “urbancentric.” There is a need to widen the database; 70% of the total population that is rural is hardly represented in most research. Similarly the marginalized sections of the population and their behaviour patterns have not been adequately represented in research. Social psychologists have yet to grapple with cultural and subcultural diversities and focus on them systematically. The critical social psychology perspective (Ibanez & Iniguez, 1997), which has recently emerged as a dominant force, offers one such approach for analysis of power inequities in societies. This critical perspective, which views current social practices through the historical and contextual lens (Wetherell & Potter, 1992), may provide social psychologists in India with a blueprint for the analysis of the marginalized sectors of society. For example, if you are interested in the study of gender discrimination or caste prejudice, you should take into account the history, institutional practices and social structures, and embedded social attitudes. The critical and empowering perspective has been missing in social psychological research in this country. Such a perspective is necessary for social psychology to be more relevant and socially responsive.
The very nature of social issues is complex and demands an interdisciplinary approach. There is also a need to broaden the scope of inquiry by taking into account both societal and individual variables. Being confined to either individual or societal level variables limits the possibilities of complete analysis. One has to go beyond the boundaries of the discipline so that the complexities of the social reality can be grappled with. In the past, the focus has been more on individual level variables. There is a need to focus both on individual as well as systemic and structural variables, to enable both macro and micro understanding of social reality.
Over the years, powerful arguments have been made for the role of social psychology in policy formulation and planning. But our contribution to policy formulation is still negligible. In a society with scarce resources, research without practical outcomes will not be considered meaningful. It is therefore important for social psychological research to be relevant to society. Social psychologists in India need to consider how their research can contribute more to policy formulation. To increase the relevance of social psychology research, multiplism (Cook, 1985) as a strategy should be considered. Multiplism means the use of multiple methodologies; planned research programmes based on multiple interconnected studies. The synthesis of findings of multiple studies related to each other, covering various aspects of problems in a real context, make the findings meaningful for policy implementation. Multiplism is likely to widen the horizon and enrich the range of social psychology discourse and research. Social psychology in India, as has been repeatedly pointed out, lacks programmatic research. Even if it is seen in some cases, it seems to be confined to individual researchers or departments. Programmatic research would be more useful if researchers at different places would address the same problem (R. Singh, 1988), thereby ultimately facilitating the emergence of a paradigm.
A number of international collaborative research projects can be identified over the past eight decades. Most of the early collaborative research was simply testing Western theories in the Indian context. This type of collaboration was largely disapproved of by the academic community because it was suggestive of Western dominance. In the later periods, this led to a new concept of collaborative research, in which researchers joined as co-equals right from the planning up to the publication stage. These ideals of collaboration have been hard to sustain due to realities of inequality in resources, service conditions, and working conditions. For example, sabbatical leave and grants for international travel and research are available (with some effort) to a Western partner but not to a collaborative colleague from a developing country. The outcome of such collaboration is bound to result in favour of the Western partner causing frustration to the Indian colleague. There is a need to give a fresh look to the nature of collaborative research. Now that we have reached a stage where social psychology is a mature discipline in the country, as evinced from the significant advances in the field, we see a necessity to make fervent efforts for increased collaboration within the country. Examples of successful national-level collaborative research of high quality on relevant topics like normative predictions of people's intentions and behaviours and societal and organizational cultures are provided by J. B. P. Sinha and his co-workers located in various parts of India. The collaborators facilitated sample representation from a vast country like India (J. B. P. Sinha et al., in press; J. B. P. Sinha, Vohra, Singhal, Sinha, & Ushashree, 2002). Thus, the need of the hour is to feel confident, to recognize our strength, and to move forward with determination to build a contextually relevant scientific social psychology. To achieve this, of course, we need to have many centres of active researchers, developing into hubs around the country, attracting national and international collaborators for quality research.
Preparation of this report was supported by the Centre of Advanced Study, Department of Psychology, Allahabad University, Allahabad.
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