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Towards a General Theory of Social Psychology: Understanding Human Cruelty, Human Misery, and, Perhaps, a Remedy (A Theory of the Socialization Process) Perfect Paperback – November 7, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

Review

Based on the concepts and methodologies of socialization theory the author looks at the 'role that social influence plays in motivating unethical action' (p.14). Treynor presents a detailed analysis of literature on socialization theory and poses what she calls foundational questions about self esteem, group attitudes and theory to consider the theme of 'why good people might engage in ''evil'' acts' (p. 18). In a series of short chapters the author posits definitions, assumptions and propositions and intersperses this with detailed symbolic equations in relation to socialization theory. This tends to make this a book for a specialist but she does come to an important conclusion about the way in which acceptance and love are basic and fundamental issues in relation to socialization. ---Journal of Analytical Psychology

No one is a perfect saint. ''Towards a General Theory of Social Psychology: Understanding Human Cruelty, Human Misery, and Perhaps a Remedy'' is a psychological treatise from Wendy Treynor who tries to answer the question of why people so often turn cruel, when in general they are usually helpful, good people. Discussing peer pressure and its effects, which could explain the mindset of a soldier committing an atrocity due to orders from above, Treynor presents many intriguing ideas about the human mind and how most people tend to behave. ''Towards a General Theory of Social Psychology'' is a highly intriguing and entertaining read, sure to give both psychology students and non-specialist general readers much to think about. ---James Cox, Editor-in-Chief of the Midwest Book Review

Ostentatious title aside, ''Towards a General Theory of Social Psychology: Understanding Human Cruelty, Human Misery, and, Perhaps, a Remedy (A Theory of the Socialization Process)'' is a strong, insightful offering from an ambitious young academic. Building on the work of the great American social psychologist Leon Festinger, author Wendy Treynor outlines a compelling theory of group dynamics that is both intuitive and science-minded. The core premises of Treynor's theory--namely, that people actively seek acceptance and avoid rejection, and that identification with one's social group is accompanied by the formation or dissolution of internal and external conflict--are based on well-documented social psychological principles. In a nutshell, she puts a new spin on Festinger's famous cognitive dissonance and social comparison theories, uniting their disparate elements under a single functional framework. Treynor, who holds a doctorate in Social Psychology from the University of Michigan, has clearly done her homework. Though strongly psychological in nature, her work touches on concepts from a wide variety of areas, including behavioral economics, mathematics, and philosophy. For the most part, Treynor's ideas are simple ones, and though she describes this simplicity as her theory's biggest limitation, I strongly disagree. In this case, simplicity is an advantage. Like lumbering dinosaurs crashing down under their own enormity, the era of ''grand theories'' in psychology has long since passed. All too often, it is the simplest of theoretical propositions--the humble ''microtheories'' that can best endure the harsh scrutiny of the scientific research community. Simple is good. Despite its many strengths, ''Towards a General Theory of Social Psychology'' is not without flaws. Though she writes clearly, Treynor's style often inhabits a grey area somewhere between ivory (as in ''towers'') and purple (as in ''prose''). Casual readers will likely be intimidated by the book's overall lack of descriptive examples, while academic readers may find its concluding pages needlessly fluffy, as Treynor waxes philosophical on issues of love, morality, and spirituality. With that said, Treynor is not the first scientist-turned-author t --Reviewed by Ali Neshati for Reader Views

No one is a perfect saint. ''Towards a General Theory of Social Psychology: Understanding Human Cruelty, Human Misery, and Perhaps a Remedy'' is a psychological treatise from Wendy Treynor who tries to answer the question of why people so often turn cruel, when in general they are usually helpful, good people. Discussing peer pressure and its effects, which could explain the mindset of a soldier committing an atrocity due to orders from above, Treynor presents many intriguing ideas about the human mind and how most people tend to behave. ''Towards a General Theory of Social Psychology'' is a highly intriguing and entertaining read, sure to give both psychology students and non-specialist general readers much to think about. ---James Cox, Editor-in-Chief of the Midwest Book Review

Ostentatious title aside, ''Towards a General Theory of Social Psychology: Understanding Human Cruelty, Human Misery, and, Perhaps, a Remedy (A Theory of the Socialization Process)'' is a strong, insightful offering from an ambitious young academic. Building on the work of the great American social psychologist Leon Festinger, author Wendy Treynor outlines a compelling theory of group dynamics that is both intuitive and science-minded. The core premises of Treynor's theory--namely, that people actively seek acceptance and avoid rejection, and that identification with one's social group is accompanied by the formation or dissolution of internal and external conflict--are based on well-documented social psychological principles. In a nutshell, she puts a new spin on Festinger's famous cognitive dissonance and social comparison theories, uniting their disparate elements under a single functional framework. Treynor, who holds a doctorate in Social Psychology from the University of Michigan, has clearly done her homework. Though strongly psychological in nature, her work touches on concepts from a wide variety of areas, including behavioral economics, mathematics, and philosophy. For the most part, Treynor's ideas are simple ones, and though she describes this simplicity as her theory's biggest limitation, I strongly disagree. In this case, simplicity is an advantage. Like lumbering dinosaurs crashing down under their own enormity, the era of ''grand theories'' in psychology has long since passed. All too often, it is the simplest of theoretical propositions--the humble ''microtheories'' that can best endure the harsh scrutiny of the scientific research community. Simple is good. Despite its many strengths, ''Towards a General Theory of Social Psychology'' is not without flaws. Though she writes clearly, Treynor's style often inhabits a grey area somewhere between ivory (as in ''towers'') and purple (as in ''prose''). Casual readers will likely be intimidated by the book's overall lack of descriptive examples, while academic readers may find its concluding pages needlessly fluffy, as Treynor waxes philosophical on issues of love, morality, and spirituality. With that said, Treynor is not the first scientist-turned-author to struggle with finding her author's voice. I am confident that, with time, she will get the balance right. All things considered, this book is not for everyone. It is a very specialized text that will only have limited appeal to readers unfamiliar with (or disinterested in) behavioral science. However, for those with the appropriate background, ''Towards a General Theory of Social Psychology'' is an intriguing and thought-provoking read. Treynor's theory is fresh, exciting, and doubtless far from complete... I eagerly look forward to seeing how her ideas develop in the near future. Highly recommended. ---Reviewed by Ali Neshati for Reader Views

About the Author

Wendy Treynor, Ph.D., is a happiness expert, psychologist, inspirational speaker, self-help author, and social scientist of love and happiness who has published on depression and emotion in peer reviewed journals. She received her Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She resides in Southern California, where she is founder and director of Healing Consulting.

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