Social Constructionism

We are meaning-makers and wired to make sense of our surroundings, be they objects, or events, or in the mind. We construct reality. 

When we study reality from this perspective, we focus on the language that people use to describe reality. Crossley (2008) states that these approaches have become popular in the last twenty years. Discourse analysis is one of the most popular social constructionist approaches within psychology. 

Social constructionist approaches to psychological research provide a critique of the realist assumptions of traditional psychological studies of self and identity. In such approaches, it is assumed that "the self" exists as an entity that can be discovered and described in much the same way as can any object in the natural or physical world. In a social constructionist view, the conceptualisation of the self is dependent on the language and linguistic practices that we use in our everyday lives to make sense of ourselves and other people. 

The social constructionist view holds that we are constantly and perpetually interpreting and changing the meaning of ourselves and other people's actions in accordance with our pracitcal and moral tasks. It is for this reason that the realist assumption about how we can describe ourselves as if there is some "pre-existent" self that is isolated from everyday interacitonal and interpretative contingencies is misguided. 

In social constructionism, the self is deconstructed. This can happen because the self is characterised by interpretation, variability, relativity, flux and difference. The central and unitary concept of self is abandoned by social constructionists. This is the case with Foucauldian Discourse Analysis.


Crossley, Michele (2007). Narrative analysis. In Evanthia Lyons and Adrian Coyle (Eds.). Analysing qualitative data in psychology. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications, pp. 131-144.