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Social Psychology And Social Change in NigeriaA Systematic Evaluation of Government Social Policies and Programs
By Denis Chima E. Ugwuegbu
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Denis Chima E. Ugwuegbu
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Chapter OneSocial Psychology and Underdevelopment
An international conference in social psychological research in developing countries was held at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, from December 29, 1966, through January 5, 1967. As the author wrote somewhere else (Ugwuegbu, 2001, p. 23), the overall purpose of the conference was to advance social psychology research in the developing countries, as well as to discuss the relevance of social psychology to problems of national development. The world's social psychology heavyweights were involved with organizing the conference. Herbert Kelman of the University of Michigan was chair for the conference, while Henri Tajfel of Oxford University and Brewster Smith of the University of California, Berkeley served as co-chairs. Thomas A. Lambo, a social psychiatrist who was by then the provost of the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, headed the Nigerian committee in the conference. Approximately 56 delegates and an equal number of observers from some 25 nations attended the conference and participated in a series of discussions on problems of national development and social change (Kelman, 1968; Hefner and DeLamater, 1968; Smith, 1968). There was no social psychologist in the Nigerian delegation, because Nigeria had not produced any at that time. Also, only one institution of higher learning, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, offered concentration in general psychology at the time. However, the Ibadan conference was significant in creating awareness for the importance of psychology in general and, in particular, for social psychology in the underdeveloped world.
The overall objective of the Ibadan conference was to encourage and promote research on the psychological aspects of social change and development and to enhance international social psychology research efforts through collaboration, coordination, research training, and scientific communication. The underlying assumption of the conference objective is that individual and collective behaviors of people in the underdeveloped countries are associated with the rate of social and economic development in the society. Consequently, social psychology has potentially important contributions to make in the area of social change in the underdeveloped countries. Unfortunately, the objectives of the Ibadan conference were not achieved. Critics point out that the conference was not staged out of a sincere interest in advancing social psychology for the benefit of the underdeveloped nations. Rather, it was said that the conference was partially a strategy designed by Western social scientists to restore the endangered credibility of social sciences in the world, following the humiliation of Project Camelot. Since the Ibadan conference, a number of symposia and workshops have been organized at different international congresses of applied psychology, beginning with Liege (1971), Montreal (1974), Edinburgh (1982), and Madrid (1994). A unique aspect of the Edinburgh conference was its focus on the role of psychological knowledge in the understanding of the problems of underdeveloped countries. The International Association of Applied Psychology has since then organized a separate division of psychology and national development, partly to attempt to make amends for the lack of tangible meaningful contributions that was being made by social psychology to the developing countries.
Several scholarly journal publications by many influential social psychologists, including Durganand Sinha (1973, 1989), Jahoda (1973, 1983), Hefner and DeLamater (1968), and an extensive book of reading by Frank Blackler (1983), in addition to two international journals, are the leading publications in the area. Hefner and DeLamater (1968) maintain that underdeveloped countries face the problems of industrialization, economic development, and the changing of traditional social institutions, such as stratification and power mechanisms in order to facilitate rather than inhibit modernization. The insinuation in this type of reasoning is that tradition and social stratification in the underdeveloped countries are inhibitive of development. Such argument is basically derived from the old colonial perception and misunderstanding of the causes of underdevelopment in the third world. In spite of such drumbeat opinions, social psychologists have come to the realization that their science has some contributions to make to developing countries and that psychology cannot fully attain the status of a full science without substantial research input from the underdeveloped countries of the world. In dealing with the problems of development, social psychology has advantages no other social science discipline has, namely, its rich concepts and techniques, which prove successful in dealing with social environment institutions, organizations, group influences, and the individual. Another advantage, according to Jahoda (1973), is that the term "development" is already assumed in psychology. Social psychology deals with the whole individual and her environment, her web of social interactions, cognition, values, attitudes, expectations, motivation, and beliefs. Any significant change in these individual variables will indeed result in social and economic changes. LeVine (1966, p.1), who was in Nigeria after its independence and before the Nigeria-Biafra War, agrees with the role assigned to social psychology in the understanding of underdevelopment. In an introduction to his book, Dreams and Deeds: Achievement Motivation in Nigeria, he wrote:
It has become increasingly clear that a high rate of economic development in a country cannot be guaranteed by the presence of abundant natural resources, capital and even manpower. Consequently, serious attention has been paid to the suggestion that psychological and particularly motivational factors may be importantly involved in rapid social and economic development.
Under the leadership of Durganand Sinha (1973), social psychology in India has been applied to problems of underdevelopment. Studies in India outlined topic issues that should be of concern to social psychology in the underdeveloped countries. These include problems associated with modernization, developmental problems associated with motivation, socialization processes, and national character. Others are problems associated with communication and diffusion of innovation, problems of leadership, education, and the promotion of creativity and innovation. Social psychology, according to Sinha, should study the processes that encourage changes in social structure, increase in national identity, youth unrest and identity, and the adoption of technology. Gustav Jahoda (1973) suggests that social psychologists may study these topics through descriptive, relational, and experimental methods of inquiry. Of these methods, Jahoda favors the descriptive approach, which he indicates provides a benchmark against which social changes that are occurring in a given environment can be assessed. He maintains that in addition to the traditional area of psychological technology, which includes educational and vocational selection services widely provided by psychology and received by developing countries, social psychology should concentrate its attention on behavior and attitude change, including adoption of improved farming methods, birth control, and the broadening of loyalties from ethnic and regional subgroups to the country as a whole. In an earlier writing, Ugwuegbu (1986, p.7) indicates that there are two components in the process of social change and socioeconomic development. Change, he insists, involves modification of the social structure, including institutions, and the modification of the person. The latter includes modification of the individual's personal variables, such as behavior, attitudes, motivation, values, intentions, beliefs, and expectations. Often the modification of institutions and social structures that support those personal variables may not be within the reach of the social psychologists to change, but opportunities are created for psychological intervention whenever a national government is designing social, political, and economic policies, where human behaviors are implicated. The modification of physical and social institutions in a particular society is a political decision and a responsibility that may often require social psychology input to effectuate.
Social psychology did not embrace the problems of underdevelopment early enough when compared to other social science disciplines in Africa. The reason for this fact is historical. One explanation is that the traditional ethos of psychology as reflected in the International Labor Organization (ILO) 1969 Standard Classification of Occupation does not include social change and development as within the traditional role of the science of psychology. Social psychology developed in the United States, which, until recently, was a racially stratified society. Some earlier generations of social psychological research works were aimed at justifying and sustaining the unfortunate racial stratification. When colonial European researchers and their counterparts from the United States finally brought social psychology research to Africa, their research interest was centered on categorization of characteristics and comparison of African characteristics against those of the Europeans and the white Southern African population. Until the Ibadan conference, psychology limited the study of development to the level of the individual. Developmental psychology studied the physical, mental, and biological development of infants from inception up to, and including, the adolescence stage.
Like general psychology, social psychology is an elitist discipline. It prefers the company of the middle class and executives to that of the working class. It works with company and union executives, rather than the rank and file. It developed tests to separate and classify people in terms of their levels of intelligence, motivation, and skills without any consideration as to the factors responsible for such differences among people (Ugwuegbu, 2001). When the history of social psychology is considered, as well as the techniques it employs and the type of technologies it has developed, it becomes clearer why the underdeveloped countries and communities were of no interest to early Euro-American social psychologists, except of course, as Jahoda (1973, 1983) observed, that colonial social psychology gained advantages from the underdeveloped countries of Africa, Asia, and South America without contributing any tangible benefit in return to any of these continents and their peoples.
The Social Sciences and Underdevelopment
The discipline of economics has always been at the forefront of the study of economic development. It has contributed to our understanding, or lack thereof, of the concept of development. Consequently, many governments in Africa regard the discipline of economics as being equivalent to economic development. In these countries, national economic planning, management, and implementation are confidently entrusted to those with schooling in the discipline of economics, who, in turn, apply Western economic theories, principles, paradigms, and models without regard to the personality of the African people or their cultural and historical context or values. Economics also succeeded in grafting onto the countries of the third world impressive theories and isolated important concepts such as gross national product, gross domestic product, and income per capita. These concepts served as building blocks with which economics constructed elaborate and impressive theories of development, including formula for predicting the rate of economic development of a given nation. According to economics, gross national product (GNP) is the total value of goods and services produced by a given country during a specified time period, such as a year. Gross domestic product (GDP), on the other hand, is gross national product minus the net income the nation earned abroad. Income per capita is defined as the average level of income for a person in a given society. The quotient is obtained by dividing a country's gross domestic product by the total population. The economists' handling of development is being criticized because up till today, one does not know precisely what the concept of development means, except in comparison of one country with another. As Sophie Oluwole (1997) puts it, levels of social development are assessed in terms of how much a nation has and what amount of power it possesses. Income per capita does not actually represent income distribution in a country. Secondly, in the underdeveloped countries, it is not easy to assemble the requisite statistics indicated by economic theories from the formal and the informal markets to determine correctly the gross domestic and the gross national products. The strongest argument against the use of the gross domestic product as a measure of a nation's well-being is credited to Robert Kennedy in a presidential primary election campaign address he delivered in 1968. According to him:
Gross domestic product measure does not include the health of a country's children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of their songs and poetry, or the strength of their marriages, the intelligence of their public debate or the integrity of their public officials. Gross domestic product, according to this argument, measures neither the courage of a nation, nor their wisdom, nor their devotion to their country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile, and it can tell us everything about a country except why people are proud to be citizens of their country.
Dissatisfaction with the classical economics' treatment of the concept of development has led to specification of additional necessary variables in order to formulate a more robust theory. Variables such as infant mortality rate, life expectancy, nutrition levels, educational opportunities, openness to trade, and availability of communications infrastructure that have been admitted as important variables that may have a significant impact on the social and economic growth of a nation. Morris (1979) developed the Physical Quality of Life Index (PQLI) for measuring national development but concluded that such an index is difficult because it involves comparing very different societies (Barnett, 1988, p. 180). He suggested that a good measure of development must not assume only one pattern of development. It must not assume that the values of development are the same in all societies. A reliable measure of development should emphasize outputs or results, rather than inputs. For example, how many people can read and write and how much has been spent on education? The measure should reflect the distribution of social benefits and should not rely on simple mean averages, which may hide gulf differences in benefits between individuals in the society. Finally, it should facilitate the comparison between countries and regions of countries. Since it is practically impossible to find a measure that meets these conditions, Morris (1979) settled with life expectancy, infant mortality at age one, and adult literacy as indicators of the index of development. The arithmetic mean score on the three variables for a country is that country's PQLI index. The application of the term "quality of life" has been called a misnomer, since what is being measured is really effectiveness in reducing mortality and raising literacy (Hicks, Streeten, and Jolly, 1981). The same argument holds that life expectancy measures the quantity, not the quality of life. Human needs are mostly psychological but the Physical Quality of Life Index measures psychological needs through non-psychological variables.
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Table of Contents
ContentsList of Tables....................xi
List of Figures....................xiii
Social Psychology and Underdevelopment....................27
Formal Schooling and Ethnic Attitude....................63
Institutional Restructuring for Ingroup Extension....................87
Chasing Values for National Development....................129
Social Research Poll in Nigeria....................169
Attitude to the Nigeria Police and Military Coups: Talking Back to Military Dictators....................227
Environmental Sanitation: Attitude to Sustainable Environment....................291
Evaluation, Recommendation, and Implementation Strategy....................349