Ideas emerging in science and philosophy rarely remain isolated within their home disciplines. Often they diffuse through popular science writing, journalism and art to wider audiences and become part of popular imagination (see Dawkins, 2006; Greene, 2012). Once they have taken root, through structuring perceptions of one’s self, others, society, and the natural world, these ideas may actively affect the ways in which human beings organize their lives and manage relationships with one another (cf. Gergen, 1973; Rose, 1998). This possibility has received some support from previous research in social psychology on the impacts of implicit theories (lay representations of how certain aspects of the world work) on individual attitudes and behaviour (e.g., Vohs & Schooler, 2008).
While previous research tended to focus mainly on implicit theories rooted in exposure to science and concerned with concepts studied by science, it is vital to extend these ideas in a number of ways. First, exposure to science is not the only basis for developing implicit theories, and it would be important to explore impacts of a wider array of implicit theories, including those not directly derived from science. Second, implicit theories are likely to have wider consequences than individual judgment – affecting public and socially significant behaviours, such as collective action or support for social change. Finally, it is possible that individuals not only translate implicit theories through their behaviour, but also use them strategically to achieve particular social ends (e.g., to create perception of progress in a political context or justify maintenance of a status quo). The present project aims to address these gaps with a focus on lay theories of time. It will explore the following research questions: 1) What are implicit theories of time currently in use? 2) How are they used in political discourse to achieve specific political ends? and 3) How do implicit theories of time affect behavioural choices in response to social disadvantage? The initial phase of the project will focus on exploring what theories of time are prevalent in a lay population. We will conduct an interview study to explore ways in which individuals represent time as a category in their everyday speech. The second phase of the project will focus on exploring the discursive deployment of particular implicit theories of time, and the rhetorical ends to which specific representations are put. To answer this question, we will conduct a discursive analysis of a body of public speeches by political leaders in Europe and the US during the last five years. In the final phase of the project we will explore how implicit theories of time affect individual behavioral choices, focusing in particular on responses to social disadvantage. We will experimentally manipulate exposure to various representations of time and salience of social disadvantage, and measure psychological outcomes of this exposure using established quantitative scales and behavioural measures (e.g., intentions to engage in collective action versus individual mobility in response to disadvantage).
This project will suit a candidate familiar with both qualitative and quantitative psychology research methods. Candidates with interest in philosophy are welcome.