Wise Interventions: Psychological Remedies for Social and Personal Problems

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Long-standing social problems such as poor achievement, personal and intergroup conflict, bad health, and unhappiness can seem like permanent features of the social landscape. We describe an approach to such problems rooted in basic theory and research in social psychology. This approach emphasizes subjective meaning-making—working hypotheses people draw about themselves, other people, and social situations; how deleterious meanings can arise from social and cultural contexts; how interventions to change meanings can help people flourish; and how initial change can become embedded to alter the course of people’s lives. We further describe how this approach relates to and complements other prominent approaches to social reform, which emphasize not subjective meaning-making but objective change in situations or in the habits and skills of individuals. In so doing, we provide a comprehensive theoretical review and organization of a psychologically informed approach to social problems, one that encompasses a wide-range of interventions and applies to diverse problem areas.

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