Academic Assault on a “Straw Man”

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Originally published in Contemporary Psychology: APA Review of Books, 1979, Vol 24(5), 392–393. Reviews the book, In Search for Community: Encounter Groups and Social Change edited by Kurt W. Back (see record 1980-01532-000). The papers in this volume were presented originally in symposia at the annual meetings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science–three in 1971 and four in 1977. A cursory examination of that volume reveals that the field of social practice (oversimply named “encounter groups” in the symposium under review) is by no means innocent of continuing social experimentation and research. It is puzzling that respected social scientists have attempted to interpret and assess an extensive development in applied behavioral science with little evidence that they have examined its published research and theoretical literature. The puzzlement grows when the various characterizations that the authors make of encounter groups are contrasted with the self-reported purposes of the developers of laboratory methods. The reviewer offers speculations as hypotheses for joint consideration by both “basic” and “applied” social scientists, should they wish to bridge the gap between them–the gap so exquisitely documented by the book under review. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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