Participatory research has forever been a significant part of psychology. Researchers have over time immersed themselves in cultures with a desire to understand their behaviors. The effects can be significant – we all know that observation is integral to any true understanding of phenomena, therefore what better way to understand societal or human behavior, than through immersing one’s self in that particular society. The consequences can be great – such as understanding why certain cultures have a predilection for violence (Wilson, 2010). But the problem with participatory research is that at times in group bias can occur – researchers immerse themselves in a group and unfortunately come to sympathize with the group and stop being objective to the detriment of the study and this can of course have ethical complications when they attempt to make changes within the present culture – this is known as Activist research.
Social change research has a bevy of benefits that can extend from the fact that there is a humanist need to better society. There is mass suffering with regard to things such as bullying, domestic violence. Social change research involves being actively involved in research that affects such sort of change (Langhaut.D, 2011). There was an active study wherein researchers hung out with children to speak to them, immerse themselves in their worlds to understand how they interact, why they behave as they do how their emotions factor into their decisions. From this they can create intervention strategies that can better the lives of students. Such as empowering bullies who are victims of bullying. They can get into a victims world, understand via key indicators – triggers that make kids hit others and that sort of thing.
In 2012 I went to visit my cousins in Zimbabwe – it had been a long time since I’d traveled there. They live in an affluent part of the country and as such, things were generally similar to what I experience in the United States. But I was also supposed to go an visit the more rural parts of the country later on, I’d told my mother that I’d read that there was a part of the country called Binga and it was very culturally backward. There was a missionary group from a local church that was going and they’d organized the entire trip basically. I remember being absolutely in shock when we reached Binga – a place seemingly forgotten my all manner of modernization. It was a very religious place, girls were still married at 12 years of age per historical practice, and there was no such thing as women’s rights. Being in the midst of such conditions moved something within me, I had a longing to change the way things were, to report what I felt was a gross violation of human rights as girls were being married off to older men. But upon actually interacting with these people, I became aware that this was the established culture – the girls I spoke to seemed happy to be married, they loved their husbands (Although this might have been a show for my benefit). It all seemed rather insidious at first but moved toward innocuous with time. This is an example of in group bias – I started making excuses for their behavior, even though the nation’s laws say that 16 is the age of consent. A parallel can be drawn between my behavior and people who make excuses for child marriage advocates in Nigeria (http://www.icrw.org, 2014).
Langhout, R.D. (2011). Facilitating the development of social change agents. Human Development, 54, 339-342.
Wilson, E.O. (2010). On Human Nature. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.