These books are a four-volume set of collected articles that were put together from the Blackwell Handbooks of Social Psychology. The editors suggest that whereas the original handbooks represented a simple list of topical areas, they wanted to "reflect more closely the complex pattern of cross-cutting theoretical perspectives and research agenda that comprise social psychology as a dynamic enterprise". In other words, they wanted to put together articles that they felt belonged together and were interconnected in four primary areas: applied social psychology, emotion and motivation, social cognition, and self and social identity.
The first volume of this collection, Applied Social Psychology, is broken into three parts: mental and physical health, law and politics, and business and organisational behaviour. The contributors to this volume are leading academics, and the chapters are, on balance, very informative and well written. The problem is that it is difficult to see how they are interconnected in the way the editors envisaged. As standalone chapters they are fine, but there is neither an integrating chapter at the beginning nor one at the end of the volume, bar the inadequate one-page introductions in this book and the other three in the series.
Emotion and Motivation is divided into two parts: affect and emotions, and social motivation. The individual chapters are more intrinsically integrated in both sections, but the volume suffers from not having an integrative chapter. The contributions are interesting, useful and written by leading scholars, but they are let down slightly by the lack of an integrating or conceptual framework.
Social Cognition is subdivided into cognitive representations of the social world, and cognition in social interaction. Again, we have leading scholars, with some natural interconnectedness but no material to contextualise or interface the contributions.
The final volume, Self and Social Identity, incorporates self and identity, and group identities. The chapters that were subsumed in each of the sections fit together nicely, but it is a pity that the boundaries and the future of the research agenda in these areas have not been drawn out.
These volumes are not really textbooks, but they could be used by postgraduate students in social psychology and by final-year students doing advanced work on particular specialised topics, particularly in subject areas that are covered by the last three of these volumes. The material is very well written and interesting, and contributors are of the highest order.
If the pieces had been properly integrated, the books could have served as an edited textbook for advanced undergraduates.
As the series stands, research-oriented postgraduates, prospective academics and scholars will find it useful. As an undergraduate textbook, however, it does not quite work.
This is a pity because the material is innovative and highly readable.
Cary L. Cooper is professor of organisational psychology and health, Lancaster University.
Applied Social Psychology
Editor - Marilynn B. Brewer and Miles Hewstone
Publisher - Blackwell
Pages - 357
Price - £19.99
ISBN - 1 4051 1067 8