Thus, any conversation about theories-in-use is avoided. Argyris and Schon identify this as the “self-sealing” nature of theories-in-use. These theories are non-discussable: we can’t talk about them or don’t see any reason to talk about that which is “obvious”. When you add together the “self-fulfilling” and “self-sealing” dynamics inherent in our theories-in-use, we see how powerful these theories can be and how resistant they are either to inspection or change. We continue to live comfortably with our espoused theories and close the door on our theories in use.
Why bring up this piece of social psychological and organizational change theory? Because it is directly relevant to the concept of social construction. I propose that theories-in-use are often influenced (perhaps determined) by dominant social constructions. While our espoused theories may be based on the book we have just read or lecture we have just attended, our theories-in-use are likely to be informed by much deeper, and much less explicit, constructions of reality.
Basis of Social Construction III: Paradigms, Models and Practices
I offer one other perspective regarding the social construction of reality—a perspective (like the other two) that I will introduce spe3cifically in my analysis of the assumptive worlds of psychopathy. This third perspective is derived from the highly influential, historical framework offered by Thomas Kuhn (1962) in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Without going into details regarding Kuhn’s revolutionary analysis of revolutions, we can cut directly to the chase: Kuhn proposed that most scientific work (particularly in the physical sciences) is based on an underlying paradigm. Kuhn was one of the first to use this term. It has now become widely (and often inappropriately) used. Kuhn has himself been accused of using the word “paradigm” in multiple ways and has contributed to the confusion regarding this important word. Paradigm refers, in essence, to a community or cluster of ideas, practices, standards, criteria (who can sit at the table), institutional allegiances – and assumptions.
A revolution occurs when the dominant paradigm in a particular science is overturned—to be replaced by an alternative paradigm that does a better job of addressing what Kuhn calls anomalies. These anomalies are phenomena in a specific scientific domain that are not understood, explained or amendable to either prediction or control when the current paradigm is applied. Anomalies are first ignored and are often addressed only by those members of this particular scientific community who are marginalized because of gender, location, race, ethnicity or social-economic status. These marginalized players often lack the credentials or sufficient prestige to be taken seriously by the mainstream of a scientific community.