Ken recently gave the local friday afternoon school seminar in St Andrews. The title of the talk was “The person categorisation heresies: Persons AS categories, and implications for a unified theory of social categorisation”.
St Andrews is an ideal place for us to pursue this work, given the great intellectual atmosphere and intellectual interest shared across discipline boundaries.
Social psychology has largely seen categorisation as a process applying to collections of people and contrasted with “individuation”, implying that somehow social perception could in principle be category free. By contrast, we argue (following Bruner, and Turner et al.,) that all (social) perception is based on categorisation. We argue that “persons” are also categories, and on the basis of this apparently heretical insight we argue that the field of social perception has maintained a number of unfortunate confounds and artefacts, and has also failed to benefit from parallels to be drawn between nominally disparate phenomena. Some examples will be drawn from impression formation, face perception, social memory, and self-complexity. Taken together, these examples, and the theoretical position behind them, challenge our intuitive views about who we are and what it means to be a “person”.