Communication technology and social change: Theory and implications (2007) suggests that social change occurs after a major (and usually negative) event has taken place; usually in the form of an innovative idea meant to deal with the issue. Timing, as they say, is everything. Jensen and Wagoner (2009, p. 226) suggest note that “Partial adoption, resistance, conflict over resources, dynamism and contingency have always defined social and cultural change.” Examples of the cycle of social change suggested by Jensen and Wagoner (2009) include alcohol prohibition and psychoanalysis.

In fact, this social change cycle can be seen in the history of Psychology as a field. What one theory lacks, the next overcompensates for; there is resistance of ideas, reformation, and a re-presentation of the changed product for implication and continued scrutiny. When structuralism tried to break psychophysics down too excessively, it gave way to the more broad functionalism. However, functionalism only sought to explain ‘normal’ human behavior; Freud manufactured explanations for abnormal behaviors. When psychoanalysis was too subjective, behaviorism looked at only what could be actively observed. Gestalt recognized the need for both observable and cognitive processes, but didn’t have any suggestions for how to make it possible. And cognitive psychology argued that subjects can learn and behavior of their own volition. (Petraitis, personal communication, January – April 2011)

As with paradigm shifts within the field of Psychology, social change is the culmination of norms which have been questioned, reviewed, reformatted, and beta tested (so to speak). While the delivery method of the message is important, in order for a change to be effective and received, the zeitgeist and ortgeist must be right. If there is no need for change at a particular time or place, the change will be resisted.


Communication technology and social change: Theory and implications (2007). In Lin C. A., Atkin D. J. (Eds.), . Mahwah, NJ, US: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/621547613?accountid=10868

Jensen, E., & Wagoner, B. (2009). Continuing commentary: A cyclical model of social change. Culture & Psychology15 (2), 217-228 doi:10.1177/1354067X08099624

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