Thursday, May 14, 2015


I have had recent occasions to make the case that all wisdom and what can be known as truth does not all come from the halls of academia.   Ordinary folks have a lot to contribute to the body of knowledge and should be studied by anyone trying to understand the human condition.  The trouble is that even when people say they are doing participatory research it turns out that they pick who is going to participate.  Folk psychology is widely debunked as not having any use in the scientific endeavor of understanding the human condition.  This is partly true because it has been given so many definitions.

Let me try this on you.  If by a true participatory research project, we studied what ordinary folks thought and had experienced about mind being more than just a function of their brain would it contribute anything to our understanding of the human condition?  Yes, is my answer.  The first reason it would is because we would not be starting with the prejudice of academia against the idea of the ages that there is something beyond our beings.

Breaking the linear mold of conventional research, participatory research focuses on a process of sequential reflection and action, carried out with and by local people rather than on them. Folk knowledge and perspectives are not only acknowledged but form the basis for research and planning. The key difference between participatory and conventional methodologies lies in the location of power in the research process. Participatory research raises personal, professional and political challenges which go beyond the bounds of the production of information.  To get to where we would want to be we would need to do the participatory research in several locations around the world in different cultures and among persons with varying economic statuses.

It is important to get what ordinary people know into the discussion rather than just take for gospel what is being said by academia.  Some would have you believe that “folk wisdom” is just a bunch of old sayings.  I want you to consider the possibility that folk psychologists doing pure participatory research could uncover real truths in the laboratory of real life from ordinary people living it under many different circumstances.   It would give better information than polls or interviews or therapy sessions where people have all sorts of agendas.  We should try folk psychology and participatory research.

© Ed Cooper, May 14, 2015, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
   All rights reserved

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