In this post: A social science about what could be, I said that social science is often aimed at identifying differences, associations, patterns and mechanisms in the real world as it is. Sometimes, this makes it a conservative force. I made a plea for a social science about what could be. This wasn't entirely original of me, several people have argued the same before I did. One of them is Ellen Langer, who has just published the book Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility. In it, she makes the case for what she calls The Psychology of Possibility. So if you liked my post, you might like the book, too. Here are a few quotes:
"Knowing what is and knowing what can be are not the same thing. [...] My research has shown how using a different word, offering a small choice, or making a subtle change in the physical environment can improve our health and well-being. [...] [w]e all use pithy expressions such as "We won't know unless we try," but we don't realize how misleading they can be. I maintain that we may not know even if we try, because when we try and fail, al we know is that the way we tried was not successful. We still do not know that it can't be. [...] [t]he psychology of possibility is more positive, less evaluative, and more process-oriented than most personal and scientific research. [...] In the psychology of possibility, interpreting findings is also a different process. [...] only one participant is needed to prove that something is possible. [...] [e]xceptional cases become the focal point of the investigation. [...] What the naysayers know is only based on probabilities, which were deduced from a fixed view of what was studied. Just as we can't prove that something is so in advance of finding out, the naysayers can't prove that it is not possible.