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More Examples, Less Theory


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Table of Contents

1. Introduction; 2. Locke and Shaftesbury: foster father and foster son; 3. Tucker and James: in the same stream of thought; 4. Freud: writing to reveal and conceal himself; 5. Lacan: an ego in pursuit of the ego; 6. Lewin: is there nothing as practical as a good example?; 7. Tajfel and Bernstein: the limits of theory; 8. Jahoda: the ultimate example; 9. Concluding remarks.

Promotional Information

By examining key psychologists from the past, this book shows why examples are so important and theory is over-valued.

About the Author

Michael Billig is Emeritus Professor of Social Sciences at Loughborough University. His previous books include Arguing and Thinking (Cambridge, 1987), Freudian Repression (Cambridge, 1999) and Learn to Write Badly (Cambridge, 2013). He received the Distinguished Contribution to Social Psychology Award from the British Psychological Society in 2010.


'In this highly readable work, Michael Billig makes a compelling argument that good examples do far more to advance and enliven theory than fancy jargon ever could. Students and seasoned writers of psychology will find inspiration in his engaging investigation into some of the most effective communicators in psychology's past.' Alexandra Rutherford, York University, Toronto
'A common tendency of psychologists is to describe phenomena through the lens of their own pre-existing theories, thus making phenomena resemble their theories rather than vice versa. In this book, Michael Billig argues for a fundamental reversal of psychology's methodological habits, emphasising the value of 'particularising' psychological insights through the use of richly detailed examples, thus subsuming the general within the specific rather than the opposite. It is a lesson that could invigorate psychology, underscoring how the use of concrete examples helps us see and empathise and remember in ways that theoretical accounts rarely do. Through various case studies, Billig shows how we can learn as well as teach by example.' David E. Leary, University of Richmond
'The truth is in the details, not in abstract theory. In his new book, Michael Billig shows us how examples can lead to a better understanding of psychological issues. Analysing the thinking and writing of eminent psychologists, he offers the reader a rich and intriguing alternative history of psychology.' Ruud Abma, Universiteit Utrecht, the Netherlands
'This thought-provoking and important book by one of the principal scholars in contemporary psychology and social science makes a strong case for investigating human lives as they are lived, rather than searching for universally applicable theories by means of narrowly controlled experimental research.' Christine Griffin, University of Bath
'Billig insists that examples are in rhetorical tension to theory. Here there is something gently subversive about More Examples, [Less Theory]. For the book is not just about writing or the use of examples. It is also a scornful critique of that most sacred of modern academic shibboleths: doing theory and being theoretical.' Michael Marinetto, Times Higher Education
'Michael Billig's book puts many basic psychological ideas and approaches in their time and place and describes the minds, personalities, situations and histories of their protagonists. It helps the reader to see where psychology had come from, and why it is like it is. At the end Billig adds a few modest but welcome recommendations for young psychologists. I hope this book becomes a standard text for psychologists early in their studies. I for one should have been greatly helped if Michael Billig's book had been available when I started out.' John Richer, Human Ethology
'Starting with the examples of nine very different writers, he selects an exemplary work from each of them and discusses the use (or sometimes neglect) of examples within that work. Furthermore, since most of the chapters are based on material presented in Billig's previously published works, they provide examples of one thoughtful scholar's concerns and interests over a long and productive career.' Raymond E. Fancher, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences

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