Chaos or complexity theory tries to understand simple systems that can and might change in sudden, unexpected and irregular ways. There is a subtle distinction between these two theories, as complexity theory focused its attention on complex systems which have many parts that interact and change in unexpected ways, giving rise to a new and unexpected order of the parts.
Vygotsky’s Socio-Cultural Cognitive theory is much used by humanities researchers as it concentrates on attempting to explain the influence society has on the individual and his or her development. Vygotsky believed that learning, at least by humans, is, on the whole, a social process. It was Vygotsky who developed the notion of the Zone of Proximal Development and scaffolding learners so that they can assimilate knowledge which builds upon what they have already learned.
Lantolf’s Socio-Cultural Theory has its roots in Vygotsky’s earlier work, developed shortly after the Russian Revolution. This theory is particularly useful to researchers who study second language learning (SLA).
The Identity Approach to research is interesting as it seeks to provide a comprehensive identity theory that melds the language learner with the wider social world. Language learners can, researcher argue, construct new and even multiple identities for themselves. These constructed identities are probably more desirable than their actual identities. They seek to address the inequalities of power that can leave language learners at a disadvantage which can affect the person’s ability to fully integrate with a target society. For example, if the learner is from a culture which is not regarded as equal or superior to that of the target culture or speakers of the target language, then they could feel inferior and become alienated from it. Such feelings are not conducive to learning.
The Feminist Approach was developed out of the Feminist Movement grew in response to the act that women were considered inferior to men. They had to fight for the right to vote, to work and compete with men on an equal footing in the workplace and the right to higher education in universities and colleges.
The women’s right movement in the USA began in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York. It has been through various changes since it began with middle-class white women fighting for their rights. Basically, Feminist Theory has its roots in the works of Marx and Engels.
Socio-Cognitive Theory (SCT) is primarily used in communication studies, psychology and education. It emphasises the power of observation of others’ behaviour so that this leads people to guide their own later behaviours. One of the most influential works is that of Albert Bandura (1986).
Language Expectancy Theory is about communication strategies, changes in behaviour and attitudes.
Psycholinguistic Theory is used in teaching English as a foreign and second language. This theory is concerned with the processes, neurological and psychological that are needed to assist us to process language and learn new languages.
Game Theory is usually used in the fields of economics, psychology, political science and computer science. It’s basically about how we make decisions.
Conflict Theory arises from the works of Karl Marx. Marx believed that societies are in a state of conflict because of the need to compete for limited resources. He believed that it was dominance and power that holds a society together, not conformity and consensus. This theory maintains that those with the most power and dominance will do whatever they can to hold on to power. Because of the inequality inherent in society, existing conflicts bring about social change. Marx wrote about the inequality between the bourgeoisie and the working class. In other words, this theory has its roots in class conflict. He believed that if a society maintained its capitalist stance, history would repeat itself and so new class conflicts would arise. He believed that only by changing to a socialist society would this conflict cease.
Symbolic Interaction Theory or Social Interaction Theory is another sociological theory. This theory attempts to explain how we interact with each other to create symbolic worlds, and also how these symbolic worlds affect our behaviour.
Functionalist Theory suggests that society is made up of parts that are interconnected which work together in harmony so that society can maintain a state of equilibrium. This theory, generally attributed to Durkheim, is also based on the work of Talcott Parsons, Herbert Spencer and Robert Merton.
Critical Theory is a social and political philosophy generally attributed to the Frankfurt School and Karl Marx. It has been used in studies of literature, law, the social sciences and history.