P.N. Shikhirev: scientist and tutor
In December 2011 it will be 75 years since a distinguished Russian scientist and Doctor of Psychology, professor Peter Nikolaevich Shikhirev was born. P. N. Shikhirev is well known to Russian and world public of science as a methodologist, a theorist of social psychology, a researcher and a practitioner psychologist who took active part in developing Russian social psychology. The sphere of his interest was exceptionally wide. Having worked for science for more than 30 years he made a considerable contribution to the theory and methodology of social psychology as well as to development of its various schools such as history of social psychology, psychology of intergroup relations, ethnic, economic and organizational psychology, psychology of negotiations and conflict resolution, psychology of deviant social behaviour, social psychology and business ethics.
P.N. Shikhirev amazed people with his truly encyclopedic knowledge. He was well-educated not only in the area of psychology but also in the fields of philosophy, history, philology, literature, art and other spheres of culture. He knew and remembered well many authors of the main works on a topic being discussed and their concepts as well as all the information which could be useful. He shared his knowledge with everyone generously and selflessly, “nurtured” with it his students and graduate students when holding scientific debates or grounding some new idea. He always did it vividly, lively, optimistically and wittily.
His mind, sparkling with thoughts and his sense of humour together with profound and broad consideration of theoretical propositions and empirical facts created the atmosphere of creativity, brainstorming and trust in dialogs between the expert scientist and his partner regardless of the latter’s age, social status or scientific merits.
Shikhirev’s professional “strategy” was based on always keeping abreast of new developments in the science of psychology, on taking part in laying foundations of new schools, setting and solving the most perspective and complex problems. Exceptional creative capacity for work, inquisitive mind, pioneering spirit and devotion to science (he dedicated all his life to it) distinquished him as a person and a scientist.
P.N. Shikhirev was born on December 14th, 1936 in Lomonosov town of Leningradskaya region in the family of teachers. His father, Nikolai Petrovich, was a linguist, a teacher of English and German and he also worked as a military interpreter during the Great Patriotic War. His mother, Antonina Petrovna was educated to become a mechanical engineer and worked as a teacher of draftsmanship in a technical secondary school. There were seven children in the family. We should also make a special mention of family traditions which played an important role in his upbringing and the influence of his parents (who were highly educated people and patriots of their motherland) on formation of his personality. When recalling his parents, Peter Nikolaivich always said that it is those wonderfully strong, wise and pure of heart people who he should thank for all the worthy deeds which he managed to perform.
Shikhirev said that according to his family’s ethics it was assumed to respect and honour their ancestors and be familiar with genealogies of both parents. He often proudly recalled the fact that his grandfather on his father’s side Peter Pavlovich worked as an inspector of public schools in Nizhny Novgorod province in 1904-1916 and the grandfather on his mother’s side, Peter Lavrentievich, was a churchwarden. His parents grew up in large families and from early childhood their main life principles were respecting elders, exceptional assiduity, tenacity, discipline in actions, benevolence towards people. The Shikhirevs’ children grew up in this moral and psychologically healthy atmosphere so they were independent and responsible and learned to love and respect honest and serious attitude towards work and not to be afraid of any difficulties.
Peter Nikolaevich noted that his father imparted the habit of healthy lifestyle and aspiration for achievements to all his children: they all were excellent sportsmen, had only good marks at school and got higher education.
Peter Nikolaevich followed this guideline, offered him by his father, during all his life. It is sufficient to say that being a wonderful tennis player and swimmer Shikhirev ran a marathon at the age of 50. He also was a person of outstanding talents. The evidence of this can be seen in the fact that having graduated from school at 16 with gold medal he moved from Far East to Moscow and in 1953 managed to enter Moscow State Institute of International Relations (Ministry of Foriegn Affairs USSR) without any assistance. While studying at the institute Shikhirev learned not only two languages (like most of the students did) but six – French, Italian, English, German, Romanian and Spanish. Having graduated from MSIIR in 1959 he became a specialist in international relations with the West and started working as an executive at Student Council of the USSR by the Committee of Youth Organisations of the USSR. During the period from 1959 to 1966 he visited as an interpreter and a member of Russian delegations such countries as the USA, England, Romania, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, France, Italy.
P.N. Shikhirev started his scientific work in 1966 as a researcher at the Institute of International Labour Movement.( USSR Academy of Sciences). Having gained much experience by this time he got deeply interested in psychology as the field of professional work. His first article on social psychology titled “A research on stereotype in American psychology” was published in the journal “Questions of Philosophy” in 1971.
In 1960-1970s many branches of psychology started developing intensively in our country. That’s why it is not a surprise that Shikhirev began working on a such acute at that time issue as psychology of social attitude. Psychologists were striving to find a universal explanation for all kinds of social behavior of a person, that’s why introducing this category into conceptual and terminological structure of social psychology was so important. Psychology of social attitude was seen as a breakthrough in theory and methodology of science. Shikhirev’s choice of this scientific subject matter shows his resolution to research and work on fundamental issues of psychology.
Working as a senior teacher at the Institute of Social Sciences by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR in 1972-1974 P.N. Shikhirev wrote and in 1974 defended Candidate’s dissertation on psychology of social attitude. He worked on the dissertation under the guidance of a well-known social scientist and specialist in the field of social psychology of personality, DPhil Yu.A. Zamoshkin. The research that was done in this dissertation let Shikhirev rank alongside with such famous researchers as D. N. Uznadze, A. S. Prangishvili, V. A. Yadov etc. He made a considerable contribution in developing this area of social psychology and was justly considered to be one of the founders of contemporary social attitude concept.
In 1974-1992 Shikhirev worked as a senior researcher in the laboratory of social psychology at the Institute of Psychology of the USSR Academy of Sciences (since 1991 – Russian Academy of Sciences) under the guidance of and together with such famous scientists as B.F.Lomov, E.V.Shorokhova, K.A.Abulkhanova-Slavskaya etc. and his scientific and pedagogical work was closely connected with this institute. During this period his creativity in scientific as well as in pedagogical, tutorial field was on the rise. The main scientific achievements at that time were two fundamental monographs: “Contemporary social psychology in the USA” (1980) and “Contemporary social psychology in the Western Europe” (1985). Nowadays these monographs are still considered by Russian social psychologists to be basic works in which topical trends of Russian and world social psychology are analyzed.
In 1993 P.N. Shikhirev defended his doctoral thesis “Evolution of the Paradigm in Contemporary Social Psychology” and this was the outcome of his creative activity in academic and methodological range of problems. This work made an exceptional contribution to the development of contemporary social psychology and encouraged formation of such psychological areas as psychology of conflict, lies, justice, social identity and etchnic psychology which were later developed by his sudents and followers.
In late 1980s P.N. Shikhirev was one of the first Russian scientists who worked hard on ethnic psychology and psychology of intergroup relations. Changes in social and political climate in our country as well as in the world increased the importance of the role which the ethnic factor played in the regulation of intergroup relations, so working on this subject matter in theory as well as in practice became really necessary. At that time Shikhirev worked not only in science but also had a lot of practice being an expert of many projects both of the USSR government and the UN. His students were specialists in settlling interethnic conflicts in many regions of the former Soviet Union.
P.N. Shikhirev actively worked in pedagogical field and his audience always admitted that he was a wonderful lecturer and popularizer of psychology. He gave lectures not only in Russia but also in many universities and research centres of the USA and Europe. In 1992 he worked as a visiting professor at the University of California (Irvine, USA) and in 1995 at Georgetown University (Washington DC, USA). He was acquainted and worked together with many scholars from abroad e.g. Ch.Wr.Mills, S.Moskovichi, A.Mindell, A.Vitale, J.Cole etc.
One more issue of Shikhirev’s research was the problem of psychopathology of alcoholism which became very acute in Russia in 1990s. He published a number of articles and a monograph about alcoholism psychotherapy: “Alcoholism: the experience of psychological research in the USSR “ (“Psychological Journal”, 1987), “Influencing the spiritual sphere” (in a digest of materials of “We choose healthy lifestyle” research-to-practice conference , 1989), “Living without alcohol? Social Psychology of Alcoholism” (1988)
In 1992 P.N. Shikhirev became the director of the Centre for Social and Psychological Studies at the Graduate School of International Business in Academy of National Economy by the Russian Government. He was mostly interested in such scientific problems as cross-cultural psychology, organisational behaviour psychology and business ethics. Here he is also one of the leading scientists and psychologists who eagerly respond to acute problems and requests of society.
P.N. Shikhirev can be undoubtedly called one of the first Russian social psychologists who turned their attention to moral psychology. He explained the role of ethics and trust in interpersonal, intergroup and cross-cultural relations in his books “Sharks and Dolphins: Psychology and ethics of the Russian-American business interaction” (co-authored with R. Anderson, USA, 1994), “Business ethics in Russia” (1999), “Introduction to the Russian Business Culture” (1999) and in more than 90 articles. He focused on social and psychological aspects of reputation, trust in organisations, dealing with ethical questions, social capital and informal economy. In his works he explained that economic behaviour is based on mutual trust and should be regulated by moral standards. He upheld this scientific and civic stand during the last years of his public activities. In 1996 P.N. Shikhirev became the vice-president of National Foundation "Russian Business Culture" by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation.
This period of his scientific activities was marked by publication of “Contemporary social psychology” (1999) which was the outcome of his long-term work as a theorist, methodologist and practitioner of social psychology and in which concepts and ideas on perspectives for the development of psychology in whole were summarized.
Among the promising spheres of social psychological research described in this work there are: group psychology (one of the main theoretical issues of social psychology is considered to be the shift which has been made from individual psychology to the group psychology); psychology of social identity (it was P.N. Shikhirev who established and carried out a research in this sphere at large in Russia for the first time); psychology of social perception including its cross-cultural aspects.
P.N. Shikhirev was a wonderful family man, he brought up three children. He always adhered to the principle of constant search and fearless research of the truth assigning primary importance to spiritual and moral perfection, not financial benefit. His wife Larisa, his children and close friends hold the memory of him with respect and love.
P.N. Shikhirev died on the 9th of January 2004 when he was 67. His life was a typical one of a talented Russian scientist and intellectual. He left manuscripts of unfinished works on his desk, letters to his collegues and scientists, a big scientific heritage and a library. His relatives gave all of these to the scientific archive of the Institute of Psychology of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
We should also note a very important function of Shikhirev’s scientific and pedagogical activities to which he gave all his attention, responsibility and his heart. Until the end of his life he was a teacher for young scientists. Among them there are doctors of science N.M. Lebedeva and G.U. Soldatova, the leading scientists in the field of ethnic and cross-cultural psychology; I.R. Sushkov, the leading specialist in psychology of intergroup relations; L.I. Naumenko, one of the recognized specialists in social psychology in Belarus and many other scientists.