• We are social beings and we forge our social identities not alone but in the context of other people.

What is Social Psychology?

Defining Social Psychology:

  • Social psychologie is the scientific study of how individuals think, feel, and behave in regard to other people and how individuals' thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are affected by other people.
  • Scientific Study: many approaches (we can learn human behavior e.g. from novels, films, history etc.) Difference is, that social psychology is a science and applies the scientific method of systematic observation, description, and measurement to the study of human condition.
  • How individuals think, feel, and behave: social psychologists investigate a wide variety of attitudes and contexts. Social psychology typically focuses on the psychology of the individual.
  • Other people- the social element: its empasis on the social nature of individuals makes social psychology (s.p.) unique. Attempting to establish general principles of human behavior, social psychologists sometimes examine nonsocial factors that affect people's thoughts, emotions, motives, and actions.

Social Psychological Questions and Applications:

  • Table 1.1 / page 7
  • The value of social psychology's perspective on human behavior is widely recognized.
  • We can think of no other field of study that offers expertise that is more clearly relevant to so many different carrer paths.

The Power of Social Context: An Example of a Social Psychology Experiment:

  • The social nature of people runs so deep that even which seems so personal an unique to ourselves can be influenced subtly but significantly by merely thinking about other people.
  • Experiment by Emily Pronin and colleagues (2004); they called it identity bifurication. The experiment illustrates the power of thinking about others, female undergraduate students who cared about math disavowed aspects of their feminine identity that were relevant to negatvie stereotypes about women and math if they had just read about the underperformance on a math test of a number of seventh- and eighth-grade girls relative to boys.
  • The social context can have subtle and profound effects even on individuals who might otherwise seem well protected against it.

Social Psychology and Related Fields: Distinctions and Intersections:

  • Table 1.2 / page 10
  • Social psychology and Sociology:
  • Share an interest in many issues, such as violence, prejudice, cultural differences, and marriage. •Sociology tends to focus on the group level <-> social psychology tends to focus on the individual level.
  • Sociologists most often study the relation between people's behaviors and societal variables, such as social class <-> social psychologists are more likely to study the relation between people's behaviors and more specific, immediate variables, such as manipulations of mood and exposure to particular models of behavior.
  • Social psychologists are more likely than sociologists to conduct experiments in which they manipulate some variable and determine the effects of this manipulation using precise, quantifiable measures.
  • But despite these differences, social psychology and sociology are clearly related and when these two fields intersect, the result can be a more complete understanding of important issues.
  • Social psychology and Clinical Psychology:
  • Clinical psychologists seek to understand and treat people with psychological difficulties and diesorders <-> Social psychologists do not focus on disorders; rather, they focus on the more typical ways in which individuals think, feel, behave, and influence each other.
  • Both, for example, may adress how people cope with anxiety or pressure in social situations; how depressed and nondepressed individuals differ in the way they process and understand social information or seek out information; how support, feedback, or rejection from others affects individuals' health and feelings of selfworth; and how stereotypes or social stigmas associated with various psychological disorders can affect individuals labeled with these disorders.
  • Social psychology and Personality Psychology:
  • Personality psychology seeks to understand differences between individualsthat remain relatively stable across a variety of situations <-> social psychology seeks to understand how social factors affect most of individuals, regardless of their different personalities. Personality psychologists are interested in cross-sectional consistency <-> social psychologists are interested in how different situations cause different behaviors.
  • Both fields are very closely linkd; the reason for the high degree of connection is that the two areas complement each other so well.
  • Social Psychology and Cognitive Pychology:
  • Cognitive psychologists study mental processes such as thinking, learning, remembering, and reasoning <-> Social psychologists are interested in how people think, learn, remember, and reason with respect to social information and in how these processes are relevant to social behavior.

Social Psychology and Common Sense:

  • Common sense may seem to explain many social psychological findings after the fact. The problem is distinguishing common-sense fact from common-sense myth.
  • Another problem with common sense: Despite offering very compelling predictions and explanations, it is sometimes wildly inaccurate. And even when it is not completely wrong, common sense can be misleading in its simplicity.
  • Social psychology, unlike common sense, uses the scientific method to put its theories to the test.

From Past to Present: A Brief History of Social Psychology

  • The field of social psychology is a very young one.
  • Dorwin Cartwright said in 1979 that 90 percent of social pychologists who had ever lived were still alive at that time.
  • The Birth and Infancy of Social Psychology: 1880s - 1920s:
  • Early research by Triplett and Ringelmann established enduring topic in social psychology: how the presence of others affects an individual's performance.
  • Neither Triplett nor Ringelmann actually established social psychology as a distinct field of study. Credit for this creation goes to the writers of the first three textbooks in social psychology: William McDougall (1908), Edward Ross (1908), and Floyd Allport (1924).
  • A Call to Action: 1930s - 1950s:
  • What one person has had the strongest influence on the field of social psychology ? Adolf Hitler has had the most dramatic impact on the field.
  • Hitler's rise to power and the ensuing turmoil caused people around the world to become desperate for answers to social psychological questions about what causes violence, prejudice and genocide, conformity and obedience, and a host of other social problems and behaviors.
  • The years just before, during, and soon after World War II marked an explosion of interest in social psychology.
  • In 1936, Gordon Allport and a number of other social psychologists formed the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.
  • Also in 1936 a social psychologist named Muzafer Sherif published groundbreaking experimental research on social influence. His work laid the foundation for later studies of social influence.
  • Another great contributor to social psychology, Kurt Lewin, emigrated to the United States in the early 1930s and his concepts have had lasting effects on the field.
  • Lewin's position was an early version of what today is known as the interactionist perspective, an emphasis on how both an individual's personality and environmental characteristics influence behavior.
  • One of Lewin's statements can be seen as a call to action for the entire field: "No research without action, no action without research."
  • The 1950s saw many major contributions to the field of social psychology ( Table 1.3 / page 16 ). With this remarkable burst of activity and impact, social psychology was clearly, and irrevocably, on the map.
  • Confidence and Crisis: 1960s - Mid - 1970s:
  • Stanley Milgram's research in the early and middle 1960s linked the post-World War II era with the coming era of social revolution. His experiments demonstrated individuals' vulnerability to the destructive commands of authority and became the most famous research in history of social psychologie. ( Research is discussed Chapter 7 ).
  • Social psychology entered a period of expansion and enthusiasm; for the the field as a whole, it was a time of great productivity.
  • While social psychology was expanding in many new directions, there were also intense debate about the ethics of research procedures ( laboratory experiment ), the validity of research results, and the generalizability of conclusions drawn from the research.
  • For a while, social psychology seemed split in two.
  • An Era of Pluralism: Mid - 1970s - 1990s:
  • Both sides won. More rigorous ethical standards for research were instituted, more stringent procedures to guard against bias were adopted, and more attention was paid to possible cross-cultural differences in behavior. Laboratory experiments continued.
  • Pluralism in social psychology extends far beyond its methods. There are also important variations in what aspects of human behavior are emphasized. Some social psychology research takes what we might call a "hot" perspective, focusing on emotion and motivation as determinants of our thoughts and actions. Other research in this field takes a "cold" perspective thath emphasizes the role of cognition, examining the ways in which people's thoughts affect how they feel, what they want, and what they do. Integrating such different perspectives is characteristic of the pluralism that the field has embrace in recent years.
  • Another source of pluralism in social psychology is its development of international and multicultural perspectives.

Social Psychology in a New Century

  • The field today continues to grow in numbers and diversity of researchers and research topics, areas of the world in which research i conducted, and industries that hire social psychologists and apply their work.
  • Integration of Emotion, Motivation, and Cognition:
  • Researchers are becoming more intereested in how emotion, motivation, and cognition can operate together in influencing individuals' thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
  • A great deal of recent social psychological research has explored the automatic versus controllable nature of a number of processes, such as stereotyping.
  • social cognition: The study of how people perceive, remember, and interpret information about themselves and others.
  • Biological and Evolutionary Perspectives:
  • Biological perspectives, including perspectives based on neuroscience, genetics, and evolutionary principles, are being applied to the study of social psychological issues such as gender differences, relationships, and aggression.
  • A particularly exciting recent development is the emergence of the subfield of social neuroscience - the study of the relationship between neural and social processes.
  • Recent advances in behavioral genetics - a subfield of psychology that examines the effects of genes on behavior - has triggered new research to investigate such matters as the extent to which aggression is an inheriteg trait and the roles that genes play in individuals' sexual orientation or identity.
  • Evolutionary psychology, which uses the principles of evolution to understand human behavior, is another growing area that is sparking new research in social psychology.
  • Sociocultural Perspectives:
  • Our need and desire to understand how we are similar to and different from one another are greater than ever as well.
  • Increasing numbers of social psychologists are evaluating the universal generality or cultural specificity of their theories and findings by conducting cross-cultural research, in which they examine similarities and differences across a variety of cultures.
  • More and more social psychologists are also conducting multicultural research, in which they examine racial and ethnic groups within cultures.
  • New Technologies
  • Advantages in technologies that allow researchers to see images of the brain at work, through noninvasive procedures, have had a profound effect on several areas of psychology, including social psychology ( e.g. PET, fMRI ).
  • As the Internet expands at a dizzying rate, its role in social psychology research grows along with it.