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Social Psychology

What is Social Psychology?
In order to answer: What is social psychology? A definition of social psychology is usually given.

What is Social Psychology?
In order to answer: What is social psychology? A definition of social psychology is usually given.

Social Psychology can be defined as a branch of psychology that mainly focuses on understanding human feelings, behaviors, and thoughts in the presence of others.

While clinical psychology focuses on mental disorders and their treatment, social psychology focuses on the functioning of social groups, social status, influences of culture and other processes involving two or more people. A theory which very much falls into this category, is the Conflict Theory, founded by Karl Marx.

Although the term can be understood to include laboratory animals and wildlife, this branche of psychology is purely about human social behavior.

This kind of psychology has become an active form of empirical research over the years. The amount of research literature increased rapidly after 1925. The main theories and methods are mentioned below.

Related topics to Social Psychology

Social psychology covers a wide variety of topics, such as:

  • Group behavior (group dynamics by Kormanski & Mozenter)
  • Group development (group dynamics model by Bruce Tuckman)
  • Leadership
  • Non-verbal behavior
  • Aggression
  • Bias
  • Conformity
  • Social perception

Social Psychology Definition

Social psychology per definition can be understood as the scientific study of how thoughts, behaviors, and feelings are affected by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of other people.

Social psychologists explain human behavior as a result of the relationship between mental state and social situations. They study the circumstances and how these variables can influence social interactions. Various studies by social psychologists can lead to new social psychology theories.

Researchers conduct empirical studies to answer very specific questions, such as:

  • How do people change their thoughts and decisions based on contact with others?
  • Is human behavior an indication of personality? If so, how exactly?
  • How goal-oriented is modification based on group-behavior?
  • How does the social perception of people influence behavior?
  • How do destructive attitudes, such as prejudices, arise?

Examples of Social Psychology

This type of Psychology focuses on the individual in relation to others. A group is usually two or more individuals connected by social relationships. Groups tend to interact and influence each other to form a common identity.

Groups are important not only because the members in the group provide each other with social support, or resources, but also because they complement the self-image of the individual. People largely define themselves based on the group they are part of. This shared social identity influences intra-group behavior.

Social psychologists investigate precisely these things: group-related phenomena such as group behavior. An important concept that has been developed for this purpose is de-individualization. This is a reduced state of self-awareness caused by feelings of anonymity in groups. The phenomenon often occurs in crowds and groups, but can also occur due to alcohol, poor environments, online anonymity, or a uniform / disguise. This concept can serve as an example of the work of a researcher and social psychologist.

William Shakespeare on Social Psychology

One of the earliest known examples of social psychology is a complex play by William Shakespeare, Hamlet. In this play, the beleaguered prince of Denmark explains why he sees his native country as a prison rather than a paradise: ‘Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.’

This portrays very accurately what social psychology is concerned with. Is it a trick of the mind? Or is it an exploration of everyday actions and thoughts? Social psychology is concerned with explaining the deepest mysteries in human relationships and behavior.

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Other theories

Aristotle believed that humans are social beings by nature. This means a certain necessity to live together with others. However, Plato believed that the state controls the individual and encouraged social responsibility through a social context.

Hegel argued in the nineteenth century that a society is linked to the development of the social mind. This led to the concept of group identity and group spirit. These terms were and still are very important in the discipline of social psychology.

Gordon Allport recognized that social behavior stems from interactions between people. He developed a methodological approach for social contact with his contact hypothesis.

In the 1930s, many Gestalt psychologists fled to the United States from Nazi Germany. They were then in the midst of the development of social psychology as a separate discipline of the dominant behavioral and psychoanalytic studies at the time. In this way, Gestalt psychologists can be understood as an example of a social psychologist.

Another example of a theory in this category, is the social identity theory of Henri Tajfel and John Turner from 1979. Erving Goffman is also a frequently recurring name in social psychology. Together with Robert Freed Bales, he is regarded as the founder of social interaction theory.

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