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Social Psychology

What is Social Psychology?

Social Psychology is 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, it focuses on the functioning of social groups, social status, influences of culture and other processes involving two or more people. Although the term can be understood to include laboratory animals and wildlife, social psychology is purely about human social behavior.

What is Social Psychology?

Social Psychology is 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, it focuses on the functioning of social groups, social status, influences of culture and other processes involving two or more people. Although the term can be understood to include laboratory animals and wildlife, social 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 is defined 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.

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.

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.

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 supports thinking about social psychology today. He 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.

Another example of a theory in which social psychology is discussed 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.

Sigmund Freud

September 7th, 2021

Sigmund Freud (May 6, 1856 – September 23, 1939), born Sigismund Schlomo Freud, was an Austrian neurologist and also the founder of contemporary psychoanalysis. Freud is considered one of the most influential, popular and controversial minds of the 20th…

Friedrich Engels

August 30th, 2021

Friedrich Engels was a German economist, philosopher, historian and socialist. He was also a businessman, journalist and political activist. His father owned the large textile mills in the United Kingdom, and former Prussia, now Germany. Friedrich Engels is best known…

Psychoanalysis

August 26th, 2021

In this article you will find a practical explanation of psychoanalysis. After reading, you will understand the basics of this powerful psychology tool. What is Psychoanalysis? Psychoanalysis is a method of treating various mental disorders. Psychoanalysis is formed by…

Contact Hypothesis (Allport)

May 25th, 2021

This article explains the Contact Hypothesis in a practical way. After reading this article, you will understand the basis of this powerful psychology tool. What is the Contact Hypothesis? The contact hypothesis is a psychology theory suggesting that prejudice…

Social Action Theory (Weber)

March 4th, 2021

In this article you will find a practical explanation of Max Weber’s Social Action Theory. After reading, you will understand the basic concepts of this sociological theory of human behaviour and how this behaviour influences the behaviour of other people,…

Relative Deprivation Theory (RDT)

December 28th, 2020

This article explains Relative Deprivation Theory in a practical way. After reading, you will understand the basics of this powerful sociological theory. What is Relative Deprivation Theory (RDT)? Relative Deprivation Theory is a theory that explains the subjective dissatisfaction…

Social Identity Theory (SIT)

December 15th, 2020

This article explains Social Identity Theory in a practical way. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful psychology theory. What is Social Identity Theory? Social identity is the part of an individual’s self-image that is determined by…

Tal Ben-Shahar’s Happiness Model

November 4th, 2020

This article explains Tal Ben-Shahar’s happiness model or hamburger model, in a practical way. After reading, you’ll understand the basics of this powerful psychology tool. What is Tal Ben-Shahar’s Happiness Model? The happiness model, also known as the hamburger…

Social Interaction Theory

October 27th, 2020

This article explains the social interaction theory, developed by Robert Freed Bales in a practical way. After reading this article, you’ll understand the basics of this powerful communication and human behavior tool. What is Social Interaction Theory? The social…
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