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Social psychology
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Social psychology

Social psychology is the study of the nature and causes of human social behavior. As the mind is the axis around which social behavior pivots, social psychologists tend to study the relationship between mind(s) and social behaviors.

Table of contents
1 SP's three angles of research
2 Relation to other fields
3 The concerns of social psychology
4 Experimental methods
5 Perspectives in social psychology
6 Well-known cases, studies, and related works
7 Related topics
8 External links
9 Citations

SP's three angles of research

Social psychology attempts to understand the relationship between minds, groups, and behaviors in three general ways.

First, it tries to see how the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of other(s) (Allport 3). This includes social perception, social interaction, and the many kinds of social influence (like trust, power, and persuasion). Gaining insight into the social psychology of persons involves looking at the influences that individuals have on the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of other individuals, as well as the influence that groups have on individuals. This aspect of social psychology asks questions like:

  • How do small group dynamics impact cognition and emotional states?
  • How do social groups control or contribute to behavior, emotion, or attitudes of the individual members?
  • How does the group impact the individual?
  • How does the individual operate within the social group?

Second, it tries to understand the influence that individual perceptions and behaviors have upon the behavior of groups. This includes looking at things like group productivity in the workplace and group decision making. It looks at questions like:

  • How does persuasion work to change group behavior, emotion or attitudes?
  • What are the reasons behind conformity, diversity, and deviance?

Third, and finally, social psychology tries to understand groups themselves as behavioral entities, and the relationships and influences that one group has upon another group (Michener 5). It asks questions like:

  • What makes some groups hostile to one another, and others neutral or civil?
  • Are there group's behaviors, that are different of what would be individual behaviors outside the group?

Relation to other fields

Social psychology has close ties with the other social sciences, especially sociology and psychology. On the one hand, Social psychology can be said to try to bridge the gap between disciplines. It can be said to be co-disciplinary with sociology and psychology, providing overlapping theories and research methods in order to form a clearer picture of social life.

But on the other hand, it can be approached with the interests of each side in mind, and be split in two subfields of each domain:

The concerns of social psychology

Some of the basic topics of interest in social psychology are:

Experimental methods

Social psychology involves the experimental study of social behavior and psychological processes associated with social cognition, social behavior, and groups.

It can be done using many different sorts of methods, including surveys, naturalistic observation, participant observation, content analyses, controlled experiments, mathematical models, and meta-analyses.

Many researchers emphasize the importance of a multimethodological approach to social research.

Perspectives in social psychology

Models of social behavior

Hedonistic theory of action

Finding its roots explicitly from the
philosophy of Epicurus, followed by philosophers like John Locke and Ludwig von Mises (among many others). The hedonistic theory of action (or psychological hedonism) states that human action occurs when:

Psychological hedonism has a fundamental place in most theories of action, most noteably behaviorism, praxeology, and psychosocial theory.
Psychological hedonism helps to explain the motivations behind all social action.

Psychosocial theory

Erik Erikson created the notion of sociodynamics from the tradition of Freudian psychodynamics. The model is meant to be used to explain the most important variables in bodily development, and how they might relate to socialization. It includes:
Psychosocial theory helps to explain what kinds of goals the social actor may develop.

The "unit act"

The American sociologist Talcott Parsons created a model of human social action which stressed that the most basic interesting event to recognize is goal-directed social action. It was further refined by his student Robert K. Merton. In this model, social actions are made up of and involve:
This model can be used as a basis for the explanations of anomie theory and realistic group conflict theory. It also overlaps significantly with the semantic tool of thematic roles.

Theories of context

1. Objective Factors in Context

In attempting to understand the objective factors that are in play when people influence one another, the communication-persuasion paradigm begins with this model.

Trying to explain the conditions where any particular message will have social influence, Latane, Jackson, and Sedikides emphasized the importance of three characteristics of the sources in their social impact theory. For functionalism, the achievement of goals relative to the normative background is important. To the extent that a) an action is beneficial towards the achievement of a goal, and b) the goal and/or means fit the normative background of some group or society, the act is considered functional in that respect / relative to that goal. Conversely, to the extent that a) the act is an obstacle to achieving a desired goal, and b) the goal fits the normative background of some group or society, the the act is considered dysfunctional in that respect.

2. Subjective Factors in Context

Symbolic interactionism stresses the importance of the way the actor subjectively perceives persons in the world.

Theories of context help to explain the normative and situational backgrounds within a social action.

Other models and explanations

Well-known cases, studies, and related works

Famous experiments in social psychology include:

Related topics

External links