Social psychology

Social psychology is the scientific study of how people's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others.[1] In this definition, scientific refers to the empirical investigation using the scientific method. The terms thoughts, feelings, and behavior refer to psychological variables that can be measured in humans. The statement that others' presence may be imagined or implied suggests that humans are malleable to social influences even when alone, such as when watching television or following internalized cultural norms. Social psychologists typically explain human behavior as a result of the interaction of mental states and social situations.

Social psychologists examine factors that cause behaviors to unfold in a given way in the presence of others. They study conditions under which certain behavior, actions, and feelings occur. Social psychology is concerned with the way these feelings, thoughts, beliefs, intentions, and goals are cognitively constructed and how these mental representations, in turn, influence our interactions with others.

Social psychology traditionally bridged the gap between psychology and sociology. During the years immediately following World War II there was frequent collaboration between psychologists and sociologists.[2] The two disciplines, however, have become increasingly specialized and isolated from each other in recent years, with sociologists focusing on "macro variables" (e.g., social structure) to a much greater extent than psychologists.[citation needed] Nevertheless, sociological approaches to psychology remain an important counterpart to psychological research in this area.

In addition to the split between psychology and sociology, there has been a somewhat less pronounced difference in emphasis between American social psychologists and European social psychologists. As a generalization, American researchers traditionally have focused more on the individual, whereas Europeans have paid more attention to group level phenomena (see group dynamics).[3]

History

Although there were some older writings about social psychology, such as those by Islamic philosopher Al-Farabi (Alpharabius),[4] the discipline of social psychology, as its modern-day definition, began in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century. By that time, though, the discipline had already developed a significant foundation. Following the 18th century, those in the emerging field of social psychology were concerned with developing concrete explanations for different aspects of human nature.[citation needed] They attempted to discover concrete cause and effect relationships that explained the social interactions in the world around them. In order to do so, they believed that the scientific method, an empirically based scientific measure, could be applied to human behavior.[5]

The first published study in this area was an experiment in 1898 by Norman Triplett, on the phenomenon of social facilitation.[6] During the 1930s, many Gestalt psychologists, most notably Kurt Lewin, fled to the United States from Nazi Germany. They were instrumental in developing the field as something separate from the behavioral and psychoanalytic schools that were dominant during that time, and social psychology has always maintained the legacy of their interests in perception and cognition. Attitudes and small group phenomena were the most commonly studied topics in this era.[citation needed]

During World War II, social psychologists studied persuasion and propaganda for the U.S. military. After the war, researchers became interested in a variety of social problems, including gender issues and racial prejudice. Most notable, revealing, and contentious of these were the Stanley Milgram shock experiments on obedience to authority. In the sixties, there was growing interest in new topics, such as cognitive dissonance, bystander intervention, and aggression. By the 1970s, however, social psychology in America had reached a crisis. There was heated debate over the ethics of laboratory experimentation, whether or not attitudes really predicted behavior, and how much science could be done in a cultural context.[7] This was also the time when a radical situationist approach challenged the relevance of self and personality in psychology.[8] Throughout the 1980s and 1990s social psychology reached a more mature level. Two of the areas social psychology matured in were theories and methods.[8] Careful ethical standards now regulate research. Pluralistic and multicultural perspectives have emerged. Modern researchers are interested in many phenomena, but attribution, social cognition, and the self-concept are perhaps the greatest areas of growth in recent years.[citation needed] Social psychologists have also maintained their applied interests with contributions in the social psychology of health, education, law, and the workplace.[9]

Other Languages
Alemannisch: Sozialpsychologie
azərbaycanca: Sosial psixologiya
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Сацыяльная псыхалёгія
Esperanto: Socia psikologio
한국어: 사회심리학
Bahasa Indonesia: Psikologi sosial
日本語: 社会心理学
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Ijtimoiy psixologiya
português: Psicologia social
Simple English: Social psychology
slovenščina: Socialna psihologija
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Socijalna psihologija
Tiếng Việt: Tâm lý học xã hội