University of Phoenix
Conceptual Foundations of Social Psychology
Often one hears the question, what is wrong with the people in the world today? This question could be asked after watching a news story about a mother murdering her children, gangs terrorizing neighborhoods, terroristic acts committed against large community locations, and riots after a soccer game, or even hate crimes committed due to discrimination. Each of these subjects always brings up questions about why acts such as these occur. Social Psychology can attempt to answer some of these questions. In effect, social psychology seeks to answer many questions. Social Psychology is very different in that this field tries to understand all characteristics of social behavior and the significance on the individual both positive and negative. Some research would suggest that anyone might act in a similar fashion as the person who commits a terrorist act, or the mother who murders her children if he or she were in the same situation and that the behavior has little to do with the character of that person. This concept is situationism and while it does appear extreme, situationism plays a role in social psychology. In the following pages, what situationism is and how it pertains to social psychology is addressed. In addition, a definition of what social psychology is as well as the main characteristics of it. Last, an explanation of the five core social motives is offered and how they too affect the field of social psychology. Social Psychology
Social Psychology covers so many topics that one could not possibly list them all at one time. These topics range from interpersonal relationships to group behavior, from prosocial behavior to discrimination and prejudice and everything else in between. The broad coverage of topics generates difficulty in narrowing the subject down to a strict definition. However, according to Fiske, (2010, p 4) “Social psychology is the scientific attempt to explain how the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of other human beings.” Of course as stated by Fiske, this is the traditional definition of Social Psychology. This definition dates all the way back to one of the fathers of Social Psychology, Gordon Allport (Fiske, 2010). In essence, Social Psychology is about how people influence each other. If one can imagine each way, another could possibly influence a person then he or she may achieve a better understanding of how broad this subject is. Because Social Psychology covers a broad scope of topics, broad scope by definition is one of the key characteristics of Social Psychology. The broad scope of topics is only one of the characteristics of Social Psychology; another and very important characteristic is Cultural Mandate. Just as any of field of Psychology needs to stay current so too does Social psychology need to stay current. Because of the ever-changing world and the populations within it, cultures change. Because culture affects individual behavior, it is important to keep up with the changes. These changes occur from town to town within the United States, to larger cultural structures across the globe. For Social Psychology to stay current, an accommodation to the changing cultures is mandatory. One reason it is important to keep up with changes in cultures and how they affect individual behaviors is the research involved. This research helps build credible scientific knowledge (Fiske, 2010). Most people today depend on science to present the facts instead of relying on the traditional methods of understanding, which is often only common sense knowledge. Fiske, (2010, p. 34) tells us, “Social psychology goes beyond common sense to build a scientific understanding of human social behavior.” Therefore, the Scientific Method is the third key characteristic of Social Psychology. What can be more...