Social Psychology

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Social psychology is about understanding individual behavior in a social context. Baron, Byrne & Suls (1989) define social psychology as ....... “the scientific field that seeks to understand the nature and causes of individual behavior in social situations”. (p. 6). It therefore looks at human behavior as influenced by other people and the social context in which this occurs. Social psychologists therefore deal with the factors that lead us to behave in a given way in the presence of others, and look at the conditions under which certain behavior/actions and feelings occur. Social psychology is to do with the way these feelings, thoughts, beliefs, intentions and goals are constructed and how such psychological factors, in turn, influence our interactions with others. Topics examind in social psychology include: the self concept, social cognition, attribution theory, social influence, group processes, prejudice and discrimination, interpersonal processes, aggression, attitudes and stereotypes. History of Social Psychology

Early Influences
Aristotle believed that humans were naturally sociable, a necessity which allows us to live together (an individual centered approach), whilst Plato felt that the state controlled the individual and encouraged social responsibility through social context (a socio-centered approach). Hegel (1770–1831) introduced the concept that society has inevitable links with the development of the social mind. This led to the idea of a group mind, important in the study of social psychology. Lazarus & Steinthal wrote about Anglo-European influences in 1860. “Volkerpsychologie” emerged, which focused on the idea of a collective mind. It emphasized the notion that personality develops because of cultural and community influences, especially through language, which is both a social product of the community as well as a means of encouraging particular social thought in the individual. Therefore Wundt (1900–1920) encouraged the methodological study of language and its influence on the social being. Early Texts

Texts focusing on social psychology first emerged at the start of the 20th century. The first notable book in English was published by McDougall in 1908 (An Introduction to Social Psychology), which included chapters on emotion and sentiment, morality, character and religion, quite different to those incorporated in the field today.  He believed that social behavior was innate/instinctive and therefore individual, hence his choice of topics.  This belief is not the principle upheld in modern social psychology, however. Allport’s work (1924) underpins current thinking to a greater degree, as he acknowledged that social behavior results from interactions between people.  He also took a methodological approach, discussing actual research and emphasizing that the field was one of a “science … which studies the behavior of the individual in so far as his behavior stimulates other individuals, or is itself a reaction to this behavior” (1942: p. 12).  His book also dealt with topics still evident today, such as emotion, conformity and the effects of an audience on others. Murchison (1935) published The first handbook on social psychology was published by Murchison in 1935.  Murphy & Murphy (1931/37) produced a book summarizing the findings of 1,000 studies in social psychology.  A text by Klineberg (1940) looked at the interaction between social context and personality development by the 1950s a number of texts were available on the subject. Social Psychology (this one is very long)

According to psychologist Gordon Allport, social psychology is a discipline that uses scientific methods “to understand and explain how the thought, feeling and behavior of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined or implied presence of other human beings” (1985). Social psychology looks at a wide range of social topics, including group behavior, social perception, leadership, nonverbal behavior,...
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