Social Psychology

Topics: Psychology, Ear, Brain Pages: 15 (4686 words) Published: October 8, 1999


The study of the way people think and behave is called psychology. The field of psychology has a number of sub-disciplines devoted to the study of the different levels and contexts of human thought and behavior. Social psychology, for example, deals with human thought and action in a social context, while physiological psychology is concerned with thought and behavior at the level of neurology. Another division of psychology, comparative psychology compares the thought and behavior of humans with that of other species. Abnormal psychology studies atypical thought and action.

Psychology is an interdisciplinary science. Social psychology, for example, involves both sociology and anthropology. Abnormal psychology has much in common with psychiatry, while physiological psychology builds on the techniques and methods of neurology and physiology.

It is evident that psychological methods are being increasingly used in daily events. Employment for example, in Europe more companies are subjecting potential personnel to psychological profile checks and psychological tests during interviews. Even our social lives are becoming affected. People who are seeking the right partner are using psychological techniques to establish the emotional state of their potential partners. As psychology becomes more and more accessible and understandable to more people, I feel that it will begin to influence our lifestyles more.

From a personal stand point, this has been a very difficult exercise. This is a new area for me, so I have been unable to write from a professional or work experience perspective only from a purely academic view.


'Psychology' literally means 'study of the mind'. Psychology as a separate discipline is usually dated from 1879 when Wundt opened the first psychology laboratory, devoted to the analysis of conscious thought into its basic elements, structuralism. It is understood that 'structuralism' was founded by Wilhelm Wundt. What made this 'new' psychology different from philosophy was the emphasis on measurement and control. The application of some of the basic scientific method to the study of the mental process. For psychology to become a natural science, it must confine itself to what is observable and measurable by more than one person, namely behaviour, Behaviourism was established. This movement was formally initiated by John Broadus Watson in a famous paper, "Psychology as the Behaviourist Views It" published in 1913.

At the time when behaviourism was becoming prominent in America a group of German psychologists began to discredit the principles of structuralism and behaviourism. They argued that it was not possible to break down psychological processes. This theory, demonstrated that our perceptions are highly organised and have immediate, vivid qualities that cannot be explained in terms of piecing together basic elements. The psychologists had the opinion that our perceptions are inherently configurational, meaning that the elements making up the perception could not be separated from the way in which those elements were combined as a whole. This now popular theory is known as 'Gestalt' taken from the German word for "configuration"

The expression of the third force movement known as "humanistic psychology" is an eclectic grouping of American psychologists who advocated various interpretations of human personality. The term humanistic reflects the focus on defining a human psychology with emphases on individual existence, focusing on the role of free choice and our ability to make rational decisions on how we live.

During the 1950s and 1960s, many psychologists began to look to the work of computer scientists in trying to understand the more complex behaviour which, they felt, learning theory or conditioning had oversimplified. This behaviour was referred to by early psychologists as...
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