Social Psychology: Characteristics, Motives, and Situationism

Topics: Sociology, Psychology, Social psychology Pages: 5 (1491 words) Published: August 25, 2013
Social Psychology: Characteristics, Motives, and Situationism PSYCH/550
May 27, 2013

Social Psychology: Characteristics, Motives, and Situationism According to Fiske (2010), the classic definition of 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” [ (p. 4) ]. In other words, where general psychology is the study of human behavior on an individual level, social psychology is the study of human behavior in a social context. There are four key characteristics of social psychology including broad scope, cultural mandate, scientific methods, and search for wisdom. Social psychologists examine situationism as an explanation for varied behaviors. Further, social psychology studies the influence of five core motives in which most individuals strive to fulfill in their social environment. Understanding the power of social influence as it pertains to behavior is the first step in improving negative social issues. Key Characteristics of Social Psychology

The study of human behavior from a social perspective is characterized by four key elements. Social psychology encompasses a very broad point of view that examines human interactions and the influence of society upon an individual. Culture is an important aspect of social psychology as it defines what is acceptable or unacceptable within that society. Further, scientific methods and the search for wisdom help to explain socially influenced behavior. Broad Scope

Social psychology has a very broad perspective pertaining to the behaviors of individuals in society. Social psychology helps to explain why individuals conform to the rules of society and why individuals turn to deviance instead of conformity. Further, it helps explain selflessness and aggressive tendencies as well as why individuals love and hate [ (Fiske, 2010) ]. Social psychology spans the evolutionary progress of human societies, helping to explain how social influence facilitated human survival. Cultural Mandate

The cultural mandate for societies is the blueprint of which behaviors are expected and accepted and which behaviors are considered deviant and unacceptable. As societies change, the laws, rules, and beliefs must also change. Social psychology helps to explain these changes in society and how these changes are either advantageous for the betterment of the society or harmful to the society. In the past, predictions of social behavior were based upon religious beliefs however, as society evolves and changes, social psychologists are asked to explain changes in social behavior from a cultural perspective. The movement for equality for women is an example of how cultural mandate has evolved in society over the years. Women were once considered and accepted as the weaker, less intelligent gender; today culturally mandated beliefs have changed that perception. Scientific Methods

Without the benefit of scientific methods, the theories and hypotheses posed by social psychologists would be reduced to mere assumption. Social psychologists use scientific methods to either reliably support their theoretical proposals or to make valid disputes pertaining to other theories. The use of scientific methods is vital to social psychology in three important ways. First, social psychologists must have a means to validate the theories they develop. According to Fiske (2010), “…scientific theories attempt to predict causality, create coherence, avoid excess, and facilitate investigation” [ (p. 33) ]. Second, the data compiled through research are used to state scientifically reliable information [ (Fiske, 2010) ]. Third, the strategies social psychologists use in research must always adhere to the strict standards of observational, experimental, and survey research before they make claims pertaining to how individuals influence each other in society...

References: Fiske, S. T. (2010). Social beings. Core motives in social psychology (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Wiley.
Kamtekar, R. (2004). Situationism and virtue ethics on the content of our character. Ethics, 114(3), 458-491. doi:10.1086/381696
Koerth-Baker, M. (2013, May 21). Why rational people buy into conspiracy theories. Retrieved from New York Times:
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