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  • Writer's pictureFlorian

Social psychology

Whether it is called Social Psychology, psychosociology or sociopsychology, this discipline is a relatively young science; controversial from the beginning, some considered it just a branch of psychology, while others saw in it only sociology centered on small groups.

But what really is social psychology? By definition, 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. The terms thoughts, feelings, and behaviors include all of the psychological variables that are measurable in a human being.

Once a relatively speculative, intuitive enterprise, social psychology has become an active form of empirical investigation, which increased the volume of research literature after 1925. Social psychologists now have a substantial volume of observation data covering a range of topics; the evidence remains loosely coordinated, however, and the field is beset by many different theories and conceptual schemes.

Originally, social psychology started as the border between psychology and sociology. After World War II, psychologists and sociologists collaborated more. However, in recent years there was a slight shift and the two disciplines have become increasingly specialized and isolated from each other, with sociologists focusing on "macro variables" (e.g., social structure) to a much greater extent than psychologists.

In the following lines we will try to go through both the history of this field, as well as through the importance of it.

Why might be curious to know when did social psychology first started. It is said that it began in the United States, at the beginning of the 20th century and by that time it had already developed a significant foundation. It all started as a standalone science in 1908, with the experiments of Ross and McDougal, whose theories were descriptive, macrosocial centered, with little empirical research. The main reason for developing such a discipline was to understand the different aspects of human nature. Those who were dealing with this discipline believed that social interactions could be explained by studying the cause and effect of them. In order to do so, scientific method could be used.

A second stage (1920-1945) is characterized by the influences of neopositivism and pragmatism, the emphasis on empirical tendencies, the emergence of statistics. Favorite topics of this period are group dynamics (Lewin) and interpersonal attraction (Moreno).

The third stage (1945-1960) is centered on authority, action, interaction. The need for theory is reflected in the emergence of the theory of frustration and aggression (Miller and Dollart), the theory of learning through imitation (Bandura), the theory of affective-cognitive dissonance (Festinger) and the theory of social comparison. This period is also characterized by the theoretical reflexivity, the reflection on the theory, the experiment, on their quality and efficiency.

During the fourth stage (1960-1980) the laboratory experiments, research on social problems, social representations appear prominently.

After 1980, some themes (socialization) continue, as a result of the change of society, the system of norms and values, the study of intercultural psychology appears (by comparing different cultures), more emphasis is placed on the study of daily life (marriage, marriage), centering. on prosocial behavior and altruism, some classic themes are resumed (charisma, for example).

As a fact, Serge Moscovici (b. 1925 in Braila) is the founder of modern social psychology in Europe. He has published numerous works, articles and chapters in collective volumes. Since 1979, he has been director of the European Laboratory for Social Psychology.

Moving on with our discussion, we will try to understand the socio-psychological causes and motives of human behaviors in groups. We divided the importance of social psychology into different spheres.

1. Social psychology and business

Crucial to a country’s economy, businesses are those providing goods, services and jobs opportunities to their citizens. Nowadays, businesses use psychological techniques for increasing the productions and sale of goods. Surveys are conducted by companies to better understand the socio-psychological orientation of people towards products or services. These considerations are later on taken into account for developing future products. (e.g. colors, flavors, cost). In this category we can also talk about advertising, as it generates different reactions of viewers that can help businesses adjust their strategy.

2. Social psychology and education

It has an important role in the educational sector as it helps with the improvement of teaching techniques, learning practices, intelligence level and cognition skills of students, as well as motivation of students and student-teacher relationship. If students perform poorly, that can be due to socio-psychological issues. Social psychology helps by devising techniques for effective learning. It can point out the deficiencies in the educational system. It may even guide someone about the methods of teaching according to psyche and mental-level of learners so that they can learn properly.

3. Social psychology and mental health

The modern world has to deal with a lot of mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, stress, personality disorders and so on. Most of these problems have socio-psychological causes such as death of loved ones, loss of job, stressful relationships and unexpected social changes. In this case, social psychology has a significant role in addressing the mental health issues as it is concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses.

4. Social psychology and personality development

In today’s world is important to have a strong and healthy personality. It mostly falls on the parents’ shoulders to make sure their children are raised with care and attention. Not paying enough attention can lead to serious personality disorders in kids such as deprivation, inexpressiveness, shyness, fears and many more. Social psychology provides guidelines for proper socialization for kids; it points out all the problems that lead to wrong socialization of children, and it also suggests the considerations of a healthy socialization of children so that they can achieve their full potential and perform in a good manner.

5. Social psychology and industry

We should know by now that industrialization is what makes a country’s economy stronger and leads to national development. For this, social psychology has a wide applicability in the industrial sector. A good working environment and relations among employees is what raises the productivity and effectiveness of an industry. Motivation is also another important factor in the productivity of employees. The psychological techniques are designed to keep the employees motivated towards their work and to refine teamwork practices in the industrial sector.

Now that we have a better understanding of what social psychology really means and is good for, we should consider talking a bit about the research methods used for this subject.

Social psychology is an empirical science that attempts to answer questions about human behavior by testing hypotheses, both in the laboratory and in the field. Careful attention to sampling, research design, and statistical analysis is important; results are published in peer reviewed journals such as the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin and the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Social psychology studies also appear in general science journals such as Psychological Science and Science. Given that, we have a few categories:

· Experimental methods - involve the researcher altering a variable in the environment and measuring the effect on another variable. An example would be allowing two groups of children to play violent or nonviolent videogames, and then observing their subsequent level of aggression during free-play period. A valid experiment is controlled and uses random assignment.

· Correlational methods - examine the statistical association between two naturally occurring variables. For example, one could correlate the amount of violent television children watch at home with the number of violent incidents the children participate in at school. Note that this study would not prove that violent TV causes aggression in children: it is quite possible that aggressive children choose to watch more violent TV.

· Observational methods - are purely descriptive and include naturalistic observation, "contrived" observation, participant observation, and archival analysis. These are less common in social psychology but are sometimes used when first investigating a phenomenon. An example would be to unobtrusively observe children on a playground (with a videocamera, perhaps) and record the number and types of aggressive actions displayed.

And because it is usually impossible to test everyone, research tends to be conducted on a sample of persons from the wider population. Social psychologists frequently use survey research when they are interested in results that are high in external validity.

Regardless of which method has been chosen to be used, the results are of high importance. Results need to be used to evaluate the hypothesis of the research that is done. These results should either confirm or reject the original hypothesis that was predicted. There are two different types of testing social psychologists use in order to test their results. Statistics and probability testing define a significant finding that can be as low as 5% or less, likely to be due to chance. Replications are important, to ensure that the result is valid and not due to chance, or some feature of a particular sample. False positive conclusions, often resulting from the pressure to publish or the author's own confirmation bias, are a hazard in the field.

In conclusion, think for a moment about how you act when you're alone. Does your behavior change when you're around your friends? What about when your parents are in the room? How does your behavior change when your professor or boss is observing you? These questions may give you a better outlook on how social psychology influences our daily lives.


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