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. In this definition, scientific refers to the empirical investigation using the scientific method. The terms thoughts, feelings and behavior refer to psychological variables that can be measured in humans. The statement that others' presence may be imagined or implied suggests that humans are malleable to social influences even when alone, such as when watching television looking at reality shows,music videos and movies they can be influenced to follow the behaviour in the visual setting or following internalized cultural norms. Social psychologists typically explain human behavior as a result of the interaction of mental states and social situations.
Social psychologists examine factors that cause behaviors to unfold in a given way in the presence of others. They study conditions under which certain behavior, actions, and feelings occur. Social psychology is concerned with the way these feelings, thoughts, beliefs, intentions, and goals are cognitively constructed and how these mental representations, in turn, influence our interactions with others.
Social psychology traditionally bridged the gap between psychology and sociology. During the years immediately following World War II there was frequent collaboration between psychologists and sociologists. The two disciplines, however, have become increasingly specialized and isolated from each other in recent years, with sociologists focusing on "macro variables" (e.g., social structure) to a much greater extent than psychologists. Nevertheless, sociological approaches to psychology remain an important counterpart to psychological research in this area.
In addition to the split between psychology and sociology, there has been a somewhat less pronounced difference in emphasis between American social psychologists and European social psychologists. As a generalization, American researchers traditionally have focused more on the individual, whereas Europeans have paid more attention to group level phenomena (see group dynamics).
Although there were some older writings about social psychology, such as those by Islamic philosopher Al-Farabi (Alpharabius), the discipline of social psychology, as its modern-day definition, began in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century. By that time, though, the discipline had already developed a significant foundation. Following the 18th century, those in the emerging field of social psychology were concerned with developing concrete explanations for different aspects of human nature. They attempted to discover concrete cause and effect relationships that explained the social interactions in the world around them. In order to do so, they believed that the scientific method, an empirically based scientific measure, could be applied to human behavior.
The first published study in this area was an experiment in 1898 by Norman Triplett, on the phenomenon of social facilitation. During the 1930s, many Gestalt psychologists, most notably Kurt Lewin, fled to the United States from Nazi Germany. They were instrumental in developing the field as something separate from the behavioral and psychoanalytic schools that were dominant during that time, and social psychology has always maintained the legacy of their interests in perception and cognition. Attitudes and small group phenomena were the most commonly studied topics in this era.
During World War II, social psychologists studied persuasion and propaganda for the U.S. military. After the war, researchers became interested in a variety of social problems, including gender issues and racial prejudice. Most notable, revealing, and contentious of these were the Stanley Milgram shock experiments on obedience to authority. In the sixties, there was growing interest in new topics, such as cognitive dissonance, bystander intervention, and aggression. By the 1970s, however, social psychology in America had reached a crisis. There was heated debate over the ethics of laboratory experimentation, whether or not attitudes really predicted behavior, and how much science could be done in a cultural context. This was also the time when a radical situationist approach challenged the relevance of self and personality in psychology. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s social psychology reached a more mature level. Two of the areas social psychology matured in were theories and methods. Careful ethical standards now regulate research. Pluralistic and multicultural perspectives have emerged. Modern researchers are interested in many phenomena, but attribution, social cognition, and the self-concept are perhaps the greatest areas of growth in recent years. Social psychologists have also maintained their applied interests with contributions in the social psychology of health, education, law, and the workplace.
In social psychology, attitudes are defined as learned, global evaluations of a person, object, place, or issue that influence thought and action. Put more simply, attitudes are basic expressions of approval or disapproval, favorability or unfavorability, or as Bem put it, likes and dislikes. Examples would include liking chocolate ice cream, or endorsing the values of a particular political party.
Social psychologists have studied attitude formation, the structure of attitudes, attitude change, the function of attitudes, and the relationship between attitudes and behavior. Because people are influenced by the situation, general attitudes are not always good predictors of specific behavior. For example, for a variety of reasons, a person may value the environment but not recycle a can on a particular day.
In recent times, research on attitudes has examined the distinction between traditional, self-reported attitude measures and "implicit" or unconscious attitudes. For example, experiments using the Implicit Association Test have found that people often demonstrate implicit bias against other races, even when their explicit responses reveal equal mindedness. One study found that explicit attitudes correlate with verbal behavior in interracial interactions, whereas implicit attitudes correlate with nonverbal behavior.
One hypothesis on how attitudes are formed, first advanced by Abraham Tesser in 1983, is that strong likes and dislikes are ingrained in our genetic make-up. Tesser speculates that individuals are disposed to hold certain strong attitudes as a result of inborn physical, sensory, and cognitive skills, temperament, and personality traits. Whatever disposition nature elects to give us, our most treasured attitudes are often formed as a result of exposure to attitude objects; our history of rewards and punishments; the attitude that our parents, friends, and enemies express; the social and cultural context in which we live; and other types of experiences we have. Obviously, attitudes are formed through the basic process of learning. Numerous studies have shown that people can form strong positive and negative attitudes toward neutral objects that are in some way linked to emotionally charged stimuli.:185–186
The topic of persuasion has received a great deal of attention in recent years. Persuasion is an active method of influence that attempts to guide people toward the adoption of an attitude, idea, or behavior by rational or emotive means. Persuasion relies on "appeals" rather than strong pressure or coercion. Numerous variables have been found to influence the persuasion process; these are normally presented in five major categories: who said what to whom and how.
Dual-process theories of persuasion (such as the elaboration likelihood model) maintain that the persuasive process is mediated by two separate routes; central and peripheral. The central route of persuasion is more fact-based and results in longer lasting change, but requires motivation to process. The peripheral route is more superficial and results in shorter lasting change, but does not require as much motivation to process. An example of a peripheral route of persuasion might be a politician using a flag lapel pin, smiling, and wearing a crisp, clean shirt. Notice that this does not require motivation to be persuasive, but should not last as long as persuasion based on the central route. If that politician were to outline exactly what they believed, and their previous voting record, this would be using the central route, and would result in longer lasting change, but would require a good deal of motivation to process.
Social cognition is a growing area of social psychology that studies how people perceive, think about, and remember information about others. Much research rests on the assertion that people think about (other) people differently from non-social targets. This assertion is supported by the social cognitive deficits exhibited by people with Williams syndrome and autism. Person perception is the study of how people form impressions of others. The study of how people form beliefs about each other while interacting is known as interpersonal perception.
A major research topic in social cognition is attribution. Attributions are the explanations we make for people's behavior, either our own behavior or the behavior of others. One element of attribution ascribes the locus of a behavior to either internal or external factors. An internal, or dispositional, attribution assigns behavior to causes related to inner traits such as personality, disposition, character or ability. An external, or situational, attribution involves situational elements, such as the weather.:111 A second element of attribution ascribes the cause of behavior to either stable or unstable factors (whether the behavior will be repeated or changed under similar circumstances). Finally, we also attribute causes of behavior to either controllable or uncontrollable factors: how much control one has over the situation at hand.
Numerous biases in the attribution process have been discovered. For instance, the fundamental attribution error is the tendency to make dispositional attributions for behavior, overestimating the influence of personality and underestimating the influence of situations.:724 The actor-observer difference is a refinement of this bias, the tendency to make dispositional attributions for other people's behavior and situational attributions for our own.:107 The self-serving bias is the tendency to attribute dispositional causes for successes, and situational causes for failure, particularly when self-esteem is threatened. This leads to assuming one's successes are from innate traits, and one's failures are due to situations, including other people.:109 Other ways people protect their self-esteem are by believing in a just world, blaming victims for their suffering, and making defensive attributions, which explain our behavior in ways which defend us from feelings of vulnerability and mortality.:111 Researchers have found that mildly depressed individuals often lack this bias and actually have more realistic perceptions of reality (as measured by the opinions of others).
Heuristics are cognitive short cuts. Instead of weighing all the evidence when making a decision, people rely on heuristics to save time and energy. The availability heuristic occurs when people estimate the probability of an outcome based on how easy that outcome is to imagine. As such, vivid or highly memorable possibilities will be perceived as more likely than those that are harder to picture or are difficult to understand, resulting in a corresponding cognitive bias. The representativeness heuristic is a shortcut people use to categorize something based on how similar it is to a prototype they know of.:63 Numerous other biases have been found by social cognition researchers. The hindsight bias is a false memory of having predicted events, or an exaggeration of actual predictions, after becoming aware of the outcome. The confirmation bias is a type of bias leading to the tendency to search for, or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions.
Another key concept in social cognition is the assumption that reality is too complex to easily discern. As a result, we tend to see the world according to simplified schemas or images of reality. Schemas are generalized mental representations that organize knowledge and guide information processing. Schemas often operate automatically and unintentionally, and can lead to biases in perception and memory. Expectations from schemas may lead us to see something that is not there. One experiment found that people are more likely to misperceive a weapon in the hands of a black man than a white man. This type of schema is actually a stereotype, a generalized set of beliefs about a particular group of people (when incorrect, an ultimate attribution error). Stereotypes are often related to negative or preferential attitudes (prejudice) and behavior (discrimination). Schemas for behaviors (e.g., going to a restaurant, doing laundry) are known as scripts.
Self-concept is a term referring to the whole sum of beliefs that people have about themselves. However, what specifically does self-concept consist of? According to Hazel Markus (1977), the self-concept is made up of cognitive molecules called self-schemas – beliefs that people have about themselves that guide the processing of self-reliant information. For example, an athlete at a university would have multiple selves that would process different information pertinent to each self: the student would be one "self," who would process information pertinent to a student (taking notes in class, completing a homework assignment, etc.); the athlete would be the "self" who processes information about things related to being an athlete (recognizing an incoming pass, aiming a shot, etc.). These "selves" are part of one's identity and the self-reliant information is the information that relies on the proper "self" to process and react on it. If a "self" is not part of one's identity, then it is much more difficult for one to react. For example, a civilian may not know how to handle a hostile threat as a trained Marine would. The Marine contains a "self" that would enable him/her to process the information about the hostile threat and react accordingly, whereas a civilian may not contain that self, disabling them from properly processing the information from the hostile threat and, furthermore, debilitating them from acting accordingly. Self-schemas are to an individual’s total self–concept as a hypothesis is to a theory, or a book is to a library. A good example is the body weight self-schema; people who regard themselves as over or underweight, or for those whom body image is a significant self-concept aspect, are considered schematics with respect to weight. For these people a range of otherwise mundane events – grocery shopping, new clothes, eating out, or going to the beach – can trigger thoughts about the self. In contrast, people who do not regard their weight as an important part of their lives are a-schematic on that attribute.
It is rather clear that the self is a special object of our attention. Whether one is mentally focused on a memory, a conversation, a foul smell, the song that is stuck in one's head, or this sentence, consciousness is like a spotlight. This spotlight can shine on only one object at a time, but it can switch rapidly from one object to another and process the information out of awareness. In this spotlight the self is front and center: things relating to the self have the spotlight more often.
The self's ABCs are affect, behavior, and cognition. An affective (or emotional) question: How do people evaluate themselves, enhance their self-image, and maintain a secure sense of identity? A behavioral question: How do people regulate their own actions and present themselves to others according to interpersonal demands? A cognitive question: How do individuals become themselves, build a self-concept, and uphold a stable sense of identity?:53
Affective forecasting is the process of predicting how one would feel in response to future emotional events. Studies done by Timothy Wilson and Daniel Gilbert in 2003 have shown that people overestimate the strength of reaction to anticipated positive and negative life events that they actually feel when the event does occur.
There are many theories on the perception of our own behavior. Daryl Bem's (1972) self-perception theory claims that when internal cues are difficult to interpret, people gain self-insight by observing their own behavior. Leon Festinger's 1954 social comparison theory is that people evaluate their own abilities and opinions by comparing themselves to others when they are uncertain of their own ability or opinions. There is also the facial feedback hypothesis: that changes in facial expression can lead to corresponding changes in emotion.:56
The fields of social psychology and personality have merged over the years, and social psychologists have developed an interest in self-related phenomena. In contrast with traditional personality theory, however, social psychologists place a greater emphasis on cognitions than on traits. Much research focuses on the self-concept, which is a person's understanding of their self. The self-concept is often divided into a cognitive component, known as the self-schema, and an evaluative component, the self-esteem. The need to maintain a healthy self-esteem is recognized as a central human motivation in the field of social psychology.
Self-efficacy beliefs are associated with the self-schema. These are expectations that performance on some task will be effective and successful. Social psychologists also study such self-related processes as self-control and self-presentation.
People develop their self-concepts by varied means, including introspection, feedback from others, self-perception, and social comparison. By comparing themselves to relevant others, people gain information about themselves, and they make inferences that are relevant to self-esteem. Social comparisons can be either "upward" or "downward," that is, comparisons to people who are either higher in status or ability, or lower in status or ability. Downward comparisons are often made in order to elevate self-esteem.
Self-perception is a specialized form of attribution that involves making inferences about oneself after observing one's own behavior. Psychologists have found that too many extrinsic rewards (e.g. money) tend to reduce intrinsic motivation through the self-perception process, a phenomenon known as overjustification. People's attention is directed to the reward and they lose interest in the task when the reward is no longer offered. This is an important exception to reinforcement theory.
Social influence is an overarching term given to describe the persuasive effects people have on each other. It is seen as a fundamental value in social psychology and overlaps considerably with research on attitudes and persuasion. The three main areas of social influence include: conformity, compliance, and obedience. Social influence is also closely related to the study of group dynamics, as most principles of influence are strongest when they take place in social groups.
The first major area of social influence is conformity. Conformity is defined as the tendency to act or think like other members of a group. The identity of members within a group, i.e. status, similarity, expertise, as well as cohesion, prior commitment, and accountability to the group help to determine the level of conformity of an individual. Individual variation among group members plays a key role in the dynamic of how willing people will be to conform.:27 Conformity is usually viewed as a negative tendency in American culture, but a certain amount of conformity is adaptive in some situations, as is nonconformity in other situations.:15
The second major area of social influence research is compliance. Compliance refers to any change in behavior that is due to a request or suggestion from another person. The foot-in-the-door technique is a compliance method in which the persuader requests a small favor and then follows up with requesting a larger favor, e.g., asking for the time and then asking for ten dollars. A related trick is the bait and switch.
The third major form of social influence is obedience; this is a change in behavior that is the result of a direct order or command from another person. Obedience as a form of compliance was dramatically highlighted by the Milgram study, wherein people were ready to administer shocks to a person in distress on a researcher's command.:41
An unusual kind of social influence is the self-fulfilling prophecy. This is a prediction that, in being made, actually causes itself to become true. For example, in the stock market, if it is widely believed that a crash is imminent, investors may lose confidence, sell most of their stock, and thus actually cause the crash. Similarly, people may expect hostility in others and actually induce this hostility by their own behavior.:18
Psychologist have spent decades studying the power of social influence, and the way in which it manipulates people's opinions and behavior. Specifically, social influence refers to the way in which individuals change their ideas and actions to meet the demands of a social group, received authority, social role or a minority within a group wielding influence over the majority. No matter if you are student, teacher, doctor, lawyer or entrepreneur, you will encounter some type of social influence.
A group can be defined as two or more individuals that are connected to each another by social relationships. Groups tend to interact, influence each other, and share a common identity. They have a number of emergent qualities that distinguish them from aggregates:
Temporary groups and aggregates share few or none of these features, and do not qualify as true social groups. People waiting in line to get on a bus, for example, do not constitute a group.
Groups are important not only because they offer social support, resources, and a feeling of belonging, but because they supplement an individual's self-concept. To a large extent, humans define themselves by the group memberships which form their social identity. The shared social identity of individuals within a group influences intergroup behavior, the way in which groups behave towards and perceive each other. These perceptions and behaviors in turn define the social identity of individuals within the interacting groups. The tendency to define oneself by membership in a group may lead to intergroup discrimination, which involves favorable perceptions and behaviors directed towards the in-group, but negative perceptions and behaviors directed towards the out-group. On the other hand, such discrimination and segregation may sometimes exist partly to facilitate a diversity which strengthens society. Intergroup discrimination leads to prejudice and stereotyping, while the processes of social facilitation and group polarization encourage extreme behaviors towards the out-group.
Groups often moderate and improve decision making, and are frequently relied upon for these benefits, such as in committees and juries. A number of group biases, however, can interfere with effective decision making. For example, group polarization, formerly known as the "risky shift," occurs when people polarize their views in a more extreme direction after group discussion. More problematic is the phenomenon of groupthink. This is a collective thinking defect that is characterized by a premature consensus or an incorrect assumption of consensus, caused by members of a group failing to promote views which are not consistent with the views of other members. Groupthink occurs in a variety of situations, including isolation of a group and the presence of a highly directive leader. Janis offered the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion as a historical case of groupthink.
Groups also affect performance and productivity. Social facilitation, for example, is a tendency to work harder and faster in the presence of others. Social facilitation increases the dominant response's likelihood, which tends to improve performance on simple tasks and reduce it on complex tasks. In contrast, social loafing is the tendency of individuals to slack off when working in a group. Social loafing is common when the task is considered unimportant and individual contributions are not easy to see.
Social psychologists study group-related (collective) phenomena such as the behavior of crowds. An important concept in this area is deindividuation, a reduced state of self-awareness that can be caused by feelings of anonymity. Deindividuation is associated with uninhibited and sometimes dangerous behavior. It is common in crowds and mobs, but it can also be caused by a disguise, a uniform, alcohol, dark environments, or online anonymity.
A major area in the study of people's relations to each other is interpersonal attraction. This refers to all forces that lead people to like each other, establish relationships, and (in some cases) fall in love. Several general principles of attraction have been discovered by social psychologists, but many still continue to experiment and do research to find out more. One of the most important factors in interpersonal attraction is how similar two particular people are. The more similar two people are in general attitudes, backgrounds, environments, worldviews, and other traits, the more probable an attraction is possible.
Physical attractiveness is an important element of romantic relationships, particularly in the early stages characterized by high levels of passion. Later on, similarity and other compatibility factors become more important, and the type of love people experience shifts from passionate to companionate. Robert Sternberg has suggested that there are actually three components of love: intimacy, passion, and commitment. When two (or more) people experience all three, they are said to be in a state of consummate love.
According to social exchange theory, relationships are based on rational choice and cost-benefit analysis. If one partner's costs begin to outweigh their benefits, that person may leave the relationship, especially if there are good alternatives available. This theory is similar to the minimax principle proposed by mathematicians and economists (despite the fact that human relationships are not zero-sum games). With time, long term relationships tend to become communal rather than simply based on exchange.
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.
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.
Whenever possible, social psychologists rely on controlled experimentation. Controlled experiments require the manipulation of one or more independent variables in order to examine the effect on a dependent variable. Experiments are useful in social psychology because they are high in internal validity, meaning that they are free from the influence of confounding or extraneous variables, and so are more likely to accurately indicate a causal relationship. However, the small samples used in controlled experiments are typically low in external validity, or the degree to which the results can be generalized to the larger population. There is usually a trade-off between experimental control (internal validity) and being able to generalize to the population (external validity).
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. Surveys use various forms of random sampling to obtain a sample of respondents that are representative of a population. This type of research is usually descriptive or correlational because there is no experimental control over variables. However, new statistical methods like structural equation modeling are being used to test for potential causal relationships in this type of data. Some psychologists, including Dr. David O. Sears, have criticized social psychological research for relying too heavily on studies conducted on university undergraduates in academic settings. Over 70% of experiments in Sears' study used North American undergraduates as subjects, a subset of the population that may not be representative of the population as a whole.
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.
The Asch conformity experiments demonstrated the power of conformity in small groups with a line length estimation task that was designed to be extremely easy. In well over a third of the trials, participants conformed to the majority, who had been instructed to provide incorrect answers, even though the majority judgment was clearly wrong. Seventy-five percent of the participants conformed at least once during the experiment. Additional manipulations to the experiment showed participant conformity decreased when at least one other individual failed to conform, but increased when the individual began conforming or withdrew from the experiment. Also, participant conformity increased substantially as the number of incorrect individuals increased from one to three, and remained high as the incorrect majority grew. Participants with three incorrect opponents made mistakes 31.8% of the time, while those with one or two incorrect opponents made mistakes only 3.6% and 13.6% of the time, respectively.
Muzafer Sherif's Robbers' Cave Experiment divided boys into two competing groups to explore how much hostility and aggression would emerge. Sherif's explanation of the results became known as realistic group conflict theory, because the intergroup conflict was induced through competition over resources. Inducing cooperation and superordinate goals later reversed this effect.
In Leon Festinger's cognitive dissonance experiment, participants were asked to perform a boring task. They were divided into 2 groups and given two different pay scales. At the study's end, some participants were paid $1 to say that they enjoyed the task and another group of participants was paid $20 to say the same lie. The first group ($1) later reported liking the task better than the second group ($20). Festinger's explanation was that for people in the first group being paid only $1 is not sufficient incentive for lying and those who were paid $1 experienced dissonance. They could only overcome that dissonance by justifying their lies by changing their previously unfavorable attitudes about the task. Being paid $20 provides a reason for doing the boring task, therefore no dissonance.
One of the most notable experiments in social psychology was the Milgram experiment, which studied how far people would go to obey an authority figure. Following the events of The Holocaust in World War II, the experiment showed that (most) normal American citizens were capable of following orders from an authority even when they believed they were causing an innocent person to suffer.
In the Stanford prison study, by Philip Zimbardo, a simulated exercise between student prisoners and guards showed how far people would follow an adopted role. In just a few days, the "guards" became brutal and cruel, and the prisoners became miserable and compliant. This was initially argued to be an important demonstration of the power of the immediate social situation and its capacity to overwhelm normal personality traits. However, to this day, it remains a matter of contention what conclusions may be drawn from this study. For example, it has been pointed out that participant self-selection may have affected the participants' behaviour, and that the participants' personality influenced their reactions in a variety of ways, including how long they chose to remain in the study. One of the most concerted empirical revisitations of the themes raised by Zimbardo came with the 2002 BBC prison study.
The goal of social psychology is to understand cognition and behavior as they naturally occur in a social context, but the very act of observing people can influence and alter their behavior. For this reason, many social psychology experiments utilize deception to conceal or distort certain aspects of the study. Deception may include false cover stories, false participants (known as confederates or stooges), false feedback given to the participants, and so on.
The practice of deception has been challenged by some psychologists who maintain that deception under any circumstances is unethical, and that other research strategies (e.g., role-playing) should be used instead. Unfortunately, research has shown that role-playing studies do not produce the same results as deception studies and this has cast doubt on their validity. In addition to deception, experimenters have at times put people into potentially uncomfortable or embarrassing situations (e.g., the Milgram experiment and Stanford prison experiment), and this has also been criticized for ethical reasons.
To protect the rights and well-being of research participants, and at the same time discover meaningful results and insights into human behavior, virtually all social psychology research must pass an ethical review process. At most colleges and universities, this is conducted by an ethics committee or Institutional Review Board. This group examines the proposed research to make sure that no harm is likely to be done to the participants, and that the study's benefits outweigh any possible risks or discomforts to people taking part in the study.
Furthermore, a process of informed consent is often used to make sure that volunteers know what will happen in the experiment and understand that they are allowed to quit the experiment at any time. A debriefing is typically done at the experiment's conclusion in order to reveal any deceptions used and generally make sure that the participants are unharmed by the procedures. Today, most research in social psychology involves no more risk of harm than can be expected from routine psychological testing or normal daily activities.
Social Psychology plays a key role in a child's development. During this time, teens are faced with many issues and decisions that can impact a teen's social development. They are faced with self esteem issues, peer pressure, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, sex, social media and more. Psychologists today are not fully aware of the affect of social media. Social media is worldwide, so one can be influenced by something they will never encounter in real life. In 2019, social media had become the single most important activity in adolescents and even some older adults lives.
Social psychology has recently found itself at the center of a "replication crisis" due to some research findings proving difficult to replicate. Replication failures are not unique to social psychology and are found in all fields of science. However, several factors have combined to put social psychology at the center of the current controversy.
Firstly, questionable research practices (QRP) have been identified as common in the field. Such practices, while not necessarily intentionally fraudulent, involve converting undesired statistical outcomes into desired outcomes via the manipulation of statistical analyses, sample size or data management, typically to convert non-significant findings into significant ones. Some studies have suggested that at least mild versions of QRP are highly prevalent. One of the critics of Daryl Bem in the feeling the future controversy has suggested that the evidence for precognition in this study could (at least in part) be attributed to QRP.
Secondly, social psychology has found itself at the center of several recent scandals involving outright fraudulent research. Most notably the admitted data fabrication by Diederik Stapel as well as allegations against others. However, most scholars acknowledge that fraud is, perhaps, the lesser contribution to replication crises.
Third, several effects in social psychology have been found to be difficult to replicate even before the current replication crisis. For example, the scientific journal Judgment and Decision Making has published several studies over the years that fail to provide support for the unconscious thought theory. Replications appear particularly difficult when research trials are pre-registered and conducted by research groups not highly invested in the theory under questioning.
These three elements together have resulted in renewed attention for replication supported by Daniel Kahneman. Scrutiny of many effects have shown that several core beliefs are hard to replicate. A recent special edition of the journal Social Psychology focused on replication studies and a number of previously held beliefs were found to be difficult to replicate. A 2012 special edition of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science also focused on issues ranging from publication bias to null-aversion that contribute to the replication crises in psychology
It is important to note that this replication crisis does not mean that social psychology is unscientific. Rather this process is a healthy if sometimes acrimonious part of the scientific process in which old ideas or those that cannot withstand careful scrutiny are pruned. The consequence is that some areas of social psychology once considered solid, such as social priming, have come under increased scrutiny due to failed replications
In the English language, black sheep is an idiom used to describe an odd or disreputable member of a group, especially within a family. The term stems from the genetic effect in sheep whereby a recessive gene occasionally manifests in the birth of a sheep with black rather than white coloring; these sheep stand out in the flock and their wool was traditionally considered less valuable.
The term has typically been given negative implications, implying waywardness.In psychology, the black sheep effect refers to the tendency of group members to judge likeable ingroup members more positively and deviant ingroup member more negatively than comparable outgroup members.Cognitive dissonance
In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. This discomfort is triggered by a situation in which a person’s belief clashes with new evidence perceived by the person. When confronted with facts that contradict beliefs, ideals, and values, people will try to find a way to resolve the contradiction to reduce their discomfort.In A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (1957), Leon Festinger proposed that human beings strive for internal psychological consistency to function mentally in the real world. A person who experiences internal inconsistency tends to become psychologically uncomfortable and is motivated to reduce the cognitive dissonance, by making changes to justify the stressful behavior, either by adding new parts to the cognition causing the psychological dissonance or by avoiding circumstances and contradictory information likely to increase the magnitude of the cognitive dissonance.Community psychology
Community psychology studies the individuals' contexts within communities and the wider society, and the relationships of the individual to communities and society. Community psychologists seek to understand the quality of life of individuals within groups, organizations and institutions, communities, and society. Their aim is to enhance quality of life through collaborative research and action.Community psychology employs various perspectives within and outside psychology to address issues of communities, the relationships within them, and related people's attitudes and behaviour.
Rappaport (1977) discusses the perspective of community psychology as an ecological perspective on the person–environment fit (this is often related to work environments) being the focus of study and action instead of attempting to change the personality of individual or the environment when an individual is seen as having a problem.Closely related disciplines include ecological psychology, environmental psychology, critical psychology, cross-cultural psychology, social psychology, political science, public health, sociology, social work, applied anthropology, and community development.Community psychology grew out of the community mental health movement, but evolved dramatically as early practitioners incorporated their understandings of political structures and other community contexts into perspectives on client services.Drive theory
In psychology, a drive theory or drive doctrine is a theory that attempts to define, analyze, or classify the psychological drives. A drive is an "excitatory state produced by a homeostatic disturbance", an instinctual need that has the power of driving the behaviour of an individual.In 1943, Clark Hull and Kenneth Spence, two psychologists, had the first interest in this idea of motivation. They knew it was a sense of their motivation, drives, and an explanation of all behavior. After years of research, they created the drive theory. Drive theory is based on the principle that organisms are born with certain psychological needs and that a negative state of tension is created when these needs are not satisfied. When a need is satisfied, drive is reduced and the organism returns to a state of homeostasis and relaxation. According to the theory, drive tends to increase over time and operates on a feedback control system, much like a thermostat. In a study conducted by Hull, two groups of rats were put in a maze, group A was given food after three hours and group B was given food after twenty-two hours. Hull had decided that the rats that were deprived of food longer would be more likely to develop a habit of going down the same path to obtain food.Fundamental attribution error
In social psychology, fundamental attribution error (FAE), also known as correspondence bias or attribution effect, is the concept that, in contrast to interpretations of their own behavior, people tend to (unduly) emphasize the agent's internal characteristics (character or intention), rather than external factors, in explaining other people's behavior. This effect has been described as "the tendency to believe that what people do reflects who they are".Hypocrisy
Hypocrisy is the contrivance of a false appearance of virtue or goodness, while concealing real character or inclinations, especially with respect to religious and moral beliefs; hence, in a general sense, hypocrisy may involve dissimulation, pretense, or a sham. Hypocrisy is the practice of engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one criticizes another. In moral psychology, it is the failure to follow one's own expressed moral rules and principles. According to British political philosopher David Runciman, "Other kinds of hypocritical deception include claims to knowledge that one lacks, claims to a consistency that one cannot sustain, claims to a loyalty that one does not possess, claims to an identity that one does not hold". American political journalist Michael Gerson says that political hypocrisy is "the conscious use of a mask to fool the public and gain political benefit".Hypocrisy has been a subject of folk wisdom and wisdom literature from the beginnings of human history. Increasingly, since the 1980s, it has also become central to studies in behavioral economics, cognitive science, cultural psychology, decision making, ethics, evolutionary psychology, moral psychology, political sociology, positive psychology, social psychology, and sociological social psychology.In-group favoritism
In-group favoritism, sometimes known as in-group–out-group bias, in-group bias, or intergroup bias, is a pattern of favoring members of one's in-group over out-group members. This can be expressed in evaluation of others, in allocation of resources, and in many other ways.This effect has been researched by many psychologists and linked to many theories related to group conflict and prejudice. The phenomenon is primarily viewed from a social psychology standpoint. Studies have shown that in-group favoritism arises as a result of the formation of cultural groups. These cultural groups can be divided based on seemingly trivial observable traits, but with time, populations grow to associate certain traits with certain behaviour, increasing covariation. This then incentivises in-group bias.
Two prominent theoretical approaches to the phenomenon of in-group favoritism are realistic conflict theory and social identity theory. Realistic conflict theory proposes that intergroup competition, and sometimes intergroup conflict, arises when two groups have opposing claims to scarce resources. In contrast, social identity theory posits a psychological drive for positively distinct social identities as the general root cause of in-group favoring behavior.Interpersonal attraction
Interpersonal attraction is the attraction between people which leads to the development of platonic or romantic relationships. It is distinct from perceptions such as physical attractiveness, and involves views of what is and what is not considered beautiful or attractive.
The study of interpersonal attraction is a major area of research in social psychology. Interpersonal attraction is related to how much one likes, dislikes, or hates someone. It can be viewed as a force acting between two people that tends to draw them together and to resist their separation. When measuring interpersonal attraction, one must refer to the qualities of the attracted and those of the attractor to achieve predictive accuracy. It is suggested that to determine attraction, both the personalities and the situation must be taken into account.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology is a monthly peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the American Psychological Association that was established in 1965. It covers the fields of social and personality psychology. The editors-in-chief are Shinobu Kitayama (University of Michigan; Attitudes and Social Cognition Section), Kerry Kawakami (York University; Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes Section), and M. Lynne Cooper (University of Missouri; Personality Processes and Individual Differences Section).Leon Festinger
Leon Festinger (8 May 1919 – 11 February 1989) was an American social psychologist, perhaps best known for cognitive dissonance and social comparison theory. His theories and research are credited with renouncing the previously dominant behaviorist view of social psychology by demonstrating the inadequacy of stimulus-response conditioning accounts of human behavior. Festinger is also credited with advancing the use of laboratory experimentation in social psychology, although he simultaneously stressed the importance of studying real-life situations, a principle he perhaps most famously practiced when personally infiltrating a doomsday cult. He is also known in social network theory for the proximity effect (or propinquity).Festinger studied psychology under Kurt Lewin, an important figure in modern social psychology, at the University of Iowa, graduating in 1941; however, he did not develop an interest in social psychology until after joining the faculty at Lewin's Research Center for Group Dynamics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1945. Despite his preeminence in social psychology, Festinger turned to visual perception research in 1964 and then archaeology and history in 1979 until his death in 1989. Following B. F. Skinner, Jean Piaget, Sigmund Freud, and Albert Bandura, Festinger was the fifth most cited psychologist of the 20th century.Social cognition
Social cognition is a sub-topic of various branches of psychology that focuses on how people process, store, and apply information about other people and social situations. It focuses on the role that cognitive processes play in social interactions.More technically, social cognition refers to how people deal with conspecifics (members of the same species) or even across species (such as pet) information, include four stages: encoding, storage, retrieval, and processing. In the area of social psychology, social cognition refers to a specific approach in which these processes are studied according to the methods of cognitive psychology and information processing theory. According to this view, social cognition is a level of analysis that aims to understand social psychological phenomena by investigating the cognitive processes that underlie them. The major concerns of the approach are the processes involved in the perception, judgment, and memory of social stimuli; the effects of social and affective factors on information processing; and the behavioral and interpersonal consequences of cognitive processes. This level of analysis may be applied to any content area within social psychology, including research on intrapersonal, interpersonal, intragroup, and intergroup processes.
The term social cognition has been used in multiple areas in psychology and cognitive neuroscience, most often to refer to various social abilities disrupted in autism, schizophrenia and other disorders. In cognitive neuroscience the biological basis of social cognition is investigated. Developmental psychologists study the development of social cognition abilities.Social group
In the social sciences, a social group can be defined as two or more people who interact with one another, share similar characteristics, and collectively have a sense of unity. Other theorists disagree however, and are wary of definitions which stress the importance of interdependence or objective similarity. Instead, researchers within the social identity tradition generally define it as "a group is defined in terms of those who identify themselves as members of the group". Regardless, social groups come in a myriad of sizes and varieties. For example, a society can be viewed as a large social group.Social identity theory
Social identity is the portion of an individual's self-concept derived from perceived membership in a relevant social group. As originally formulated by social psychologists Henri Tajfel and John Turner in the 1970s and the 1980s, social identity theory introduced the concept of a social identity as a way in which to explain intergroup behaviour.Social identity theory is described as a theory that predicts certain intergroup behaviours on the basis of perceived group status differences, the perceived legitimacy and stability of those status differences, and the perceived ability to move from one group to another. This contrasts with occasions where the term "social identity theory" is used to refer to general theorizing about human social selves. Moreover, and although some researchers have treated it as such, social identity theory was never intended to be a general theory of social categorization. It was awareness of the limited scope of social identity theory that led John Turner and colleagues to develop a cousin theory in the form of self-categorization theory, which built on the insights of social identity theory to produce a more general account of self and group processes. The term social identity approach, or social identity perspective, is suggested for describing the joint contributions of both social identity theory and self-categorization theory. Social identity theory suggests that an organization can change individual behaviors if it can modify their self-identity or part of their self-concept that derives from the knowledge of, and emotional attachment to the group.Social psychology (sociology)
In sociology, social psychology, also known as sociological social psychology or microsociology, is an area of sociology that focuses on social actions and on interrelations of personality, values, and mind with social structure and culture. Some of the major topics in this field are social status, structural
power, sociocultural change, social inequality and prejudice, leadership and intra-group behavior, social exchange, group conflict, impression formation and management, conversation structures, socialization, social constructionism, social norms and deviance, identity and roles, and emotional labor. The primary methods of data collection are sample surveys, field observations, vignette studies, field experiments, and controlled experiments.Society for Personality and Social Psychology
The Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) is an academic society for personality and social psychologists focused on promoting scientific research that explores how people think, behave and interact. It is the largest organization of social psychologists and personality psychologists in the world. SPSP was founded in 1974 and it manages the activities of Division 8 of the American Psychological Association.Stereotype
In social psychology, a stereotype is an over-generalized belief about a particular category of people. Stereotypes are generalized because one assumes that the stereotype is true for each individual person in the category. While such generalizations may be useful when making quick decisions, they may be erroneous when applied to particular individuals. Stereotypes encourage prejudice and may arise for a number of reasons.Stereotype threat
Stereotype threat is a situational predicament in which people are or feel themselves to be at risk of conforming to stereotypes about their social group. Stereotype threat is purportedly a contributing factor to long-standing racial and gender gaps in academic performance. It may occur whenever an individual's performance might confirm a negative stereotype because stereotype threat is thought to arise from a particular situation, rather than from an individual's personality traits or characteristics. Since most people have at least one social identity which is negatively stereotyped, most people are vulnerable to stereotype threat if they encounter a situation in which the stereotype is relevant. Situational factors that increase stereotype threat can include the difficulty of the task, the belief that the task measures their abilities, and the relevance of the stereotype to the task. Individuals show higher degrees of stereotype threat on tasks they wish to perform well on and when they identify strongly with the stereotyped group. These effects are also increased when they expect discrimination due to their identification with a negatively stereotyped group. Repeated experiences of stereotype threat can lead to a vicious circle of diminished confidence, poor performance, and loss of interest in the relevant area of achievement.Since its introduction into the academic literature, stereotype threat has become one of the most widely studied topics in the field of social psychology.
Stereotype threat has been argued to show a reduction in the performance of individuals who belong to negatively stereotyped groups. According to the theory, if negative stereotypes are present regarding a specific group, group members are likely to become anxious about their performance, which may hinder their ability to perform to their full potential. Importantly, the individual does not need to subscribe to the stereotype for it to be activated. It is hypothesized that the mechanism through which anxiety (induced by the activation of the stereotype) decreases performance is by depleting working memory (especially the phonological aspects of the working memory system).However, studies have cautioned that stereotype threat should not be interpreted as a factor in real-world performance gaps. Multiple reviews has raised concerns that the effect has been over-estimated for schoolgirls and that the field likely suffers from publication bias.The opposite of stereotype threat is stereotype boost, which is when people perform better than they otherwise would have, because of exposure to positive stereotypes about their social group. A variant of stereotype boost is stereotype lift, which is people achieving better performance because of exposure to negative stereotypes about other social groups.Steven Neuberg
Steven L. Neuberg is an experimental social psychologist whose research has contributed to topics pertaining to person perception, impression formation, stereotyping, prejudice, self-fulfilling prophecies, stereotype threat, and prosocial behavior. His research can be broadly characterized as exploring the ways motives and goals shape social thought processes; extending this approach, his later work employs the adaptationist logic of evolutionary psychology to inform the study of social cognition and social behavior. Neuberg has published over sixty scholarly articles and chapters, and has co-authored a multi-edition social psychology textbook with his colleagues Douglas Kenrick and Robert Cialdini.Susan Fiske
Susan Tufts Fiske (born August 19, 1952) is the Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs in the Department of Psychology at Princeton University. She is a social psychologist known for her work on social cognition, stereotypes, and prejudice. Fiske leads the Intergroup Relations, Social Cognition, and Social Neuroscience Lab at Princeton University. A quantitative analysis published in 2014 identified her as the 22nd most eminent researcher in the modern era of psychology (12th among living researchers, 2nd among women). Her theoretical contributions include the development of the stereotype content model, ambivalent sexism theory, power as control theory, and the continuum model of impression formation.
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