Social Psychology: Introduction
The importance of psychology increases constantly. Everything that happens to people has its psychological effects. According to the fact that a person can be psychologically affected everywhere, there is a great variety of psychological disciplines. These include general, social, clinical, educational, cognitive psychology and many others. In this paper, social psychology will be examined.
To understand social psychology, one should know what psychology is in general. The word “psychology” consists of two words that are originated from Greek “psyche” (soul) and “logos” (study). At first, the original psychology studied soul. Later, psychologists defined soul as mind. As neither soul nor mind cannot be measured and observed objectively, the other object of study of psychology was defined - behavior. The most widespread definition of psychology is the following: “Psychology is the science of behavior and mental processes of both humans and animals” (Lemma, 2005).
Everything is connected in the world. People constantly find themselves in situations that shape them or get shaped by them. These situations give individuals a possibility to be expressed through behavior. Thus, the definition of social psychology can be formulated follows: “Social psychology is the scientific study of everyday social behavior - how the thoughts, feelings, and actions of individuals are influenced by situations, the individuals themselves, and other people, whether real or imagined” (Allport, 1985). The discipline studies behavior through social thought (examines the origin and functions of people’s attitudes), social influence (examines gender relations, persuasion processes, and effects of group membership on an individual’s behavior), and social connections (evaluates connections between individual and other people, and its positive or negative influence on behavior).
Social behavior is affected by many factors. Among them are cognitive processes (perception, inferences and memory), environment (weather and climate), culture, and biology or evolution. These factors influence each person differently and cause a great variety of behavioral reactions. The task of social psychology is to determine how social situations lead different individuals to act similarly, or similar individuals to act differently.
Social Psychology and Other Related Disciplines
All types of psychological disciplines study behavior; therefore, they are all related. However, they differ by the sphere where the behavior is studied. There is a list of different types of psychology and their main tasks are comprised of the following:
- General psychology studies people and their behavior in general aspects of their lives.
- The task of clinical psychology is to understand and prevent psychologically based problems (bipolar mood disorder, schizophrenia, depression, and phobia), promoting an individual’s wellbeing.
- Cognitive psychology studies the way people perceive information, speak, remember, think and solve problems.
- Educational psychology studies how people think and what they do in an environment where education takes place.
- Sociology is a discipline that studies society and social interactions. On the other hand, social psychology studies the way society affects people’s behavior.
- Neuropsychology studies how brain and the whole nervous system are related to behavior.
The variety of psychological disciplines shows that people are influenced always and everywhere. Thus, the importance of such sciences is clearly justified and appreciated. The results of these studies help people understand that many difficult problems can be solved or even predicted. Psychologists do an important thing: they show that in any embarrassing situation, there is always a way out. If individual cannot find it himself/herself, a qualified professional will help him/her.
The Role of Research in Social Psychology
As psychology is a science, its hypothesis should be proved. To achieve this goal, the research is used. “Like physicists, chemists, or biologists, psychologists make careful measurements, using well-chosen instruments” (Gleitman, Gross, & Reisberg, 2011).
Social psychology takes place between stable and changeable. Its task is not only in describing social reality, but also in developing critical approaches to it, and offering new knowledge and ideas.
For today, there are many different types of researches, which involve qualitative, hypothetico-deductive, inductive, nomothetic, idiographic, and hermeneutic studies. Researchers use them in accordance to the particular goal and sphere. While making the research, psychologists should pay attention to such factors as culture, environment, evolution and others. Moreover, specific ethics should be present during all phases of the research.
A social psychological study must be marked by a great sensitivity for the whole. It involves painting a social and cultural landscape, and forming insights into the various social courses of events, taking place in a specific location and during a special historical period. This demands a great deal of creativity.
Psychologist cannot conceit or make assumptions without research; hence, it plays a great role in social psychology. All ideas or thoughts should be examined and proved, and only certain results help people and society.
All fields of science are important and necessary in their own way. Social psychology is a difficult, but very interesting discipline. It helps better understand people, society, and the changing world through times.