Jul 16, 2019 in Psychology

Introduction

Social Psychology is the scientific study of people’s thoughts, feelings and behavior especially while in social situations. The study comprises two major disciplines; sociology and psychology. Sociology pays attention to groups or affiliations while psychology is centered on the individual.  Through this study, social psychologists find answers to a plethora of questions demanding to know why people help or ignore those in need, the essence of romantic attraction to others, how and why people form stereotypes about racial and ethnic groups as well as ways of overcoming them. It also investigate the techniques that advertisers use to persuade buyers of their products, reasons for people’s conformity in group situations and factors which make one an effective leader. In order to achieve satisfactory answers to these questions, social psychologists often apply a number of methods of research such as laboratory experiments, cases studies, observation of real events and behaviors, and conducting survey to obtain public opinions, among others. There are various social psychologists who conduct basic research to assess general theories concerning human social behavior. However, others simply apply that particular research to solve typical social problems in the real world. As a way of substantiating these facts, this paper outlines the principles of social psychology by providing an overview of the field as well as explaining how they are associated with its practice. Also, the paper reflects on the future of social psychology, what people should expect in terms of research and outcomes.

Social Psychology Principles

Discovering the Self 

Psychology helps people to discover themselves in terms how they perceive their inner self and their interactions with others. This is done in three aspects; the self-concept, awareness and self-schemas; the acting self and self-esteem and self-efficacy. Self-concept clarifies what one really is in terms of aptitude and attitudes. It is what determines one’s worth to oneself and to the entire society. People who lack the realization of their self-concept usually fail to live a purpose riven life. They would always fall for anything that appears to please them for that very moment even if it does not look realistic. Similarly, awareness is in line with the values that one stands for which are in conformity with the conventional beliefs and practices. Usually people who have a strong self-awareness are good at making judgment of situations as well as people before they make subsequent decisions. Self-awareness reinforces into someone the conscience such that he or she only does thing that they are sure would bring value not only to themselves but also to others. This is closely related to self-schemas which are organizational and conceptual patterns in the mind. Self-schemas determine an individual ability to synthesize ideas into rational decisions that are in conformity with his personal values as well as others’ expectations. 

 

Contrary to this is that some people usually exist in two forms; the real self which encompasses self-concept, awareness and self-schemas, and the acting self. The latter simply refers to the condition where an individual expresses him of herself in a manner that is totally contrary to what the conventional beliefs and values should be. Self-esteem and self- efficacy are significant concepts that define the degree of self-drive in accomplishing various tasks that one is obliged to. Esteem is a feeling of self-worth which elicits confidence in people. Self-efficacy is dependent on self-esteem. According to House, people with high self-esteem are often seen to be more efficient and confident about whatever they indulge in as compared to those with low self-esteem. As such low-esteem is cultivated by fearful thoughts, intimidating environment, criticisms from other people, humiliation, among others. 

Thinking about Others

Social psychology also entails judgment that people make consistently about others. These judgments are often motivated by attitudes and persuasions, impressions and attributions as well as stereotypes and prejudice. Whereas a number of social psychologists have endeavored to study social influences on human behavior, others pay much attention on the changing patterns of attitudes. Attitudes are personal beliefs or opinions that are comparatively enduring. People are usually guided in changing their attitudes through the process known as persuasion. This is an integral part of human social life which is adopted by politicians, salespeople, religious, trial lawyers and fund-raisers, among others.  Persuasion can be harmful of useful depending on whether approve the message or not.  There are three main factors which contribute to effective persuasive communication. These are the source, the message together with the audience. Summarily, in persuasion, what matters is who says what and to whom. In cases where people behave in ways that are contrary to their own attitudes, they will definitely experience an unpleasant condition of internal tension. This is called cognitive dissonance. 

 

Besides that, social psychology also entails formation of impressions and making of attributions toward others. Some people often form impressions of others making quick and unproblematic judgments basing on their physique, facial expressions, or body language. It is proven that physically attractive are usually perceived to be friendly, happy, confident, warm, successful, and well-adjusted. Some other times however, they form impressions that are inclined on a careful observation of an individual’s behavior. Any explanation for specific behavior that someone comes up with is called attributions. This process can also be described through attribution theory. More often than not people make an error by forming an someone’s impression by interpreting that person’s later behavior. This is usually done in a manner that seems to fit their impression. Sometimes one’s first impression may shape the way he or she treats that person. This process is referred to as self-fulfilling prophecy, which in turn may have thorough influence on his or her actual behavior.

 

Finally, stereotypes and prejudices are also clear outcomes of how people think of others. Stereotypes are generalized beliefs that associate the whole group of people with particular traits. Stereotyping is usually based on gender, race, tribe, class, among other. For instance one may say that African Americans are good at athletics, all librarians are reserved, and second hand-car dealers are crafty, and so on. Where stereotypes are used to denote negativity, it is referred to as prejudice. Prejudices usually stems from direct competition for precious and limited resources; which can trigger frustration, conflict, and animosity. People may also demean others without realizing it. This is sometimes done to augment their sense of self-worth. 

Influencing Others: Persuasion 

Sometimes people use power of persuasion to get others to accomplish certain things or change their behavior of thoughts. Persuasion is the art of convincing or influencing one to do something particularly through coercing, pleading or simply reasoning with them. This usually occurs through physical attractiveness, arousal of fear and other emotions, reaction from the audience as well as through other cues that are superficial.  When the audience looks at the manner in which they speaker is presented, they tend to believe or disbelieve what he or she may be relaying to them. Good grooming evokes confidence from the audience. This means that since well-groomed people are perceived to be successful, the audience is likely to believe what they pass across than those who are not presentable. Similarly, the manner in which the message is presented can arouse the feeling of fear or excitement leading to believing of the message. Sometime the manner in which the audience reacts towards the message being relayed can make other members of the audience also change their mind. In fact many people usually do things simply because every other person is doing. This means that left alone the same people are likely to make decisions that are quite contrary to what they would have done when they were in a multitude.

 

A good persuader usually is confident with himself. The audience usually examines the style in which the message is being communicated. Low confidence of the speaker may lead to little or no influence to the audience’ decisions and vice versa. The message should also be explicit for it to influence people’s thoughts. In case the message being communicated is ambiguous or vague, it may only elicit innumerable criticisms other than compliment. Eventually the audience may end up rejecting it in totality. 

Influencing Others: Obedience and Conformity

Conformity referrers to the manner of thinking, behaving or acting like the rest of the people. Social psychologists have proven that some people do adjust their own behavior to conform to that of the group. Sometimes this happens when they discover that the group has adopted a unanimous opinion and they would not like to go contrary to that. Similarly, other people often conform when they find the judgment made to be difficult. Through these dynamics, many of the people in the society usually find themselves obeying especially the authorities because they believe the authority will bear sole responsibility of the action. Obedience is usually mostly pegged on the fact that the obedient is only following orders from the authority. The most relevant example is the obedience of Nazi soldiers of Germany which led to the killing of millions of Jews and other civilians during World War II. While undergoing trial following these killings, the Nazi death camp administrator Adolf Eichmann attributed his execution of innocent people to the fact that he was purely executing orders of his superiors.

 

As concerns aggressive behavior social psychologists discovered that aggression is usually programmed into the nature of a person by genes, instincts, hormones, and other biological factors. For instance, statistics of crime all over the world reveal that women commit less violent crimes as compared to men. This is because of the biological fact that aggression is associated with testosterone hormone which is only contained in men. Similarly aggression is proven to be triggered by factors such as noise, unfavorable weather, frustration, physical pain, among others. Apart from that viewing and playing of violent movies and games can also cause feeling of aggression especially in children. 

 

Prosocial behaviors form also another topic of social psychology which is concerned with interpersonal behavior. These are human behaviors that are more helpful not just to oneself but to the entire community. The society is said to be peaceful, conducive and enabling when people engage in prosocial acts as opposed to antisocial behaviors. Prosocial behavior is cooperative in nature where are antisocial behavior is competitive. It is only through these prosocial behaviors that meaningful relationship, love and attraction can take place. In the long run people may develop such virtues as altruism, empathy, temperance, among others due to the pervasiveness of prosocial behaviors.  

Group Dynamics: Elements Of Group

Social psychologists often observe people usually exhibit changes in behavior when they assemble in groups. The presence of other people has great influence on people’s behavior as opposed to when they are alone. Research shows that people often loaf when they participate in cooperative joint ventures. This also normally brings about group thinking; where decisions are made jointly. In the process they tend to suppress dissent in order to maintain group harmony. Consequently, this leads to blindness of people who convince themselves that the position adopted by the group is correct. Hasty and erroneous decisions are usually made in this way. Similarly, groups also cause social dilemmas. This is usually the situation when the groups is expected to act upon a certain situation but usually declines on no apparent reason. It is proven that bystanders are less likely to be helpful during an emergency as compared to individuals. 

Reflection: Future Projection of Social Psychology

Basing on the current trend in social psychology I envisage crucial changes that will harmonize people’s lives across the globe. This is because social psychology has been embraced as the most sufficient discipline that can shape the human environment and make this world the best place to enjoy. The vision can possibly be achieved if the above discussed components are well practiced. Owing to the pace at which the contemporary society is acquiring knowledge about social psychology, it can be hoped that the future to be shall be more peaceful and prosperous than it is at the moment. I have a conviction that this is will pass especially after assessing the role that technology is playing to synchronize all the communities of the world through globalization. I also anticipate the research based on the influence of technology in enforcement of social cohesion in the world. If thorough research can be done in line with this belief, I can be proven right or wrong.   

Conclusion

Social psychology has become an unavoidable discipline in the society especially among people who value a meaningful life. It is the best method through which people can enhance social cohesion and boost integration. It unveils reasons that cause strife among the human race yet all are made of common species. The only way to cultivate these is to enable people of the society to understand the factors that have been augmenting discord among them. No one can find cure to a disease whose cause is in oblivion. Similarly, the world’s social problems can never be absolutely resolved unless the society embraces this study of social psychology. Through it they will also understand themselves better before they understand others.

 

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