Sunday, September 29, 2013

Social Psychology Definition

          Myers (2010), “social psychology lies at psychology’s boundary with sociology” (p. 4). Social psychology is a young discipline of science, whereas the reporting of its first experiments occurred in 1898, and the appearance of its first texts did not occur until before and after 1900 (Myers, 2010). The current form of social psychology emerged in the 1930s, and World War II was the point where it became the field it is known as today Myers, 2010). Social psychology has a specific definition, which separates it from other disciplines of psychology, and details how it differs from other related disciplines. Social psychology also has different types of research. By understanding the definition, differences from other related disciplines, and research methods, one can form an understanding of social psychology.  
Definition Social Psychology
          Myers (2010), “social psychology is a science that studies the influences of our situations, with special attention to how we view and affect one another” (p. 4). Therefore, it is a scientific study of how individuals think about, relate to, and influence each other (Myers, 2010). Components of social psychology include social influences, social relations, and social thinking. Social influences include an individual’s culture and pressure of conforming. Social relations include an individual’s attractions, intimacy, aggressions, and prejudices. Social thinking involves how an individual sees himself or herself and other individual around himself or herself. It also involves an individual’s attitudes, judgments, and beliefs. Important in social psychology are attitudes, or how an individual views a particular individual, concept, belief, or behavior.  
          Within social psychology, social psychologists try understanding the means by which the realistic, implied, or imagined presence of other individuals influences the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors of others (Thoits, 1995). Social psychologists use research to inform individuals and society how social interactions affect individuals and society. Social psychology lies at the intersection between the disciplines of psychology (the study of behavior and the mind) and sociology (the study of social behavior). Within social psychology, psychologists, and sociologists regularly cite the theories and research of each other, and draw from the theories and research of each other.
Social Psychology and Other Related Disciplines Differences
          Within psychology, social psychology is one branch, and it shares a close relationship with personality psychology. In comparison with personality psychology, social psychology is more so focused on the differences of individuals and less on how said individuals affect and view each other in general as in personality psychology (Myers, 2010). Social psychology assumes situations are the primary factor as for behavior. The intention of social psychologists is to relate behavior to environmental factors through research. Personality psychology differs because of the assumption of the primary force behind individual behavior is the disposition of an individual in a situation and not the situation itself. Social psychology also shares a close relationship with sociology. Intertwined are sociology and social psychology, although there are differences. In comparison with sociology (the study of individuals in societies and groups), the focus of social psychology is more so on individuals and uses experimentation more (Myers, 2010).
          Social psychology is a means to expand upon studies of sociologists. Although sociologists study individuals in groups, social psychologists focus on the individual in a group and use experimentation more often. Social factors affecting an individual are what sociologists study. While, identifying why said factors have effects are what social psychologist perform (Thoits, 1995). Sociologists perform studies to understand how situations, relationships, and characteristics influence an individual’s behaviors, feelings, and thoughts. Although social psychologists, provide an explanation as for why and how factors have an effect on an individual. Social psychologists try understanding how a group arrives at decisions, whereas sociologists try explaining how the characteristics of an individual have an effect on the decision a group makes. Social psychologist, focus on obedience whereas sociologists attempt to explain deviant behaviors (Thoits, 1995). Social psychology is different from related disciplines although it is shares a close relationship with one discipline, which is sociology.  
Types of Research in Social Psychology
          Social psychology uses different types of research to how individuals influence, relate to, and think about each other (Myers, 2010). These types of research enable testing of hypothesis and theories by looking for the relationships among differing variables (Myers, 2010). The types of research in social psychology are descriptive, correlational, and experimental research. Descriptive research’s point is to depict what currently exists in a population or group. This type of research cannot determine the relationship between two variables occurs; however, there is the ability to describing what exists in a given population. Through correlational research, social psychologist study relationships that naturally occur among variables, and attempt to explain these relationships (Myers, 2010). However, it lacks the ability to distinguish causation between variables (Myers, 2010). Methods to gather data for correlational research include directly observing behaviors, compiling earlier study research, and surveys. Experimental research can determine cause and affect between variables through its studies; by using by the using of independent variables, dependent variables, and a manipulated experimental factor. Therefore, by only changing the independent variable and keeping the dependent variable constant, social psychologists can isolate the specific affect that the first variable has on the second variable. Descriptive research, correlational research, and experimental research are critical to social psychology.
          Social psychology is a young discipline of science and is the scientific study of how individuals influence, relate to, and think about each other (Myers, 2010). Social psychology differs from the disciplines of personality psychology and sociology in varies ways. Three types of research used in social psychology are descriptive research, correlational research, and experimental research. Social psychology is an important discipline in psychology because of its study of individuals’ behavior as related to social situations.

Thoits, P. A. (1995). Social Psychology: The Interplay between Sociology and Psychology. Social Forces, 73(4), 1231.

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