Introduction: Definition of Social Psychology
Social psychology refers to a discipline with roots in sociology and anthropology. It is a discipline that is not just divided but fragmented and focuses on the explanation of how people in society influence each other. It is a science that attempts to offer an explanation of how others can influence one’s feelings, behaviors, and thoughts. Diverse scholars and sociologists define social psychology in differing ways. However, the definition that is widely accepted was by Gordon Allport; social psychology is the attempt to understanding how individuals are able to influence the actions, thoughts, characters, and feelings of others through implied or actual presence.
Characteristics of Social Psychology
Social psychology is a field that is quite broad with varying features. According to Nisbett and Ross (1991), this field has 4 main features:
- A broad scope
- Cultural mandate
- Scientific methods
- Search for wisdom
A broad Scope
Social psychology is quite a broad topic covering numerous social aspects influencing the behavior of people within society. This field provides an amazing vantage point on various human tissues such as deviance and conformity, groups and self, actions and attitudes hate and love as well as aggression and altruism. Social psychology effectively addresses all these human behavior issues. According to Fiske (2010), it is a field adequately addressing human behavior issues through the use of principles of economists, scientists, health researchers, political scientists, education researchers and educationists, legal scholars and lawyers, and management researchers. The scope breadth of this field can be attributed to the roles of individuals in the lives of others. This issue is traced to the social human group which forms the basis of the biological survival of people within the society. For example, nonverbal behavior certain individuals exhibit in society can have either a negative or positive influence on others. It is common for some individuals to imitate the nonverbal behaviors of others within society. In other cases, this could have a permanent effect on their lives as it is discussed broadly in social psychology (Ross & Nisbett, 1991).
According to Nisbett and Ross (1991), this field has the cultural mandate of translating how people understand human behavior from languages previously used to those emerging. In the majority of cases, older languages are the attribute of custom, religion as well as existing laws. For example, ancient people used religious terms for purposes of foreseeing what others were likely to do in the future. It is a field that provides insights into what others are likely to do at a later date in life. Since this is a science, it always provides an explanation of various cultural respects as well as their use. Throughout the globe, it provides scientific expertise that is necessary towards addressing various issues in areas like schools, healthcare settings, political arena, businesses, and courts (Ross & Nisbett, 1991).
Scientific methods are applied widely in diverse fields. In the field of social psychology, these methods are applied for purposes of predicting casualty and enhancing coherence in scientific understanding. These methods assist social psychologists in enhancing accuracy in the course of the investigation. In the course of investigations, social psychologists are supposed to pursue an analysis as such, they can apply scientific procedures, techniques, and standards in order to come up with information and knowledge that is reliable. When scientific methods are used in this field, they aid in clarifying the manner in which data collected can be used to explain varying human behavior aspects or social puzzles. As Fiske (2010) suggests, scientific methods aid in enhancing the accuracy of information acquired through research. Scientific methods will also help in the identification of the best strategies for research (Fiske, 2010).
Search of Wisdom
It is of great importance to point out that social psychologists will often engage in the study of practical issues that affect the social life of individuals in the attempt of making society a far better place. They do this purposely in order to search for wisdom which is contrary to the belief social psychology entails the search for knowledge only. This is on the basis that wisdom is achieved through intellectual and moral issues fusion or fusion of indirect and direct experience.
The Concept of Situations and the Role it Plays in Social Psychology
Social psychologists, according to Fiske (2010) strive to always explain the significance of social situations in society through the use of varying concepts. One such concept is situation-ism which social psychologists widely use. The concept states that general traits do not exist. As such, individual behavior always is determined and affected by situational and external factors as is often opposed to internal traits. Often, social psychologists place great emphasis on situations on the basis that the majority of people in society are dependent on personality in explaining how others behavior but they fail to take into consideration situations likely to affect them. Consequently, people are supposed to take into consideration situations likely to change the behavior patterns of people in society. Situations also offer complete explanations regarding individual behaviors (Ross & Nisbett, 1991).
A situation-ism concept is a key tool in social psychology. It is crucial to point out the fact social situations aid in helping us understand why people react in certain ways. Individuals are supposed to know one another in order to live and survive better. Basically, situations can assist people to understand others in society better hence provide a platform that can be used for purposes of addressing varying human concerns (Ross & Nisbett, 1991).
Core Social Motives and explain how they affect the Field of Social Psychology Belonging
Social psychologists believe that people are often motivated to affiliate or associate with each other as a way to create a sense of belonging. It is highly likely for individuals to live well when they feel they are respected and valued in the institution or society. It is this motive that helps psychologists better understand why people in a certain group survive.
People belonging to a particular group always work hard so they can attain a shared, accurate social understanding. This is known as cognitive motivation and it encourages people to better understand their environment. It is also of great use in the prediction of what the future holds in case unforeseen uncertainties arise (Fiske, 2010)
In the majority of societies, individuals often are encouraged to be effective and competitive in their undertakings for purposes of staying relevant in society. This social, cognitive motivation molds relationships between people within the society. Individuals work hard always to create a sense of control by being competent and effective. Sense of control assists social psychologists to have a better understanding of adult interactions as well as why people are what they are.
This refers to a cognitive social motive that makes individuals strive to be worthy socially in society. It involves the maintenance of self-esteem as well as self-improvement. Self-enhancing also explains varying aspects of social self like helping, prejudice, attraction, and attribution.
This refers to looking at a society or the world as a place that is benevolent. Hence, it helps individuals to engage in different group activities without undue suspicion or vigilance. All everyday life aspects are affected by the trust. Trusting makes it possible for psychologists to better understand relationships in the real world (Fiske, 2010).
Social psychology is a discipline that is quite broad and it explains the behavior of humans in society. It reveals the manner in which people influence the behaviors, thoughts, and actions of others implied or expressly. It has 4 distinct characteristics which include; broad scope, cultural mandate, scientific method, and search for wisdom. Situation-ism is among the factors at play. Social psychology is a field that affects core social motives such as enhanced self, belonging, controlling, trusting, and understanding.
Fiske, S. T. (2010). Social beings Core motives in social psychology (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Ross, L. R., & Nisbett, R. E. (1991). The person and the situation: Perspectives of social psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill