Social Psychology

Social psychology is one of the numerous disciplines of social science, which deal with the study of human condition in general. It is concerned with how mental and social processes influence action and involves the interaction between sociological and psychological processes.

Social psychology students learn about how people express themselves and the things that make human beings “tick”. They use scientific methods to find the way people perceive things, think about and influence others as well as the nature of the social relationships.

Although there are many courses, they have core lessons the students must cover. Some of the issues covered include love, loneliness, conformity and organizational culture. The subject deals with a number of perspectives, the major ones being evolutionary, sociocultural, social-cognitive and social learning perspectives.

Some of the subjects covered in the social psychology classes include:

– Introduction to social psychology
– The methods of social psychological research
– The social self
– Understanding others
– Social judgment
– Attitudes, behavior, and rationalization
– Emotion
– Social influence
– Persuasion
– Attraction
– Relationships
– Stereotyping, Prejudice, and Discrimination
– Helping, Hurting, and Cooperating
– Groups

Some of the suggested readings include:

‘A Textbook of Social Psychology’ by Jim Alcock (psychology professor) and Bill Carment in 2005 provides a simple introduction to social psychology by using simple illustrations and examples.

‘Applied Social Psychology’ was first published in 2004. It is a collection of various readings dealing with the application of the subject for personal, social and institutional well-being. While the chapters are scholarly, they also make an interesting read. It is edited by Marilynn Brewer who holds a doctorate in social psychology from the Northwestern University and Miles Hewstone who received his PhD from Oxford University.

In ‘Some Conditions of Obedience and Disobedience to Authority,’ Stanley Milgram studied how obedience can sometimes be destructive, especially in light of the Second World War. Milgram theorized that people are so ingrained in obeying people with authority over them that they will violate their own ethics and morals. He conducted an experiment at Yale University on 40 men between 20 and 40 years recruited via advertisements. They were given electric shocks for every wrong answer at increasing voltages. Interestingly, none defied the orders before reaching 300 volts!

John A Bargh, L Burrows and M Chen published ‘Automaticity of Social Behavior’ in 1996, where they demonstrated that people tend to respond automatically to stereotypes they have been ‘fed’ on. They looked at the role of conscious choice processes in social behavior.

‘A history of social psychology’ by Gustav Jahoda traces the history of the subject from the 1860s to World War II.

It is a good idea to take social psychology notes from the relevant sections of these publications for ease of study.

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