Social psychology

Social psychology

Overview
Social psychology is the scientific study
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 of how people's thought
Thought
"Thought" generally refers to any mental or intellectual activity involving an individual's subjective consciousness. It can refer either to the act of thinking or the resulting ideas or arrangements of ideas. Similar concepts include cognition, sentience, consciousness, and imagination...

s, feeling
Feeling
Feeling is the nominalization of the verb to feel. The word was first used in the English language to describe the physical sensation of touch through either experience or perception. The word is also used to describe experiences, other than the physical sensation of touch, such as "a feeling of...

s, and behavior
Behavior
Behavior or behaviour refers to the actions and mannerisms made by organisms, systems, or artificial entities in conjunction with its environment, which includes the other systems or organisms around as well as the physical environment...

s are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others. By this definition, scientific refers to the empirical
Empirical
The word empirical denotes information gained by means of observation or experimentation. Empirical data are data produced by an experiment or observation....

 method of investigation. The terms thoughts, feelings, and behaviors include all of the psychological
Psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

 variables that are measurable
Measurement
Measurement is the process or the result of determining the ratio of a physical quantity, such as a length, time, temperature etc., to a unit of measurement, such as the metre, second or degree Celsius...

 in a human being. The statement that others may be imagined or implied suggests that we are prone to social influence even when no other people are present, such as when watching television, or following internalized cultural norms
Norm (sociology)
Social norms are the accepted behaviors within a society or group. This sociological and social psychological term has been defined as "the rules that a group uses for appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. These rules may be explicit or implicit...

.

Social psychologists typically explain human behavior as a result of the interaction of mental states
Mind
The concept of mind is understood in many different ways by many different traditions, ranging from panpsychism and animism to traditional and organized religious views, as well as secular and materialist philosophies. Most agree that minds are constituted by conscious experience and intelligent...

 and immediate social situations
Situationism (psychology)
Situationism in psychology refers to an approach to personality that holds that people are more influenced by external, situational factors than by internal traits or motivations....

.
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Encyclopedia
Social psychology is the scientific study
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 of how people's thought
Thought
"Thought" generally refers to any mental or intellectual activity involving an individual's subjective consciousness. It can refer either to the act of thinking or the resulting ideas or arrangements of ideas. Similar concepts include cognition, sentience, consciousness, and imagination...

s, feeling
Feeling
Feeling is the nominalization of the verb to feel. The word was first used in the English language to describe the physical sensation of touch through either experience or perception. The word is also used to describe experiences, other than the physical sensation of touch, such as "a feeling of...

s, and behavior
Behavior
Behavior or behaviour refers to the actions and mannerisms made by organisms, systems, or artificial entities in conjunction with its environment, which includes the other systems or organisms around as well as the physical environment...

s are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others. By this definition, scientific refers to the empirical
Empirical
The word empirical denotes information gained by means of observation or experimentation. Empirical data are data produced by an experiment or observation....

 method of investigation. The terms thoughts, feelings, and behaviors include all of the psychological
Psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

 variables that are measurable
Measurement
Measurement is the process or the result of determining the ratio of a physical quantity, such as a length, time, temperature etc., to a unit of measurement, such as the metre, second or degree Celsius...

 in a human being. The statement that others may be imagined or implied suggests that we are prone to social influence even when no other people are present, such as when watching television, or following internalized cultural norms
Norm (sociology)
Social norms are the accepted behaviors within a society or group. This sociological and social psychological term has been defined as "the rules that a group uses for appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. These rules may be explicit or implicit...

.

Social psychologists typically explain human behavior as a result of the interaction of mental states
Mind
The concept of mind is understood in many different ways by many different traditions, ranging from panpsychism and animism to traditional and organized religious views, as well as secular and materialist philosophies. Most agree that minds are constituted by conscious experience and intelligent...

 and immediate social situations
Situationism (psychology)
Situationism in psychology refers to an approach to personality that holds that people are more influenced by external, situational factors than by internal traits or motivations....

. In Kurt Lewin
Kurt Lewin
Kurt Zadek Lewin was a German-American psychologist, known as one of the modern pioneers of social, organizational, and applied psychology....

's conceptual formula, behavior can be viewed as a function of the person in the environment, B = f(P, E). In general, social psychologists have a preference for laboratory
Laboratory
A laboratory is a facility that provides controlled conditions in which scientific research, experiments, and measurement may be performed. The title of laboratory is also used for certain other facilities where the processes or equipment used are similar to those in scientific laboratories...

 based, empirical findings. Social psychology theories tend to be specific and focused, rather than global and general.

Social psychology is an interdisciplinary domain that bridges the gap between psychology
Psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

 and sociology
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

. During the years immediately following World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, there was frequent collaboration between psychologists and sociologists. However, the two disciplines have become increasingly specialized and isolated from each other in recent years, with sociologists focusing on "macro variables" (e.g. social structure) to a much greater extent. Nevertheless, sociological approaches
Social psychology (sociology)
Social psychology , known as sociological social psychology, and sometimes as psychological sociology, is an area of sociology that focuses on social actions and on interrelations of personality, values, and mind with social structure and culture...

 to social psychology remain an important counterpart to psychological research in this area.

In addition to the split between psychology and sociology, there has been a somewhat less pronounced difference in emphasis between American social psychologists and Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an social psychologists. As a broad generalization, American researchers traditionally have focused more on the individual, whereas Europeans have paid more attention to group level phenomena. See Group dynamics
Group dynamics
Group dynamics refers to a system of behaviors and psychological processes that occur within a social group , or between social groups...

.

History



The discipline of social psychology began in the United States at the dawn of the 20th century. The first published study in this area was an experiment in 1898 by Norman Triplett
Norman Triplett
Norman Triplett was a psychologist at Indiana University. In 1898, he wrote what is now recognized as the first published study in the field of social psychology . His experiment was on the social facilitation effect. Triplett noticed that cyclists tend to have faster times when riding in the...

 on the phenomenon of social facilitation
Social facilitation
Social facilitation is the tendency for people to do better on simple tasks when in the presence of other people. This implies that whenever people are being watched by others, they will do well on things that they are already good at doing...

. During the 1930s, many Gestalt
Gestalt psychology
Gestalt psychology or gestaltism is a theory of mind and brain of the Berlin School; the operational principle of gestalt psychology is that the brain is holistic, parallel, and analog, with self-organizing tendencies...

 psychologists, most notably Kurt Lewin, fled to the United States from Nazi Germany. They were instrumental in developing the field as something separate from the behavioral
Behaviorism
Behaviorism , also called the learning perspective , is a philosophy of psychology based on the proposition that all things that organisms do—including acting, thinking, and feeling—can and should be regarded as behaviors, and that psychological disorders are best treated by altering behavior...

 and psychoanalytic
Psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis is a psychological theory developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis has expanded, been criticized and developed in different directions, mostly by some of Freud's former students, such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav...

 schools that were dominant during that time, and social psychology has always maintained the legacy of their interests in perception and cognition. Attitudes and small group phenomena were the most commonly studied topics in this era.

During WWII, social psychologists studied persuasion
Persuasion
Persuasion is a form of social influence. It is the process of guiding or bringing oneself or another toward the adoption of an idea, attitude, or action by rational and symbolic means.- Methods :...

 and propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

 for the U.S. military. After the war, researchers became interested in a variety of social problems, including gender issues and racial prejudice. Most notable, revealing, and contentious of them all were the Stanley Milgram shock experiments on obedience to authority. In the sixties, there was growing interest in new topics, such as cognitive dissonance
Cognitive dissonance
Cognitive dissonance is a discomfort caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and actions. Dissonance is also reduced by justifying,...

, bystander intervention
Bystander effect
The bystander effect or Genovese syndrome is a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases where individuals do not offer any means of help in an emergency situation to the victim when other people are present...

, and aggression
Aggression
In psychology, as well as other social and behavioral sciences, aggression refers to behavior between members of the same species that is intended to cause humiliation, pain, or harm. Ferguson and Beaver defined aggressive behavior as "Behavior which is intended to increase the social dominance of...

. By the 1970s, however, social psychology in America had reached a crisis. There was heated debate over the ethics of laboratory experimentation, whether or not attitudes really predicted behavior, and how much science could be done in a cultural context (see Gergen, 1973). This was also the time when a radical situationist
Situationism (psychology)
Situationism in psychology refers to an approach to personality that holds that people are more influenced by external, situational factors than by internal traits or motivations....

 approach challenged the relevance of self and personality in psychology.

Social psychology reached maturity in both theory and method during the 1980s and 1990s. Careful ethical standards
Research ethics
Research ethics involves the application of fundamental ethical principles to a variety of topics involving scientific research. These include the design and implementation of research involving human experimentation, animal experimentation, various aspects of academic scandal, including scientific...

 now regulate research, and greater pluralism and multiculturalism perspectives have emerged. Modern researchers are interested in a many phenomena, but attribution
Attribution (psychology)
Attribution is a concept in social psychology referring to how individuals explain causes of behavior and events. Attribution theory is an umbrella term for various theories that attempt to explain these processes. Fritz Heider first proposed a theory of attribution The Psychology of Interpersonal...

, social cognition
Social cognition
Social cognition is the encoding, storage, retrieval, and processing, in the brain, of information relating to conspecifics, or members of the same species. At one time social cognition referred specifically to an approach to social psychology in which these processes were studied according to the...

, and the self-concept are perhaps the greatest areas of growth in recent years. Social psychologists have also maintained their applied interests with contributions in health
Health psychology
Health psychology is concerned with understanding how biological, psychological, environmental, and cultural factors are involved in physical health and illness. Health psychologists work alongside other medical professionals in clinical settings, work on behavior change in public health promotion,...

 and environmental psychology
Environmental psychology
Environmental psychology is an interdisciplinary field focused on the interplay between humans and their surroundings. The field defines the term environment broadly, encompassing natural environments, social settings, built environments, learning environments, and informational environments...

, as well as the psychology of the legal system
Legal psychology
Legal psychology involves empirical, psychological research of the law, legal institutions, and people who come into contact with the law. Legal psychologists typically take basic social and cognitive principles and apply them to issues in the legal system such as eyewitness memory, jury...

.

Attitudes


In social psychology, attitudes
Attitude (psychology)
An attitude is a hypothetical construct that represents an individual's degree of like or dislike for something. Attitudes are generally positive or negative views of a person, place, thing, or event— this is often referred to as the attitude object...

 are defined as learned, global evaluations of a person, object, place, or issue that influence thought and action. Put more simply, attitudes are basic expressions of approval or disapproval, favorability or unfavorability, or as Bem put it, likes and dislikes. Examples would include liking chocolate ice cream, being against abortion, or endorsing the values of a particular political party.

Social psychologists have studied attitude formation, the structure of attitudes, attitude change, the function of attitudes, and the relationship between attitudes and behavior. Because people are influenced by the situation, general attitudes are not always good predictors of specific behavior. For a variety of reasons, a person may value the environment and not recycle a can on a particular day. Attitudes that are well remembered and central to our self-concept
Self-concept
Self-concept is a multi-dimensional construct that refers to an individual's perception of "self" in relation to any number of characteristics, such as academics , gender roles and sexuality, racial identity, and many others. Each of these characteristics is a research domain Self-concept (also...

, however, are more likely to lead to behavior, and measures of general attitudes do predict patterns of behavior over time.

Large amount of recent research on attitudes is on the distinction between traditional, self-report attitude measures and "implicit" or unconscious attitudes. For example, experiments using the Implicit Association Test
Implicit Association Test
The Implicit Association Test is a measure within social psychology designed to detect the strength of a person's automatic association between mental representations of objects in memory. The IAT was introduced in the scientific literature in 1998 by Anthony Greenwald, Debbie McGee, and Jordan...

 have found that people often demonstrate bias against other races, even when their questionnaire responses reveal equal mindedness. One study found that explicit attitudes correlate with verbal behavior in interracial interactions, whereas implicit attitudes correlate with nonverbal behavior.

One hypothesis on how attitudes are formed, first advanced by Abraham Tesser
Abraham Tesser
Abraham Tesser is an American psychologist, who created the self-evaluation maintenance model, a theory in social psychology that focuses on the motives for self-enhancement....

 (1983), is that strong likes and dislikes are rooted in our genetic make-up. Tesser
Abraham Tesser
Abraham Tesser is an American psychologist, who created the self-evaluation maintenance model, a theory in social psychology that focuses on the motives for self-enhancement....

 speculates that individuals are disposed to hold certain strong attitudes as a result of inborn physical, sensory, and cognitive skills, temperament, and personality traits. Whatever disposition nature elects to give us, our most treasured attitudes are often formed as a result of exposure to attitude objects; our history of rewards and punishments; the attitude that our parents, friends, and enemies express; the social and cultural context in which we live; and other types of experiences we have. Obviously, attitudes are formed through the basic process of learning. Numerous studies have shown that people can form strong positive and negative attitudes toward neutral objects that are in some way linked to emotionally charged stimuli.

Attitudes are also involved in several other areas of the discipline, such as the following; conformity, interpersonal attraction
Interpersonal attraction
Interpersonal attraction is the attraction between people which leads to friendships and romantic relationships. Interpersonal attraction, the process, is distinct from perceptions of physical attractiveness which involves views of what is and is not considered beautiful or attractive.The study of...

, social perception
Perception
Perception is the process of attaining awareness or understanding of the environment by organizing and interpreting sensory information. All perception involves signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical stimulation of the sense organs...

, and prejudice
Prejudice
Prejudice is making a judgment or assumption about someone or something before having enough knowledge to be able to do so with guaranteed accuracy, or "judging a book by its cover"...

.

Persuasion


The topic of persuasion
Persuasion
Persuasion is a form of social influence. It is the process of guiding or bringing oneself or another toward the adoption of an idea, attitude, or action by rational and symbolic means.- Methods :...

 has received a great deal of attention in recent years. Persuasion is an active method of influence that attempts to guide people toward the adoption of an attitude, idea, or behavior by rational or emotive means. Persuasion relies on "appeals" rather than strong pressure or coercion
Coercion
Coercion is the practice of forcing another party to behave in an involuntary manner by use of threats or intimidation or some other form of pressure or force. In law, coercion is codified as the duress crime. Such actions are used as leverage, to force the victim to act in the desired way...

. Numerous variables have been found to influence the persuasion process, and these are normally presented in five major categories: who said what to whom and how.
  1. The Communicator, including credibility
    Credibility
    Credibility refers to the objective and subjective components of the believability of a source or message.Traditionally, modern, credibility has two key components: trustworthiness and expertise, which both have objective and subjective components. Trustworthiness is based more on subjective...

    , expertise, trustworthiness
    Trustworthiness
    Trustworthiness is a moral value considered to be a virtue. A trustworthy person is someone in whom you can place your trust and rest assured that the trust will not be betrayed. A person can prove their trustworthiness by fulfilling an assigned responsibility - and as an extension of that, not to...

    , and attractiveness
    Physical attractiveness
    Physical attractiveness refers to a person's physical traits which are perceived to be aesthetically pleasing or beautiful. The term often implies sexual attractiveness or desirability, but can also be distinct from the two; for example, humans may regard the young as attractive for various...

    .
  2. The Message
    Message
    A message in its most general meaning is an object of communication. It is a vessel which provides information. Yet, it can also be this information. Therefore, its meaning is dependent upon the context in which it is used; the term may apply to both the information and its form...

    , including varying degrees of reason
    Reason
    Reason is a term that refers to the capacity human beings have to make sense of things, to establish and verify facts, and to change or justify practices, institutions, and beliefs. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, ...

    , emotion
    Emotion
    Emotion is a complex psychophysiological experience of an individual's state of mind as interacting with biochemical and environmental influences. In humans, emotion fundamentally involves "physiological arousal, expressive behaviors, and conscious experience." Emotion is associated with mood,...

     (such as fear), one-sided or two sided arguments, and other types of informational content.
  3. The Audience
    Audience
    An audience is a group of people who participate in a show or encounter a work of art, literature , theatre, music or academics in any medium...

    , including a variety of demographics
    Demographics
    Demographics are the most recent statistical characteristics of a population. These types of data are used widely in sociology , public policy, and marketing. Commonly examined demographics include gender, race, age, disabilities, mobility, home ownership, employment status, and even location...

    , personality traits, and preference
    Preference
    -Definitions in different disciplines:The term “preferences” is used in a variety of related, but not identical, ways in the scientific literature. This makes it necessary to make explicit the sense in which the term is used in different social sciences....

    s.
  4. The Channel, including the printed word, radio, television, the internet, or face-to-face interactions.
  5. The Context, including the environment, group dynamics, pre-amble to the message


Dual process theories
Dual process theory
In psychology, a dual process theory provides an account of how a phenomenon can occur in two different ways, or as a result of two different processes. Often, the two processes consist of an implicit , unconscious process and an explicit , conscious process...

 of persuasion (such as the elaboration likelihood model
Elaboration likelihood model
The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion is a model of how attitudes are formed and changed that was developed by R. E. Petty and J. T. Cacioppo in the early 1980s . Central to this model is the "elaboration continuum", which ranges from low elaboration to high elaboration...

) maintain that the persuasive process is mediated by two separate routes. Persuasion can be accomplished by either superficial aspects of the communication or the internal logic and evidence of the message. Whether someone is persuaded by a popular celebrity or factual arguments is largely determined by the ability and motivation of the audience.

Persuasion attempts that rely on the mass media frequently result in failure. This is because people's attitudes and behaviors are often established habits that tend to be resistant to change. Communication campaigns are most likely to succeed when they use entertaining characters and messages, tailor the message to fit the audience, and repeat messages across relevant media channels. An example of a highly effective mass media campaign is the Got Milk campaign.

Social cognition


Social cognition
Social cognition
Social cognition is the encoding, storage, retrieval, and processing, in the brain, of information relating to conspecifics, or members of the same species. At one time social cognition referred specifically to an approach to social psychology in which these processes were studied according to the...

 is a growing area of social psychology that studies how people perceive, think about, and remember information about others. Much of the research rests on the assertion that people think about people differently from non-social targets. This assertion is widely supported by the existence of social cognitive deficits exhibited by people with Williams syndrome and autism. Person perception is the study of how people form impressions of others. The study of how people form beliefs about each other while interacting is known as interpersonal perception
Interpersonal perception
Interpersonal perception is an area of research in social psychology which examines the beliefs that interacting people have about each other. This area differs from social cognition and person perception by being interpersonal rather than intrapersonal, and thus requiring the interaction of at...

.

A major research topic in social cognition is attribution
Attribution (psychology)
Attribution is a concept in social psychology referring to how individuals explain causes of behavior and events. Attribution theory is an umbrella term for various theories that attempt to explain these processes. Fritz Heider first proposed a theory of attribution The Psychology of Interpersonal...

. Attributions are the explanations we make for people's behavior, either our own behavior or the behavior of others. We can ascribe the locus of a behavior to either internal or external factors. An internal, or dispositional, locus of causality involves factors within the person, such as ability or personality. An external, or situational, locus involves outside factors, such as the weather. A second element of attribution ascribes the cause of behavior to either stable or unstable factors. Finally, we also attribute causes of behavior to either controllable or uncontrollable factors.

Numerous biases in the attribution process have been discovered. The fundamental attribution error
Fundamental attribution error
In social psychology, the fundamental attribution error describes the tendency to over-value dispositional or personality-based explanations for the observed behaviors of others while under-valuing situational explanations for those behaviors...

 is the tendency to make dispositional attributions for behavior. The actor-observer effect is a refinement of this bias, the tendency to make dispositional attributions for other people's behavior and situational attributions for our own. The just-world phenomenon
Just-world phenomenon
The just world hypothesis describes a cognitive bias in which people believe that the world they live in is one in which actions have appropriate and predictable consequences. This phenomenon has been widely studied by social psychologists since Melvin J. Lerner conducted seminal work on the belief...

 is the tendency to blame victims (a dispositional attribution) for their suffering. This is believed to be motivated by people's anxiety that good people, including themselves, could be victimized in an unjust world. Finally, the self-serving bias
Self-serving bias
A self-serving bias occurs when people attribute their successes to internal or personal factors but attribute their failures to situational factors beyond their control. The self-serving bias can be seen in the common human tendency to take credit for success but to deny responsibility for failure...

 is the tendency to take credit for successes, and blame others for failure. Researchers have found that depressed
Clinical depression
Major depressive disorder is a mental disorder characterized by an all-encompassing low mood accompanied by low self-esteem, and by loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities...

 individuals often lack this bias and actually have more realistic perceptions of reality.

Heuristic
Heuristic
Heuristic refers to experience-based techniques for problem solving, learning, and discovery. Heuristic methods are used to speed up the process of finding a satisfactory solution, where an exhaustive search is impractical...

s are cognitive short cuts. Instead of weighing all the evidence when making a decision, people rely on heuristics to save time and energy. The availability heuristic
Availability heuristic
The availability heuristic is a phenomenon in which people predict the frequency of an event, or a proportion within a population, based on how easily an example can be brought to mind....

 occurs when people estimate the probability
Probability
Probability is ordinarily used to describe an attitude of mind towards some proposition of whose truth we arenot certain. The proposition of interest is usually of the form "Will a specific event occur?" The attitude of mind is of the form "How certain are we that the event will occur?" The...

 of an outcome based on how easy that outcome is to imagine. As such, vivid or highly memorable possibilities will be perceived as more likely than those that are harder to picture or are difficult to understand, resulting in a corresponding cognitive bias. Numerous other biases have been found by social cognition researchers. The hindsight bias
Hindsight bias
Hindsight bias, or alternatively the knew-it-all-along effect and creeping determinism, is the inclination to see events that have already occurred as being more predictable than they were before they took place. It is a multifaceted phenomenon that can affect different stages of designs,...

 is a false memory
Confabulation
Confabulation is the process in which a memory is remembered falsely. Confabulations are indicative of a complicated and intricate process that can be led astray at any given point during encoding, storage, or recall of a memory. Two distinct types of confabulation are often distinguished...

 of having predicted events, or an exaggeration of actual predictions, after becoming aware of the outcome. The confirmation bias
Confirmation bias
Confirmation bias is a tendency for people to favor information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses regardless of whether the information is true.David Perkins, a geneticist, coined the term "myside bias" referring to a preference for "my" side of an issue...

 is a type of bias leading to the tendency to search for, or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions.

Another key concept in social cognition is the assumption that reality is too complex to easily discern. As a result, we tend to see the world according to simplified schemas or images of reality. Schemas
Schema (psychology)
A schema , in psychology and cognitive science, describes any of several concepts including:* An organized pattern of thought or behavior.* A structured cluster of pre-conceived ideas....

 are generalized mental representations that organize knowledge and guide information processing. Schemas often operate automatically
Automaticity
Automaticity is the ability to do things without occupying the mind with the low-level details required, allowing it to become an automatic response pattern or habit. It is usually the result of learning, repetition, and practice....

 and unintentionally, and can lead to biases in perception
Perception
Perception is the process of attaining awareness or understanding of the environment by organizing and interpreting sensory information. All perception involves signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical stimulation of the sense organs...

 and memory
Memory
In psychology, memory is an organism's ability to store, retain, and recall information and experiences. Traditional studies of memory began in the fields of philosophy, including techniques of artificially enhancing memory....

. Expectations from schemas may lead us to see something that is not there. One experiment found that people are more likely to misperceive a weapon in the hands of a black man than a white man. This type of schema is actually a stereotype
Stereotype
A stereotype is a popular belief about specific social groups or types of individuals. The concepts of "stereotype" and "prejudice" are often confused with many other different meanings...

, a generalized set of beliefs about a particular group of people (Ultimate attribution error
Ultimate attribution error
The ultimate attribution error is a term in social psychology which refers to a bias people commonly have towards members of an outgroup. Specifically, they view negative acts committed by outgroup members as a stable trait of the outgroup, and view positive acts committed by outgroup members as...

). Stereotypes are often related to negative or preferential attitudes (prejudice
Prejudice
Prejudice is making a judgment or assumption about someone or something before having enough knowledge to be able to do so with guaranteed accuracy, or "judging a book by its cover"...

) and behavior (discrimination
Discrimination
Discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on their membership in a certain group or category. It involves the actual behaviors towards groups such as excluding or restricting members of one group from opportunities that are available to another group. The term began to be...

). Schemas for types of events (e.g. going to a restaurant, doing laundry) are known as scripts.

Self-concept



Self-concept
Self-concept
Self-concept is a multi-dimensional construct that refers to an individual's perception of "self" in relation to any number of characteristics, such as academics , gender roles and sexuality, racial identity, and many others. Each of these characteristics is a research domain Self-concept (also...

 is a term referring to the whole sum of beliefs that people have about themselves. However, what specifically does self-concept consist of? According to Hazel Markus (1977), the self-concept is made up of cognitive molecules called self-schema
Self-Schema
The term self-schema refers to the beliefs and ideas people have about themselves. These beliefs are used to guide and organize information processing, especially when the information is significant to the self. Self-schemas are important to a person's overall self-concept.- General self-schema...

; which is a belief that people have about themselves which guides the processing of self reliant information. Self-schema
Self-Schema
The term self-schema refers to the beliefs and ideas people have about themselves. These beliefs are used to guide and organize information processing, especially when the information is significant to the self. Self-schemas are important to a person's overall self-concept.- General self-schema...

s are to an individual’s total self–concept as a hypothesis is to a theory, or a book is to a library. A good example to use is body weight self-schema; people who regard themselves as over or underweight, or for those whom body image is a conspicuous aspect of the self-concept, are considered schematics with respect to weight. For these people a range of otherwise mundane events – grocery shopping, new clothes, eating out, or going to the beach – can trigger thoughts about the self. In contrast, people who do not regard their weight as an important part of their lives are a-schematic on that attribute.

It is rather clear that the self is a special object of our attention
Attention
Attention is the cognitive process of paying attention to one aspect of the environment while ignoring others. Attention is one of the most intensely studied topics within psychology and cognitive neuroscience....

. Whether you are mentally focused on a memory
Memory
In psychology, memory is an organism's ability to store, retain, and recall information and experiences. Traditional studies of memory began in the fields of philosophy, including techniques of artificially enhancing memory....

, a conversation
Conversation
Conversation is a form of interactive, spontaneous communication between two or more people who are following rules of etiquette.Conversation analysis is a branch of sociology which studies the structure and organization of human interaction, with a more specific focus on conversational...

, a foul smell, the song that is stuck in your head, or this sentence, conscious is like a spotlight. This spotlight
Spotlight
Spotlight may refer to:-Lighting:* Searchlight* Any of several types of stage lighting instruments** Followspot, a light used in theatre- Music :* "Spotlight" , 2005* "Spotlight" , 2009...

 can shine on only one object at a time, but it can switch rapidly from one object to another and process the information out of awareness
Awareness
Awareness is the state or ability to perceive, to feel, or to be conscious of events, objects or sensory patterns. In this level of consciousness, sense data can be confirmed by an observer without necessarily implying understanding. More broadly, it is the state or quality of being aware of...

. In this spotlight the self is front and center.
The ABC’s of the self are: affect, behavior, and cognition. A cognitive question: How do individuals become themselves, build a self-concept, and uphold a stable sense of identity? An affective (or emotional) question: How do people evaluate themselves, enhance their self image, and maintain a secure sense of identity? A behavioral question: How do people regulate their own actions and present themselves to others according to interpersonal demands?

Affective forecasting is the process of prediction
Prediction
A prediction or forecast is a statement about the way things will happen in the future, often but not always based on experience or knowledge...

 of how one would feel in response to future emotional events. Studies done by Timothy Wilson
Timothy Wilson
Timothy D. Wilson is the Sherrell J. Aston Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia and a researcher of self-knowledge and affective forecasting.-Career:...

 and Daniel Gilbert
Daniel Gilbert
Daniel Todd Gilbert is Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. He is a social psychologist who is known for his research on affective forecasting, with a special emphasis on cognitive biases such as the impact bias...

 (2003), have shown that people overestimate the strength or reaction, to positive and negative life events, than they actually felt when the event did occur.

There are many theories on the perception
Perception
Perception is the process of attaining awareness or understanding of the environment by organizing and interpreting sensory information. All perception involves signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical stimulation of the sense organs...

 of our own behavior. Daryl Bem’s (1972) self perception theory claims that when internal cues are difficult to interpret, people gain self-insight by observing their own behavior. Leon Festinger's (1954), social comparison theory
Social comparison theory
Social comparison theory is a theory initially proposed by social psychologist Leon Festinger in 1954. It explains how individuals evaluate their own opinions and desires by comparing themselves to others.- Basic framework :...

 is that people evaluate their own abilities and opinions by comparing themselves to others when they are uncertain of their own ability or opinions. There is also the facial feedback hypothesis
Facial feedback hypothesis
The facial feedback hypothesis states that facial movement can influence emotional experience. For example, an individual who is forced to smile during a social event will actually come to find the event more of an enjoyable experience.-Background:...

; that changes in facial expression can lead to corresponding changes in emotion.

The fields of social psychology and personality
Personality psychology
Personality psychology is a branch of psychology that studies personality and individual differences. Its areas of focus include:* Constructing a coherent picture of the individual and his or her major psychological processes...

 have merged over the years, and social psychologists have developed an interest in self-related phenomena. In contrast with traditional personality theory, however, social psychologists place a greater emphasis on cognitions than on traits. Much research focuses on the self-concept
Self-concept
Self-concept is a multi-dimensional construct that refers to an individual's perception of "self" in relation to any number of characteristics, such as academics , gender roles and sexuality, racial identity, and many others. Each of these characteristics is a research domain Self-concept (also...

, which is a person's understanding of his or her self. The self-concept is often divided into a cognitive component, known as the self-schema, and an evaluative component, the self-esteem. The need to maintain a healthy self-esteem
Self-esteem
Self-esteem is a term in psychology to reflect a person's overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her own worth. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs and emotions such as triumph, despair, pride and shame: some would distinguish how 'the self-concept is what we think about the self; self-esteem, the...

 is recognized as a central human motivation
Motivation
Motivation is the driving force by which humans achieve their goals. Motivation is said to be intrinsic or extrinsic. The term is generally used for humans but it can also be used to describe the causes for animal behavior as well. This article refers to human motivation...

 in the field of social psychology.

Self-efficacy
Self-efficacy
Self-efficacy is a term used in psychology, roughly corresponding to a person's belief in their own competence.It has been defined as the belief that one is capable of performing in a certain manner to attain certain set of goals. It is believed that our personalized ideas of self-efficacy affect...

 beliefs are cognitions that are associated with the self-schema. These are expectations that performance on some task will be effective and successful. Social psychologists also study such self-related processes as self-control and self-presentation
Impression management
In sociology and social psychology, impression management is a goal-directed conscious or unconscious process in which people attempt to influence the perceptions of other people about a person, object or event; they do so by regulating and controlling information in social interaction...

.

People develop their self-concepts by varied means, including introspection
Introspection
Introspection is the self-observation and reporting of conscious inner thoughts, desires and sensations. It is a conscious and purposive process relying on thinking, reasoning, and examining one's own thoughts, feelings, and, in more spiritual cases, one's soul...

, feedback from others, self-perception
Self-perception theory
Self-perception theory is an account of attitude change developed by psychologist Daryl Bem. It asserts that people develop their attitudes by observing their behaviour and concluding what attitudes must have caused them. The theory is counterintuitive in nature, as the conventional wisdom is that...

, and social comparison
Social comparison theory
Social comparison theory is a theory initially proposed by social psychologist Leon Festinger in 1954. It explains how individuals evaluate their own opinions and desires by comparing themselves to others.- Basic framework :...

. By comparison to relevant others, people gain information about themselves, and they make inferences that are relevant to self-esteem. Social comparisons can be either "upward" or "downward," that is, comparisons to people who are either higher in status or ability, or lower in status or ability. Downward comparisons are often made in order to elevate self-esteem.

Self-perception
Self-perception theory
Self-perception theory is an account of attitude change developed by psychologist Daryl Bem. It asserts that people develop their attitudes by observing their behaviour and concluding what attitudes must have caused them. The theory is counterintuitive in nature, as the conventional wisdom is that...

 is a specialized form of attribution that involves making inferences about oneself after observing one's own behavior. Psychologists have found that too many extrinsic rewards (e.g. money) tend to reduce intrinsic motivation through the self-perception process, a phenomenon known as overjustification. People's attention is directed to the reward and they lose interest in the task when the reward is no longer offered. This is an important exception to reinforcement
Reinforcement
Reinforcement is a term in operant conditioning and behavior analysis for the process of increasing the rate or probability of a behavior in the form of a "response" by the delivery or emergence of a stimulus Reinforcement is a term in operant conditioning and behavior analysis for the process of...

 theory.


Cognitive dissonance


Cognitive dissonance
Cognitive dissonance
Cognitive dissonance is a discomfort caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and actions. Dissonance is also reduced by justifying,...

 is a feeling of unpleasant arousal
Arousal
Arousal is a physiological and psychological state of being awake or reactive to stimuli. It involves the activation of the reticular activating system in the brain stem, the autonomic nervous system and the endocrine system, leading to increased heart rate and blood pressure and a condition of...

 caused by noticing an inconsistency among one's cognition. These contradictory cognitions may be attitudes
Attitude (psychology)
An attitude is a hypothetical construct that represents an individual's degree of like or dislike for something. Attitudes are generally positive or negative views of a person, place, thing, or event— this is often referred to as the attitude object...

, belief
Belief
Belief is the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise to be true.-Belief, knowledge and epistemology:The terms belief and knowledge are used differently in philosophy....

s, or one's awareness of his or her behavior. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive
Drive theory
The terms drive theory and drive reduction theory refer to a diverse set of motivational theories in psychology. Drive theory is based on the principle that organisms are born with certain physiological needs and that a negative state of tension is created when these needs are not satisfied...

 to reduce dissonance by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, or by justifying or rationalizing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Cognitive dissonance theory is one of the most influential and extensively studied theories in social psychology.

Cognitive dissonance theory was originally developed as a theory of attitude change, but it is now considered to be a theory of the self-concept by many social psychologists. Dissonance is strongest when a discrepancy has been noticed between one's self-concept and one's behavior, e.g. doing something that makes one ashamed
Shame
Shame is, variously, an affect, emotion, cognition, state, or condition. The roots of the word shame are thought to derive from an older word meaning to cover; as such, covering oneself, literally or figuratively, is a natural expression of shame....

. This can result in self-justification as the individual attempts to deal with the threat. Cognitive dissonance typically leads to a change in attitude, a change in behavior, a self-affirmation, or a rationalization
Rationalization (psychology)
In psychology and logic, rationalization is an unconscious defense mechanism in which perceived controversial behaviors or feelings are logically justified and explained in a rational or logical manner in order to avoid any true explanation and made consciously tolerable by plausible means...

 of the behavior.

An example of cognitive dissonance is smoking. Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of cancer, which is threatening to the self-concept of the individual who smokes. Most of us believe ourselves to be intelligent and rational, and the idea of doing something foolish and self-destructive causes dissonance. To reduce this uncomfortable tension, smokers tend to make excuses for themselves, such as "I'm going to die anyway, so it doesn't matter."

Social influence


Social influence refers to the way people affect the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of others. Like the study of attitudes, it is a traditional, core topic in social psychology. In fact, research on social influence overlaps considerably with research on attitudes
Attitude (psychology)
An attitude is a hypothetical construct that represents an individual's degree of like or dislike for something. Attitudes are generally positive or negative views of a person, place, thing, or event— this is often referred to as the attitude object...

 and persuasion
Persuasion
Persuasion is a form of social influence. It is the process of guiding or bringing oneself or another toward the adoption of an idea, attitude, or action by rational and symbolic means.- Methods :...

. Social influence is also closely related to the study of group dynamics, as most of the principles of influence are strongest when they take place in social groups.

Conformity is the most common and pervasive form of social influence. It is generally defined as the tendency to act or think like other members of a group. Group size, unanimity
Unanimity
Unanimity is agreement by all people in a given situation. When unanimous, everybody is of the same mind and acting together as one. Though unlike uniformity, it does not constitute absolute agreement. Many groups consider unanimous decisions a sign of agreement, solidarity, and unity...

, cohesion
Coherence theory of truth
Coherence theory of truth regards truth as coherence with some specified set of sentences, propositions or beliefs. There is no single coherence theory of truth, but rather an assortment of perspectives that are commonly collected under this title...

, status
Social status
In sociology or anthropology, social status is the honor or prestige attached to one's position in society . It may also refer to a rank or position that one holds in a group, for example son or daughter, playmate, pupil, etc....

, and prior commitment all help to determine the level of conformity in an individual. Conformity is usually viewed as a negative tendency in American culture, but a certain amount of conformity is not only necessary and normal, but probably essential for a community to function.

The two major motives in conformity are normative influence, the tendency to conform in order to gain social acceptance, and avoid social rejection
Social rejection
Social rejection occurs when an individual is deliberately excluded from a social relationship or social interaction. The topic includes both interpersonal rejection and romantic rejection. A person can be rejected on an individual basis or by an entire group of people...

 or conflict, as in peer pressure
Peer pressure
Peer pressure refers to the influence exerted by a peer group in encouraging a person to change his or her attitudes, values, or behavior in order to conform to group norms. Social groups affected include membership groups, when the individual is "formally" a member , or a social clique...

; and informational influence, which is based on the desire to obtain useful information through conformity, and thereby achieve a correct or appropriate result. Minority influence
Minority influence
Minority influence, a form of social influence, takes place when a minority, like an individual, influences a majority to accept the minority's beliefs or behaviour. There are two types of social influence: majority influence and minority influence...

 is the degree to which a smaller faction within the group influences the group during decision making. Note that this refers to a minority position on some issue, not an ethnic minority
Minority group
A minority is a sociological group within a demographic. The demographic could be based on many factors from ethnicity, gender, wealth, power, etc. The term extends to numerous situations, and civilizations within history, despite the misnomer of minorities associated with a numerical statistic...

. Their influence is primarily informational and depends on consistent adherence to a position, degree of defection from the majority, and the status and self-confidence of the minority members. Reactance
Reactance (psychology)
Reactance is an emotional reaction in direct contradiction to rules or regulations that threaten or eliminate specific behavioral freedoms.Reactance can occur when someone is heavily pressured to accept a certain view or attitude. Reactance can cause the person to adopt or strengthen a view or...

 is a tendency to assert oneself by doing the opposite of what is expected. This phenomenon is also known as anticonformity and it appears to be more common in men than in women.

There are two other major areas of social influence research. Compliance
Compliance (psychology)
Compliance refers to a response — specifically, a submission — made in reaction to a request. The request may be explicit or implicit . The target may or may not recognize that he or she is being urged to act in a particular way.Social psychology is centered on the idea of social influence...

 refers to any change in behavior that is due to a request or suggestion from another person. The Foot-in-the-door technique
Foot-in-the-door technique
Foot-in-the-door technique is a compliance tactic that involves getting a person to agree to a large request by first setting them up by having that person agree to a modest request. The foot-in-the-door technique succeeds due to a basic human reality that social scientists call “successive...

 is a compliance method in which the persuader requests a small favor and then follows up with a larger favor, e.g. asking for the time, and then asking for ten dollars. A related trick is the Bait and switch
Bait and switch
Bait-and-switch is a form of fraud, most commonly used in retail sales but also applicable to other contexts. First, customers are "baited" by advertising for a product or service at a low price; second, the customers discover that the advertised good is not available and are "switched" to a...

. The third major form of social influence is obedience
Obedience (human behavior)
In human behavior, obedience is the quality of being obedient, which describes the act of carrying-out commands or being actuated. Obedience differs from compliance, which is behavior influenced by peers, and from conformity, which is behavior intended to match that of the majority. Obedience can...

. This is a change in behavior that is the result of a direct order or command from another person.

A different kind of social influence is the self-fulfilling prophecy
Self-fulfilling prophecy
A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior. Although examples of such prophecies can be found in literature as far back as ancient Greece and...

. This is a prediction that, in being made, actually causes itself to become true. For example, in the stock market
Stock market
A stock market or equity market is a public entity for the trading of company stock and derivatives at an agreed price; these are securities listed on a stock exchange as well as those only traded privately.The size of the world stock market was estimated at about $36.6 trillion...

, if it is widely believed that a crash
Stock market crash
A stock market crash is a sudden dramatic decline of stock prices across a significant cross-section of a stock market, resulting in a significant loss of paper wealth. Crashes are driven by panic as much as by underlying economic factors...

 is imminent, investors may lose confidence, sell most of their stock, and actually cause the crash. Likewise, people may expect hostility in others and actually induce this hostility by their own behavior.

Group dynamics


A group can be defined as two or more individuals that are connected to each another by social relationships
Interpersonal relationship
An interpersonal relationship is an association between two or more people that may range from fleeting to enduring. This association may be based on limerence, love, solidarity, regular business interactions, or some other type of social commitment. Interpersonal relationships are formed in the...

. Groups tend to interact, influence each other, and share a common identity. They have a number of emergent qualities that distinguish them from aggregates:
  • Norms
    Norm (sociology)
    Social norms are the accepted behaviors within a society or group. This sociological and social psychological term has been defined as "the rules that a group uses for appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. These rules may be explicit or implicit...

     - implicit rules and expectations for group members to follow, e.g. saying thank you, shaking hands.
  • Role
    Role
    A role or a social role is a set of connected behaviours, rights and obligations as conceptualised by actors in a social situation. It is an expected or free or continuously changing behaviour and may have a given individual social status or social position...

    s - implicit rules and expectations for specific members within the group, e.g. the oldest sibling, who may have additional responsibilities in the family.
  • Relations
    Interpersonal relationship
    An interpersonal relationship is an association between two or more people that may range from fleeting to enduring. This association may be based on limerence, love, solidarity, regular business interactions, or some other type of social commitment. Interpersonal relationships are formed in the...

     - patterns of liking within the group, and also differences in prestige or status, e.g. leaders, popular people.


Temporary groups and aggregates share few or none of these features, and do not qualify as true social groups. People waiting in line to get on a bus, for example, do not constitute a group.

Groups are important not only because they offer social support, resources, and a feeling of belonging, but because they supplement an individual's self-concept. To a large extent, humans define themselves by the group memberships which form their social identity
Social identity
A social identity is the portion of an individual's self-concept derived from perceived membership in a relevant social group. As originally formulated by Henri Tajfel and John Turner in the 1970s and 80s, social identity theory introduced the concept of a social identity as a way in which to...

. The shared social identity of individuals within a group influences intergroup behavior, the way in which groups behave towards and perceive each other. These perceptions and behaviors in turn define the social identity of individuals within the interacting groups. The tendency to define oneself by membership of a group leads to intergroup discrimination, which involves favorable perceptions and behaviors directed towards the in-group, but negative perceptions and behaviors directed towards the out-group. Intergroup discrimination leads to prejudice and stereotyping, while the processes of social facilitation and group polarization
Group polarization
In social psychology, group polarization refers to the tendency for groups to make decisions that are more extreme than the initial inclination of its members. These more extreme decisions are towards greater risk if individual's initial tendency is to be risky and towards greater caution if...

 encourage extreme behaviors towards the out-group.

Groups often moderate and improve decision making
Decision making
Decision making can be regarded as the mental processes resulting in the selection of a course of action among several alternative scenarios. Every decision making process produces a final choice. The output can be an action or an opinion of choice.- Overview :Human performance in decision terms...

, and are frequently relied upon for these benefits, such as committees and juries. A number of group biases, however, can interfere with effective decision making. For example, group polarization
Group polarization
In social psychology, group polarization refers to the tendency for groups to make decisions that are more extreme than the initial inclination of its members. These more extreme decisions are towards greater risk if individual's initial tendency is to be risky and towards greater caution if...

, formerly known as the "risky shift," occurs when people polarize their views in a more extreme direction after group discussion. More problematic is the phenomenon of groupthink
Groupthink
Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within groups of people. It is the mode of thinking that happens when the desire for harmony in a decision-making group overrides a realistic appraisal of alternatives. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without...

. This is a collective thinking defect that is characterized by a premature consensus or an incorrect assumption of consensus, caused by members of a group failing to promote views which are not consistent with the views of other members. Groupthink occurs in a variety of situations, including isolation of a group and the presence of a highly directive leader. Janis offered the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion
Bay of Pigs Invasion
The Bay of Pigs Invasion was an unsuccessful action by a CIA-trained force of Cuban exiles to invade southern Cuba, with support and encouragement from the US government, in an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. The invasion was launched in April 1961, less than three months...

 as a historical case of groupthink.

Groups also affect performance and productivity
Productivity
Productivity is a measure of the efficiency of production. Productivity is a ratio of what is produced to what is required to produce it. Usually this ratio is in the form of an average, expressing the total output divided by the total input...

. Social facilitation, for example, is a tendency to work harder and faster in the presence of others. Social facilitation increases the likelihood of the dominant response, which tends to improve performance on simple tasks and reduce it on complex tasks. In contrast, social loafing
Social loafing
In the social psychology of groups, social loafing is the phenomenon of people exerting less effort to achieve a goal when they work in a group than when they work alone...

 is the tendency of individuals to slack
Slacker
The term "slacker" is used to refer to a person who habitually avoids work. Slackers may be regarded as belonging to an antimaterialistic counterculture, though in some cases their behavior may be due to other causes ....

 when working in a group. Social loafing is common when the task is considered unimportant and individual contributions are not easy to see.

Social psychologists study group-related (collective) phenomena such as the behavior of crowd
Crowd
A crowd is a large and definable group of people, while "the crowd" is referred to as the so-called lower orders of people in general...

s. An important concept in this area is deindividuation
Deindividuation
Deindividuation is a concept in social psychology regarding the loosening of social norms in groups. Sociologists also study the phenomenon of deindividuation, but the level of analysis is somewhat different. For the social psychologist, the level of analysis is the individual in the context of a...

, a reduced state of self-awareness
Self-awareness
Self-awareness is the capacity for introspection and the ability to reconcile oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals...

 that can be caused by feelings of anonymity. Deindividuation is associated with uninhibited and sometimes dangerous behavior. It is common in crowds and mobs, but it can also be caused by a disguise, a uniform, alcohol, dark environments, or online anonymity.

Relations with others


Social psychologists are interested in the question of why people sometimes act in a prosocial
Helpfulness
In social psychology, the everyday concept of helpfulness is really technically defined as the property of providing useful assistance, and friendliness evidenced by a kindly and helpful disposition [syn: kindliness]....

 way (helping, liking, or loving others), but at other times act in an antisocial way (hostility, aggression, or prejudice against others).

Aggression can be defined as any behavior that is intended to harm another human being. Hostile aggression is accompanied by strong emotions, particularly anger. Harming the other person is the goal. Instrumental aggression is only a means to an end. Harming the person is used to obtain some other goal, such as money. Research indicates that there are many causes of aggression, including biological factors like testosterone
Testosterone
Testosterone is a steroid hormone from the androgen group and is found in mammals, reptiles, birds, and other vertebrates. In mammals, testosterone is primarily secreted in the testes of males and the ovaries of females, although small amounts are also secreted by the adrenal glands...

 and environmental factors, such as social learning
Observational learning
Observational learning is a type of learning that occurs as a function of observing, retaining and replicating novel behavior executed by others...

. Immediate situational factors such as frustration
Frustration
This article concerns the field of psychology. The term frustration does, however, also concern physics. In this context, the term is treated in a different article, geometric frustration....

 are also important in triggering an aggressive response.

Although violence is a fact of life, people are also capable of helping each other, even complete strangers in emergencies. Research indicates that altruism
Altruism
Altruism is a concern for the welfare of others. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures, and a core aspect of various religious traditions, though the concept of 'others' toward whom concern should be directed can vary among cultures and religions. Altruism is the opposite of...

 occurs when a person feels empathy
Empathy
Empathy is the capacity to recognize and, to some extent, share feelings that are being experienced by another sapient or semi-sapient being. Someone may need to have a certain amount of empathy before they are able to feel compassion. The English word was coined in 1909 by E.B...

 for another individual, even in the absence of other motives. However, according to the bystander effect
Bystander effect
The bystander effect or Genovese syndrome is a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases where individuals do not offer any means of help in an emergency situation to the victim when other people are present...

, the probability of receiving help in an emergency situation drops as the number of bystanders increases. This is due to both conformity and diffusion of responsibility
Diffusion of responsibility
Diffusion of responsibility is a sociopsychological phenomenon. It refers to the tendency of any individual person to avoid taking action, or refraining from action, when others are present. Considered a form of attribution, the individual assumes that either others are responsible for taking...

, the tendency for people to feel less personally responsible when other people are around.


Interpersonal attraction


A major area in the study of people's relations to each other is interpersonal attraction
Interpersonal attraction
Interpersonal attraction is the attraction between people which leads to friendships and romantic relationships. Interpersonal attraction, the process, is distinct from perceptions of physical attractiveness which involves views of what is and is not considered beautiful or attractive.The study of...

. This refers to all of the forces that lead people to like each other, establish relationships, and in some cases, fall in love
Love
Love is an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment. In philosophical context, love is a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection. Love is central to many religions, as in the Christian phrase, "God is love" or Agape in the Canonical gospels...

. Several general principles of attraction have been discovered by social psychologists, but many still continue to experiment and do research to find out more. One of the most important factors in interpersonal attraction is how similar two particular people are. The more similar two people are in general attitudes, backgrounds, environments, views of the world and other traits, the more probable an attraction is possible. Contrary to popular opinion, opposites do not usually attract.

Physical attractiveness
Physical attractiveness
Physical attractiveness refers to a person's physical traits which are perceived to be aesthetically pleasing or beautiful. The term often implies sexual attractiveness or desirability, but can also be distinct from the two; for example, humans may regard the young as attractive for various...

 is an important element of romantic relationships, particularly in the early stages characterized by high levels of passion
Limerence
Limerence is a term coined c. 1977 by the psychologist Dorothy Tennov to describe an involuntary state of mind which seems to result from a romantic attraction to another person combined with an overwhelming, obsessive need to have one's feelings reciprocated...

. Later on, similarity and other compatibility factors become more important, and the type of love people experience shifts from passionate to companionate. Robert Sternberg
Robert Sternberg
Robert Jeffrey Sternberg , is an American psychologist and psychometrician and Provost at Oklahoma State University. He was formerly the Dean of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University, IBM Professor of Psychology and Education at Yale University and the President of the American Psychological...

 has suggested that there are actually three components of love: intimacy, passion, and commitment. When two people experience all three, they are said to be in a state of consummate love.

According to social exchange theory
Social exchange theory
Social exchange theory is a social psychological and sociological perspective that explains social change and stability as a process of negotiated exchanges between parties. Social exchange theory posits that all human relationships are formed by the use of a subjective cost-benefit analysis and...

, relationships are based on rational choice and cost-benefit analysis. If one partner's costs begin to outweigh his or her benefits, that person may leave the relationship, especially if there are good alternatives available. This theory is similar to the minimax principle proposed by mathematicians and economists. With time, long term relationships tend to become communal rather than simply based on exchange.

Methods


Social psychology is an empirical
Empirical
The word empirical denotes information gained by means of observation or experimentation. Empirical data are data produced by an experiment or observation....

 science that attempts to answer questions about human behavior by testing hypotheses, both in the laboratory and in the field. Careful attention to sampling, research design, and statistical analysis
Statistics
Statistics is the study of the collection, organization, analysis, and interpretation of data. It deals with all aspects of this, including the planning of data collection in terms of the design of surveys and experiments....

 is important, and results are published in peer reviewed journals such as the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology is a scientific journal covering Psychology published by Elsevier, and is distributed as part of dues to the membership of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology...

, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin is a scientific journal published by SAGE Publications for the Society for Personality and Social Psychology...

and the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology is a monthly psychology journal of the American Psychological Association. It is considered one of the top journals in the fields of social and personality psychology. Its focus is on empirical research reports; however, specialized theoretical,...

. Social psychology studies also appear in general science journals such as Psychological Science and Science
Science (journal)
Science is the academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is one of the world's top scientific journals....

.

Experimental methods
Experiment
An experiment is a methodical procedure carried out with the goal of verifying, falsifying, or establishing the validity of a hypothesis. Experiments vary greatly in their goal and scale, but always rely on repeatable procedure and logical analysis of the results...

 involve the researcher altering a variable in the environment and measuring the effect on another variable. An example would be allowing two groups of children to play violent or nonviolent videogames, and then observing their subsequent level of aggression during free-play period. A valid experiment is controlled and uses random assignment
Random assignment
Random assignment or random placement is an experimental technique for assigning subjects to different treatments . The thinking behind random assignment is that by randomizing treatment assignment, then the group attributes for the different treatments will be roughly equivalent and therefore any...

.

Correlational methods
Correlation
In statistics, dependence refers to any statistical relationship between two random variables or two sets of data. Correlation refers to any of a broad class of statistical relationships involving dependence....

 examine the statistical association between two naturally occurring variables. For example, one could correlate the amount of violent television children watch at home with the number of violent incidents the children participate in at school. Note that this study would not prove that violent TV causes aggression in children. It's quite possible that aggressive children choose to watch more violent TV.

Observational methods
Observation
Observation is either an activity of a living being, such as a human, consisting of receiving knowledge of the outside world through the senses, or the recording of data using scientific instruments. The term may also refer to any data collected during this activity...

 are purely descriptive and include naturalistic observation
Naturalistic observation
Naturalistic observation is a research tool in which a subject is observed in its natural habitat without any manipulation by the observer. During naturalistic observation researchers take great care to avoid interfering with the behavior they are observing by using unobtrusive methods...

, "contrived" observation, participant observation, and archival analysis. These are less common in social psychology but are sometimes used when first investigating a phenomenon. An example would be to unobtrusively observe children on a playground (with a videocamera, perhaps) and record the number and types of aggressive actions displayed.

Whenever possible, social psychologists rely on controlled experimentation. Controlled experiments require the manipulation of one or more independent variables
Dependent and independent variables
The terms "dependent variable" and "independent variable" are used in similar but subtly different ways in mathematics and statistics as part of the standard terminology in those subjects...

 in order to examine the effect on a dependent variable
Dependent and independent variables
The terms "dependent variable" and "independent variable" are used in similar but subtly different ways in mathematics and statistics as part of the standard terminology in those subjects...

. Experiments are useful in social psychology because they are high in internal validity
Internal validity
Internal validity is the validity of inferences in scientific studies, usually based on experiments as experimental validity.- Details :...

, meaning that they are free from the influence of confounding
Confounding
In statistics, a confounding variable is an extraneous variable in a statistical model that correlates with both the dependent variable and the independent variable...

 or extraneous variables, and so are more likely to accurately indicate a causal relationship. However, the small samples used in controlled experiments are typically low in external validity
External validity
External validity is the validity of generalized inferences in scientific studies, usually based on experiments as experimental validity....

, or the degree to which the results can be generalized the larger population. There is usually a trade-off between experimental control (internal validity
Internal validity
Internal validity is the validity of inferences in scientific studies, usually based on experiments as experimental validity.- Details :...

) and being able to generalize to the population (external validity
External validity
External validity is the validity of generalized inferences in scientific studies, usually based on experiments as experimental validity....

).

Because it is usually impossible to test everyone, research tends to be conducted on a sample
Sample (statistics)
In statistics, a sample is a subset of a population. Typically, the population is very large, making a census or a complete enumeration of all the values in the population impractical or impossible. The sample represents a subset of manageable size...

 of persons from the wider population
Population
A population is all the organisms that both belong to the same group or species and live in the same geographical area. The area that is used to define a sexual population is such that inter-breeding is possible between any pair within the area and more probable than cross-breeding with individuals...

. Social psychologists frequently use survey
Statistical survey
Survey methodology is the field that studies surveys, that is, the sample of individuals from a population with a view towards making statistical inferences about the population using the sample. Polls about public opinion, such as political beliefs, are reported in the news media in democracies....

 research when they are interested in results that are high in external validity. Surveys use various forms of random sampling
Sampling (statistics)
In statistics and survey methodology, sampling is concerned with the selection of a subset of individuals from within a population to estimate characteristics of the whole population....

 to obtain a sample of respondents that are representative of a population. This type of research is usually descriptive or correlational because there is no experimental control over variables. However, new statistical methods like structural equation modeling
Structural equation modeling
Structural equation modeling is a statistical technique for testing and estimating causal relations using a combination of statistical data and qualitative causal assumptions...

 are being used to test for potential causal relationships in this type of data.

Regardless of which method is used, it is important to evaluate the research hypothesis in light of the results, either confirming or rejecting the original prediction. Social psychologists use statistics and probability testing to judge their results, which define a significant finding as less than 5% likely to be due to chance. Replications
Reproducibility
Reproducibility is the ability of an experiment or study to be accurately reproduced, or replicated, by someone else working independently...

 are important, to ensure that the result is valid and not due to chance, or some feature of a particular sample.

Ethics


The goal of social psychology is to understand cognition and behavior as they naturally occur in a social context, but the very act of observing people can influence and alter their behavior. For this reason, many social psychology experiments utilize deception
Deception
Deception, beguilement, deceit, bluff, mystification, bad faith, and subterfuge are acts to propagate beliefs that are not true, or not the whole truth . Deception can involve dissimulation, propaganda, and sleight of hand. It can employ distraction, camouflage or concealment...

 to conceal or distort certain aspects of the study. Deception may include false cover stories, false participants (known as confederates or stooges), false feedback given to the participants, and so on.

The practice of deception has been challenged by some psychologists who maintain that deception under any circumstances is unethical, and that other research strategies (e.g. roleplaying) should be used instead. Unfortunately, research has shown that role-playing studies do not produce the same results as deception studies and this has cast doubt on their validity. In addition to deception, experimenters have at times put people into potentially uncomfortable or embarrassing situations (e.g. the Milgram experiment
Milgram experiment
The Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures was a series of notable social psychology experiments conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram, which measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts that...

, Stanford prison experiment
Stanford prison experiment
The Stanford prison experiment was a study of the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard. The experiment was conducted from August 14th-20th, 1971, by a team of researchers led by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University...

), and this has also been criticized for ethical reasons.

To protect the rights and well-being of research participants, and at the same time discover meaningful results and insights into human behavior, virtually all social psychology research must pass an ethical
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

 review process. At most colleges and universities, this is conducted by an ethics committee or Institutional Review Board
Institutional review board
An institutional review board , also known as an independent ethics committee or ethical review board , is a committee that has been formally designated to approve, monitor, and review biomedical and behavioral research involving humans with the aim to protect the rights and welfare of the...

. This group examines the proposed research to make sure that no harm is done to the participants, and that the benefits of the study outweigh any possible risks or discomforts to people taking part in the study.

Furthermore, a process of informed consent
Informed consent
Informed consent is a phrase often used in law to indicate that the consent a person gives meets certain minimum standards. As a literal matter, in the absence of fraud, it is redundant. An informed consent can be said to have been given based upon a clear appreciation and understanding of the...

 is often used to make sure that volunteers know what will happen in the experiment and understand that they are allowed to quit the experiment at any time. A debriefing
Debriefing
-Military debriefing:Debriefings originated in the military. This type of debriefing is used to receive information from a pilot or soldier after a mission, and to instruct the individual as to what information can be released to the public and what information is restricted...

 is typically done at the conclusion of the experiment in order to reveal any deceptions used and generally make sure that the participants are unharmed by the procedures. Today, most research in social psychology involves no more risk of harm than can be expected from routine psychological testing or normal daily activities.

Famous experiments


The Asch conformity experiments
Asch conformity experiments
The Asch conformity experiments were a series of studies published in the 1950s that demonstrated the power of conformity in groups. These are also known as the Asch Paradigm.-Introduction:...

 demonstrated the power of conformity in small groups with a line estimation task that was designed to be extremely easy. On over a third of the trials, participants conformed to the majority, even though the majority judgment was clearly wrong. Seventy-five percent of the participants conformed at least once during the experiment.

Muzafer Sherif
Muzafer Sherif
Muzafer Sherif was one of the founders of social psychology...

's Robbers' Cave Experiment divided boys into two competing groups to explore how much hostility and aggression would emerge. Sherif's explanation of the results became known as realistic group conflict theory, because the intergroup conflict was induced through competition over resources. Inducing cooperation and [superordinate goals] later reversed this effect.

In Leon Festinger's cognitive dissonance experiment, participants were asked to perform a boring task. They were divided into 2 groups and given two different pay scales. At the end of the study, some participants were paid $1 to say that they enjoyed the task and another group of participants was paid $20 to say the same lie. The first group ($1) later reported liking the task better than the second group ($20). Festinger's explanation was that people justified their lies by changing their previously unfavorable attitudes about the task.

One of the most infamous experiments in social psychology was the Milgram experiment
Milgram experiment
The Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures was a series of notable social psychology experiments conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram, which measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts that...

, which studied how far people would go to obey an authority
Authority
The word Authority is derived mainly from the Latin word auctoritas, meaning invention, advice, opinion, influence, or command. In English, the word 'authority' can be used to mean power given by the state or by academic knowledge of an area .-Authority in Philosophy:In...

 figure. Following the events of The Holocaust
The Holocaust
The Holocaust , also known as the Shoah , was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews and millions of others during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi...

 in World War II, the experiment showed that normal American citizens were capable of following orders from an authority even when they believed they were causing an innocent person to suffer.

Albert Bandura
Albert Bandura
Albert Bandura is a psychologist and the David Starr Jordan Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University...

's Bobo doll experiment
Bobo doll experiment
The Bobo doll experiment was the name of two experiments conducted by Albert Bandura in 1961 and 1963 studying patterns of behavior associated with aggression....

 demonstrated how aggression is learned by imitation
Imitation
Imitation is an advanced behavior whereby an individual observes and replicates another's. The word can be applied in many contexts, ranging from animal training to international politics.-Anthropology and social sciences:...

. This was one of the first studies in a long line of research showing how exposure to media violence leads to aggressive behavior in the observers.

In the Stanford prison study, by Philip Zimbardo
Philip Zimbardo
Philip George Zimbardo is an American psychologist and a professor emeritus at Stanford University. He is president of the Heroic Imagination Project...

, a simulated exercise between student prisoners and guards showed how far people would follow an adopted role. In just a few days, the "guards" became brutal and cruel, and the prisoners became miserable and compliant. This was initially argued to be an important demonstration of the power of the immediate social situation, and its capacity to overwhelm normal personality traits. However, to this day, it remains a matter of contention as to what conclusions may be drawn from this study. For example, it has been pointed out that participant self-selection may have affected the behaviour of the participants, and that the personality of the participants influenced their reactions in a variety of ways, including how long they chose to remain in the study. One of the most concerted empirical revisitations of the themes raised by Zimbardo came in the form of the 2002 BBC prison study
The Experiment
The Experiment was a documentary series broadcast on BBC television in 2002. It presented the findings of what subsequently became known as The BBC Prison Study -Background:...

.

Academic journals

  • Asian Journal of Social Psychology
    Asian Journal of Social Psychology
    The Asian Journal of Social Psychology is a monthly psychology journal published by Blackwell Publishing. The journal is published in conjunction with the Asian Association of Social Psychology and the Japanese Group Dynamics Association...

  • Basic and Applied Social Psychology
    Basic and Applied Social Psychology
    Basic and Applied Social Psychology is a monthly psychology journal published by Taylor and Francis. The journal emphasizes the publication of empirical research articles but also publishes literature reviews, criticism, and methodological or theoretical statements spanning the entire range of...

  • British Journal of Social Psychology
    British Journal of Social Psychology
    British Journal of Social Psychology is a journal published by the British Psychological Society . It publishes original papers on subjects like social cognition, attitudes, group processes, social influence, intergroup relations, self and identity, nonverbal communication, and social psychological...

  • European Journal of Social Psychology
    European Journal of Social Psychology
    European Journal of Social Psychology is a journal published by John Wiley & Sons. It publishes original papers on subjects like social cognition, attitudes, group processes, social influence, intergroup relations, self and identity, nonverbal communication, and social psychological aspects of...

  • Journal of Applied Social Psychology
    Journal of Applied Social Psychology
    The Journal of Applied Social Psychology is a monthly psychology journal. The journal was founded in 1971 and is devoted to applications of experimental research to the problems of society . It was published by Bellwether Publishing until 2006, when it was acquired by Blackwell...

  • Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
    Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
    The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology is a scientific journal covering Psychology published by Elsevier, and is distributed as part of dues to the membership of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology...

  • Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
    Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
    The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology is a monthly psychology journal of the American Psychological Association. It is considered one of the top journals in the fields of social and personality psychology. Its focus is on empirical research reports; however, specialized theoretical,...

  • Journal of Social Psychology
    Journal of Social Psychology
    The Journal of Social Psychology is a monthly psychology journal published by Routledge, who acquired it from Heldref Publications in 2009. The journal was founded in 1929 by John Dewey and Carl Murchison...

  • Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
    Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
    Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin is a scientific journal published by SAGE Publications for the Society for Personality and Social Psychology...

  • Personality and Social Psychology Review
    Personality and Social Psychology Review
    Personality and Social Psychology Review is a journal published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology . It publishes review and meta analytic articles on subjects like social cognition, attitudes, group processes, social influence, intergroup relations, self and identity, nonverbal...

  • Social Psychology
    Social Psychology (scientific journal)
    is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to international research in social psychology, and a forum for scientific discussion and debate. The journal publishes empirical and theoretical contributions to basic research in social psychology and its applied fields...


See also


  • Important publications in social psychology
  • List of cognitive biases
  • List of social psychologists
  • Society for Personality and Social Psychology
    Society for Personality and Social Psychology
    The Society for Personality and Social Psychology is an academic society for personality and social psychologists with over 4500 members worldwide. SPSP serves as Division 8 of the American Psychological Association and publishes the journals Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin and...

  • Society of Experimental Social Psychology
    Society of Experimental Social Psychology
    The Society of Experimental Social Psychology is a scientific professional organization of social psychologists. SESP has over 700 members worldwide.-History:...

  • European Association of Social Psychology
  • Sociological approach to social psychology
    Social psychology (sociology)
    Social psychology , known as sociological social psychology, and sometimes as psychological sociology, is an area of sociology that focuses on social actions and on interrelations of personality, values, and mind with social structure and culture...

  • Fuzzy-trace theory
    Fuzzy-trace theory
    Fuzzy-Trace Theory is a theory that is used in several different areas of psychology, such as cognitive, developmental and social psychology. FTT is a theory of memory and cognition with broad ramifications for the study of judgment and decision-making and two decades of empirical support...


Further reading


External links