What Is Social Psychology
Why do we do what we do? Science has addressed this question through the field of social psychology, which studies group behavior and how we interact in social situations. Consider the ways our ideas, emotions and actions are bound by social norms or influenced by the opinions of others.
Kurt Lewin was the father of social psychology, and he developed the equation that behavior is a function of a person's character plus their environment. Whereas behavioral psychologists held the stance that behaviors arise as a response to conditioning, social psychologists recognize the ways that perception of various social situations affects behaviors.
Lewin, who fled to the United States from Nazi Germany, is well-known for his work with the American Jewish Council in the post-Holocaust 1940s to reduce anti-Semitism. Lewin and other social psychologists studied prejudices and other issues relevant to the World War II era, including the use of persuasion and military propaganda.
Who Uses It?
How is social psychology used? Social psychology studies group dynamics and obedience to authority (topics which are relevant to organizational management, for example). So, a human resources professional might use social psychology to assess how dynamics of workgroups influence productivity and decision-making tasks.
Marketing and sales professionals also use techniques of persuasion identified by social psychologists in their advertising campaigns and sales pitches. Psychological theories of attraction and influence are also of interest to anyone who promotes products or services.
Overview of Social Psychology
Social psychology is concerned with how we think about ourselves in relation to the world we live in. It examines stereotypes and other ways we perceive and understand things, as well as how our attitudes influence our interactions with others. Social psychology combines sociology (the study of social organizations) with psychology (the study of mental processes) to understand how society influences our thoughts, feelings and actions.
After watching this lesson, you should be able to:
- Define social psychology
- Identify Kurt Lewin and explain his work in social psychology
- Understand why social psychology is used and by whom
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