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Overview of Social Psychology & Its Perspectives

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  • 0:02 Don't Mind Me
  • 1:05 Internal & External Influences
  • 2:08 Social Psychology Research
  • 3:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

In this lesson, you will explore the subfield of psychology called social psychology and examine the goals and methods of research. Then, test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Don't Mind Me!

Do you ever feel like you're being watched? Or maybe you had an imaginary friend? Or maybe, when you listen to an online video lecture, you develop a sense of connection. Hey, how ya doin'?

People's behavior changes when they are around other people. The study of the mind and behavior is called psychology. When this becomes a study of how behavior is affected by the presence of other people, it is called social psychology. Social psychologists examine how social influences can change our thoughts or behavior. For example, I sing in the car when I'm alone, but when other cars pull up next to me I stop dancing to the music. And if I see a police car, I generally sit up straighter with both hands firmly on the wheel and don't sing at all. Sometimes, even the implied or assumed presence of other people can change behavior, like when you stop at a red light even when no one is around, just in case. This is social psychology.

Internal and External Influences

The first aspect of social psychology is the way that an individual forms their own behavior in response to social situations, or intrapersonal analysis. Social psychologists use intrapersonal analysis to examine things like your attitude, your likes and dislikes, your ability to talk yourself into a certain position and your self-awareness. Each of these is greatly influenced by your awareness of other people and the social pressures you may feel.

On the flip side is interpersonal analysis, or the way that people influence each other. In this area of study, researchers may examine things like social influences, conformity, obedience, group dynamics, attraction and the relationships between people. For the most part, this field of research is defined by the direct ways that people interact with each other. 'Inter,' as in 'interpersonal,' means 'to be in between.' So, interpersonal relationships are the relationships between people.

Social Psychology Research

Psychology, in general, uses a variety of research methods from both the humanities and sciences. Social psychology is more specific in its focus, using empirical science, or science composed of hypotheses that can be tested to produce quantifiable data. Social psychologists are careful to design their experiments and conduct their research in the most non-biased way possible, very often using statistics to analyze the data for major trends.

One of the most common forms of research is with experiments that slightly alter a single variable to test for a change in behavior. One example would be letting children play without technology and seeing how they interact, then letting them use technology and see if their behaviors and relationships change. In this case, technology is the variable being tested.

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