The 7 Major Themes of Social Psychology

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  • 1:04 Social Cognition and…
  • 1:57 The Self in a Social Context
  • 2:39 Attitudes and Persuasion
  • 3:06 Group Decisions
  • 3:34 Attraction & Close…
  • 3:55 Prosocial Behavior
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Social psychology can be divided up into seven main themes, or categories. Under each theme is a whole host of more specific topics. In this lesson, we will look at each of the seven major themes and examples of topics that each theme covers.

Social Psychology

Social psychology is the scientific study of how society affects the way individuals behave, think, and feel. For example, social psychologists might examine how people form attitudes or how they work in groups.

Because people and society are so complex, the topics in social psychology seem endless. But most topics in social psychology fall into one of seven major themes. You can think about these themes as a way to categorize the research that's done in social psychology. The major themes are:

  1. Social cognition and perception
  2. The self in a social context
  3. Attitudes and persuasion
  4. Group decisions
  5. Attraction and close relationships
  6. Prosocial behavior
  7. Stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination

Let's look at each one a little more closely.

Social Cognition and Perception

The first theme is social cognition and perception.

Cognition is basically thought processes, so social cognition is the way people think in the context of society. This could mean the way society influences the way we think, but more often it refers to the way that we make sense of the world around us. First, we perceive the world around us, and then we make sense of it through thought.

Examples of topics that fall into the category of social cognition and perception include the shortcuts we use when we think, such as when we go to a restaurant and can anticipate what will happen or the way we organize information to help us remember things. Also included in social cognition and perception is the way we view ourselves in the world around us and how that affects us.

The Self in a Social Context

Another theme in social psychology is that of the self in a social context. That is, how we define ourselves and how others define us. Someone says to you, 'Tell me about yourself.' What do you say? How do you interact with others?

Examples of topics that fall into the category of the self in a social context include introspection, or the extent to which we are aware of and think about our own thoughts and feelings, and whether we are motivated to do something from within us or whether external rewards motivate us. Also included are how we control the way others view us and the way we control how we view ourselves.

Attitudes and Persuasion

The next major theme in social psychology is attitudes and persuasion. This is pretty straightforward: It covers the way we feel and think about people and situations and the ways humans are persuaded to think or believe in things.

Topics in attitudes and persuasion include things like how our emotions affect our attitudes and how we can be persuaded to believe things.

Group Decisions

Another major theme in social psychology is group decisions. How does working in groups change the way people think? How do groups work together to come to a decision? These are questions that are raised in this category.

Examples of topics covered under the heading of group decisions are things like how people disagree in groups, how some people might not work as hard in groups as they do on their own, and how some groups make faulty decisions.

Attraction and Close Relationships

Attractions and close relationships is another major theme that you'll come across in social psychology. This category is all about why people are attracted to each other and how love works.

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