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Encyclopedia > Social psychology
The scope of social psychological research. Adapted from Cote and Levine (2002).
The scope of social psychological research. Adapted from Cote and Levine (2002).

Social psychology is the study of how social conditions affect human beings. Scholars in this field are generally psychologists though all social psychologists employ both the individual and sometimes the group as their units of analysis. Image File history File links Soc-psych-scope. ... Image File history File links Soc-psych-scope. ... Psychology is an academic and applied discipline involving the scientific study of mental processes and behavior. ... As commonly used, individual refers to a person or to any specific object in a collection. ... ==GROUP== CONTENTS : 1. ... The unit of analysis is the major entity that is being analyzing in the study. ...

Like biophysics and cognitive science, social psychology is an interdisciplinary area. The greatest period of collaboration between sociologists and psychologists was during the years immediately following World War II (Sewell, 1989). Although there has been increasing isolation and specialization in recent years, some degree of overlap and influence remains between the two disciplines. Biophysics (also biological physics) is an interdisciplinary science that applies the theories and methods of physics, to questions of biology. ... Cognitive science is usually defined as the scientific study either of mind or of intelligence (e. ... Interdisciplinary work is that which integrates concepts across different disciplines. ...


Most social psychologists do under-graduate studies in psychology before post-graduate studies in social psychology. Their approach to the field focuses on the individual, and attempts to explain how the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of individuals are influenced by other people. Psychologically oriented researchers place a great deal of emphasis on the immediate social situation, and the interaction between person and situation variables. Their research tends to be highly empirical and is often centered around laboratory experiments. Social psychology is the scientific study of how peoples thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others (Allport, 1985). ... Personification of thought (Greek Εννοια) in Celsus Library in Ephesos, Turkey Thought or thinking is a mental process which allows beings to model the world, and so to deal with it effectively according to their goals, plans, ends and desires. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... For the Pet Shop Boys album of the same name see Behaviour Behavior or behaviour (see spelling differences) refers to the actions or reactions of an object or organism, usually in relation to the environment. ... Empirical is an adjective often used in conjunction with science, both the natural and social sciences, which means an observation or experiment based upon experience that is capable of being verified or disproved. ... In the scientific method, an experiment (Latin: ex-+-periri, of (or from) trying), is a set of actions and observations, performed in the context of solving a particular problem or question, to support or falsify a hypothesis or research concerning phenomena. ...

Psychologists who study social psychology are interested in such topics as attitudes, social cognition, cognitive dissonance, social influence, and interpersonal behavior. Two influential journals for the publication of research in this area are The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. There are also several other specialized academic journals.

Differences between social psychology and sociology

Social psychologists are often incorrectly referred to as sociologists (due in part to the relative newness of the discipline of social psychology springing up between the more established disciplines of psychology and sociology). A sociologist's work has a greater focus on social structures, stratifications and institutions than on behaviors. Sociologists are somewhat interested in the individual, but primarily within the context of social structures and processes, such as social roles (hierarchies...), race and class, and socialization.

When it shows interest on behaviors, sociology focuses on the behavior of the group rather than of the individuals that make up the group. It examines such phenomena as interactions and exchanges at the micro-level, and group dynamics and crowds at the macro-level. While social psychology relies heavily on scientific experimentations, naturalistic observations, and field experiments, sociology tends to use both qualitive and quantitative research designs, few of which are based on scientific psychological facts. Symbolic interactionism is a sociological perspective which examines how individuals and groups interact, focusing on the creation of personal identity through interaction with others. ... Social exchange theory is a social psychological perspective that explains social change and stability as a process of negotiated exchanges between parties. ... The term group dynamics implies that individual behaviours may differ depending on individuals current or prospective connections to a sociological group. ... Ordinary people typically can gain direct power by acting collectively. ... A macro in computer science is an abstraction, that defines how a certain input pattern is replaced by an output pattern according to a defined set of rules. ...

Social psychologists rarely study groups of people as a whole. Thus we may summarize the disciplinary distinctions as follows:

  • psychology - the study of individual behaviour
  • social psychology - the study of how "other people" influence individual behaviour
  • sociology addresses how social institutions are structured and how groups of people behave.

Sociologists in this area are interested in a variety of demographic, social, and cultural phenomena. Some of their major research areas are social inequality, group dynamics, social change, socialization, social identity, and symbolic interactionism. The primary journal for these sociologists is Social Psychology Quarterly.


  • Cote, J. E. & Levine, C. G. (2002). Identity formation, agency, and culture. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Sewell, W. H. (1989). Some reflections on the golden age of interdisciplinary social psychology. Annual Review of Sociology, Volume 15.

  Results from FactBites:
Social psychology - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (6163 words)
Social Psychology is usually considered a subfield of either psychology or sociology, though there are differences depending on which discipline we are referring to.
One underlying problem for the social psychologists is whether or not their studies can or should ultimately be understood in terms of the meaning and consciousness behind social action, as with folk psychology, or whether or not more objective materialist and behavioral facts are to be given exclusive study.
The goal of social psychology is to understand naturally occurring cognition and behavior in a social context, but the very act of observing people in social contexts tends to influence and alter their behavior.
Seeking Social Grounds for Social Psychology (7632 words)
Mainstream social psychology, has been, and continues to be, firmly committed to the metaphysics and methods of traditional experimental psychology, which, as it evolved in the present age, has attempted to borrow methods and metaphysical assumptions from the natural sciences (cf., Danziger, 1990).
It would be a social psychology that would seek to articulate the fundamentally ethical character of our relations and social exchanges with one another, opening a discourse within which the parameters of ethical life would emerge as the primary subject matter.
A social psychology thus grounded would not begin with the thesis that individuality must be overcome in order to establish intimacy, but that the false consciousness of individualism must be overcome so that intimacy may reveal itself.
  More results at FactBites »



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