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Social psychology is the
scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, builds and organizes knowledge in the form of Testability, testable explanations and predictions about the universe."... modern science is a discovery as well as an invention. ...

scientific
study of how the
thought In their most common sense, the terms thought and thinking refer to conscious cognitive processes that can happen independently of sensory stimulation. Their most paradigmatic forms are judging, reasoning, concept formation, problem solving, and ...

thought
s,
feeling Feeling was originally used to describe the physical sensation of touch through either experience or perception. The word is also used to describe other experiences, such as "Emotion, a feeling of warmth" and of sentience in general. In psychology ...

feeling
s, and
behavior Behavior (American English) or behaviour (British English; American and British English spelling differences#-our, -or, see spelling differences) is the Action (philosophy), actions and mannerisms made by individuals, organisms, systems or Arti ...
s of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, and implied presence of others, 'imagined' and 'implied presences' referring to the internalized
social norm Social norms are shared standards of acceptable Acceptability is the characteristic of a thing being subject to acceptance for some purpose. A thing is acceptable if it is sufficient to serve the purpose for which it is provided, even if it is f ...
s that humans are influenced by even when they are alone. Social psychologists typically explain
human behavior Human behavior is the potential and expressed capacity (Energy (psychological), mentally, Physical activity, physically, and Social actions, socially) of human individuals or groups to respond to internal and external Stimulation, stimuli throu ...
as being a result of the relationship between
mental state A mental state, or a mental property, is a state of mind of a person. Mental states comprise a diverse class including perception, pain experience, belief, desire, intention, emotion, and memory. There is controversy concerning the exact definition ...

mental state
and social situation, studying the conditions under which thoughts, feelings, and behaviors occur and how these variables influence
social interactions In social science, a social relation or social interaction is any relationship between two or more individuals. Social relations derived from agency (sociology), individual agency form the basis of social structure and the basic object for analys ...
. Social psychology has bridged the gap between psychology and
sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly ...
to an extent, but a divide still exists between the two fields. Nevertheless, sociological approaches to psychology remain an important counterpart to conventional psychological research. In addition to the split between psychology and sociology, there is difference in emphasis between American and European social psychologists, as the former traditionally have focused more on the individual, whereas the latter have generally paid more attention to group-level phenomena.


History

Although issues in social psychology already had been discussed in
philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical reality Reality is the sum or aggregate of all that is real or existen ...

philosophy
for much of human history—such as the writings of the Islamic philosopher
Al-Farabi Abu Nasr Al-Farabi (; '; known in the Western world, West as Alpharabius; c. 872 – between 14 December, 950 and 12 January, 951)PDF version was a renowned Early Islamic philosophy, early Islamic philosopher and jurist who wrote in the fields of ...

Al-Farabi
, which dealt with similar issues—the modern, scientific discipline began in the United States when the American Sociological Association (ASA) was founded in 1905.


19th century

In the 19th century, social psychology was an emerging field from the larger field of
psychology Psychology is the scientific Science (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known ...

psychology
. At the time, many psychologists were concerned with developing concrete explanations for the different aspects of human nature. They attempted to discover concrete cause-and-effect relationships that explained social interactions. In order to do so, they applied the scientific method to human behavior. The first published study in the field was
Norman Triplett Norman Triplett (October 1, 1861 – 1934Cherie G. O'Boyle: History of Psychology - A Cultural Perspective, S. 264, Psychology Press, 2006, ) was a psychologist at Indiana University Indiana University (IU) is a university system, system of pub ...

Norman Triplett
's 1898 experiment on the phenomenon of
social facilitation Social facilitation is defined as improvement or decrease in individual performance when working with other people rather than alone. In addition to working together with other people, social facilitation also occurs in the mere presence of other ...
. These psychological experiments later went on to form the foundation of much of 20th century social psychological findings.


Early 20th century

During the 1930s, many
Gestalt ''Gestalt'', a German word for form or shape, may refer to: * Holism, the idea that natural systems and their properties should be viewed as wholes, not as loose collections of parts Psychology * Gestalt psychology (also known as "Gestalt theory" ...
psychologists, most notably
Kurt Lewin Kurt Lewin ( ; 9 September 1890 – 12 February 1947) was a German-American psychologist A psychologist is a person who studies normal and abnormal mental states, perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by experime ...
, fled to the United States from
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945, was ...

Nazi Germany
. They were instrumental in developing the field as an area separate from the dominant
behavioral Behavior (American English) or behaviour (British English; American and British English spelling differences#-our, -or, see spelling differences) is the Action (philosophy), actions and mannerisms made by individuals, organisms, systems or Arti ...
and
psychoanalytic Psychoanalysis (from Greek: + ) is a set of theories and therapeutic techniques"What is psychoanalysis? Of course, one is supposed to answer that it is many things — a theory, a research method, a therapy, a body of knowledge. In what might ...

psychoanalytic
schools of that time. Attitudes and small group phenomena were the topics most commonly studied in this era. During World War II, social psychologists were mostly concerned with studies of
persuasion Persuasion or persuasion arts is an umbrella term of Social influence, influence. Persuasion can attempt to influence a person's beliefs, Attitude (psychology), attitudes, intentions, motivations, or behaviors. Persuasion is studied in many di ...

persuasion
and
propaganda Propaganda is communication that is primarily used to influence Influence or influencer may refer to: *Social influence, in social psychology, influence in interpersonal relationships **Minority influence, when the minority affect the behavior ...
for the U.S. military (see also
psychological warfare Psychological warfare (PSYWAR), or the basic aspects of modern psychological operations (PsyOp), have been known by many other names or terms, including Military Information Support Operations (MISO is a traditional Japanese cuisine, Ja ...
). Following the war, researchers became interested in a variety of social problems, including issues of
gender Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between femininity Femininity (also called womanliness or girlishness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women and girls. Althoug ...

gender
and
racial prejudice Racism is the belief that groups of humans possess different behavioral traits corresponding to physical appearance and can be divided based on the superiority of one race over another.
racial prejudice
. Most notable and contentious of these were the
Milgram experiment The Milgram experiment(s) on obedience to authority figures was a series of social psychology Social psychology is the Science, scientific study of how the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of individuals are influenced by the actual, ima ...
s. During the years immediately following
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved —including all of the great powers—forming two opposing s: the and the . In a total war directly involving m ...
, there were frequent collaborations between psychologists and sociologists. The two disciplines, however, have become increasingly specialized and isolated from each other in recent years, with sociologists generally focusing on
macro Macro (or MACRO) may refer to: Science and technology * Macroscopic The macroscopic scale is the length scale on which objects or phenomena are large enough to be visible with the naked eye, without magnifying optical instruments. It is the o ...
features whereas psychologists generally focusing on more
micro Micro may refer to: Measurement * micro- (μ), a prefix in the SI and other systems of units denoting a factor of 10−6 (one millionth) Places * Micro, North Carolina, town in U.S. People * DJ Micro, (born Michael Marsicano) an American trance ...
features.


Late 20th century and modernity

In the 1960s, there was growing interest in topics such as
cognitive dissonance In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance occurs when a person holds contradictory beliefs, ideas, or value (ethics), values, and is typically experienced as psychological stress when they participate in an action that goes against one or mo ...

cognitive dissonance
, bystander intervention, and
aggression Aggression is overt or covert, often harmful, social interaction with the intention of inflicting damage or other harm upon another individual. It may occur either reactively or without provocation. In humans, aggression can be caused by various ...
. By the 1970s, however, social psychology in America had reached a crisis, as heated debates emerged over issues such as ethical concerns about laboratory experimentation, whether attitude could actually predict behavior, and how much science could be done in a cultural context. This was also a time when
situationism The Situationist International (SI) was an international International is an adjective (also used as a noun) meaning "between nations". International may also refer to: Music Albums * ''International'' (Kevin Michael album), 2011 * ''Interna ...
came to challenge the relevance of
self The self is an individual person as the object of its own reflective consciousness. Since the ''self'' is a reference by a subject to the same subject, this reference is necessarily Subjective character of experience, subjective. The sense of havi ...

self
and
personality Personality is the characteristic sets of behavior Behavior (American English) or behaviour (British English; American and British English spelling differences#-our, -or, see spelling differences) is the Action (philosophy), actions and mann ...
in psychology. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, social psychology reached a more mature level, especially in regard to
theory A theory is a reason, rational type of abstraction, abstract thinking about a phenomenon, or the results of such thinking. The process of contemplative and rational thinking is often associated with such processes as observational study or research ...

theory
and
methodology Methodology is the study of research methods, or, more formally, "'a contextual framework' for research, a coherent and logical scheme based on views, beliefs, and values, that guides the choices researchers r other users R, or r, is th ...
. Now, careful ethical standards regulate research, and pluralistic and
multicultural The term multiculturalism has a range of meanings within the contexts of sociology, political philosophy, and colloquial use. In sociology and in everyday usage, it is a synonym for "Pluralism (political theory), ethnic pluralism", with the two ...
perspectives have emerged. Modern researchers are interested in many phenomena, though
attribution Attribution may refer to: * Attribution (copyright), concept in copyright law requiring an author to be credited * Attribution (journalism), the identification of the source of reported information * Attribution (law), legal doctrines by which lia ...
, social cognition, and the
self-concept One's self-concept (also called self-construction, self-identity, self-perspective or self-structure) is a collection of belief A belief is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psychology) In psycho ...

self-concept
are perhaps the areas of greatest growth in recent years. Social psychologists have also maintained their applied interests with contributions in the social psychology of health, education, law, and the workplace.


Intrapersonal phenomena


Attitudes

In social psychology, ''attitude'' is defined as learned, global evaluations (e.g. of people or issues) that influence thought and action. Attitudes are basic expressions of approval and disapproval, or as Bem (1970) suggests, likes and dislikes (e.g. enjoying chocolate ice cream, or endorsing the values of a particular political party). Because people are influenced by other factors in any given situation, general attitudes are not always good predictors of specific behavior. For example, a person may value the environment but may not recycle a plastic bottle on a particular day. Research on attitudes has examined the distinction between traditional, self-reported attitudes and implicit, unconscious attitudes. Experiments using the ''
implicit association test The implicit-association test (IAT) is a controversial assessment in the field of social psychology Social psychology is the Science, scientific study of how the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of individuals are influenced by the actual, ima ...
'', for instance, have found that people often demonstrate implicit bias against other races, even when their explicit responses profess equal mindedness. Likewise, one study found that in interracial interactions, explicit attitudes correlate with verbal behavior while implicit attitudes correlate with nonverbal behavior. One hypothesis on how attitudes are formed, first proposed in 1983 by
Abraham Tesser Abraham Tesser' (born May 24, 1941, Brooklyn Brooklyn () is a Boroughs of New York City, borough of New York City, coextensive with Kings County, in the U.S. state of New York (state), New York. It is the most populous Administrative divisions ...
, is that strong likes and dislikes are ingrained in our
genetic make-up In the fields of molecular biology and genetics, a genome is all genetic material of an organism. It consists of DNA (or RNA in RNA viruses). The genome includes both the genes (the coding regions) and the noncoding DNA, as well as mitochond ...

genetic make-up
. Tesser speculated that individuals are disposed to hold certain strong attitudes as a result of inborn
personality traits In , trait theory (also called dispositional theory) is an approach to the study of human . Trait theorists are primarily interested in the measurement of ''traits'', which can be defined as habitual patterns of behaviour, , and . According to thi ...
and physical, sensory, and
cognitive skillCognitive skills, also called cognitive functions, cognitive abilities or cognitive capacities, are brain-based skills which are needed in acquisition of knowledge, manipulation of information, and reasoning. They have more to do with the mechanisms ...
s. Attitudes are also formed as a result of exposure to different experiences, environments, and the learning process. Numerous studies have shown that people can form strong attitudes toward neutral objects that are in some way linked to emotionally charged stimuli.Kassin, Saul, Steven Fein, and Hazel R. Markus, (2008). ' (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning. . . Attitudes are also involved in several other areas of the discipline, such as
conformity Conformity is the act of matching attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors to group A group is a number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal number, label. The original examples are the natura ...
,
interpersonal attraction Interpersonal attraction as a part of social psychology is the study of the attraction between person, people which leads to the development of platonic love, platonic or romantic love, romantic relationships. It is distinct from perceptions such ...
, social perception, and
prejudice Prejudice can be an affect (psychology), affective feeling towards a person based on their perceived group membership. The word is often used to refer to a preconceived (usually unfavourable) evaluation or classification (disambiguation) , cl ...
.


Persuasion

Persuasion is an active method of influencing 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 () is compelling a party to act in an involuntary manner by use of threat A threat is a communication of intent to inflict harm or loss on another person. Intimidation is widely observed in animal behavior (particularly in a ritualiz ...
. The process of persuasion has been found to be influenced by numerous variables that generally fall into one of five major categories: # Communicator: includes
credibility Credibility comprises the objective Objective may refer to: * Objective (optics), an element in a camera or microscope * ''The Objective'', a 2008 science fiction horror film * Objective pronoun, a personal pronoun that is used as a grammatical ...
,
expert An expert is somebody who has a broad and deep competence in terms of knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness, or understanding of someone or something, such as facts ( descriptive knowledge), skills (procedural knowledge), or obj ...

expert
ise,
trustworthiness Country-level estimates of trust Trust exists in interpersonal relationship The concept of interpersonal relationship involves social associations, connections, or affiliations between two or more people. Interpersonal relationships vary ...
, and
attractiveness Attractiveness or attraction is a quality that causes an interest, desire in, or gravitation to something or someone.Their often-cited 1988 publication provided a "general theory of how psychological situations elicit emotions and make them intense ...
. #
Message A message is a discrete unit of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions between self and other, private and public, and inner ...

Message
: includes varying degrees of
reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of things, applying logic Logic (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ...
,
emotion Emotions are mental state, psychological states brought on by neurophysiology, neurophysiological changes, variously associated with thoughts, feelings, behavioural responses, and a degree of pleasure or suffering, displeasure. There is currentl ...

emotion
(e.g. fear), one-sided or two sided arguments, and other types of informational content. #
Audience An audience is a group of people who participate in a show or encounter a , (in which they are called "readers"), , (in which they are called "listeners"), (in which they are called "players"), or academics in any medium. Audience members p ...

Audience
: includes a variety of
demographics Demography (from prefix ''demo-'' from Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: (), Dark Ages (), the period ...

demographics
,
personality trait In psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconscious mind, unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and thought. It is an academic discipline of immense sco ...
s, and
preference In psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconscious mind, unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and thought. It is an academic discipline of immense scop ...

preference
s. # Channel/
medium Medium may refer to: Science and technology Aviation *Medium bomber, a class of war plane *Tecma Medium, a French hang glider design Communication * Media (communication), tools used to store and deliver information or data * Medium of i ...
: includes printed word, radio, television, the internet, or face-to-face interactions. #: includes environment, group dynamics, and preliminary information to that of Message (category #2). Dual-process theories of persuasion (such as the
elaboration likelihood model The elaboration likelihood model (ELM) of persuasion Persuasion or persuasion arts is an umbrella term of influence. Persuasion can attempt to influence a person's belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is th ...
) maintain that persuasion is mediated by two separate routes: central and peripheral. The central route of persuasion is more fact-based and results in longer-lasting change, but requires
motivation Motivation is what explains why people or animals initiate, continue or terminate a certain behavior at a particular time. Motivational states are commonly understood as forces acting within the agent that create a disposition to engage in goal-d ...

motivation
to process. The peripheral route is more superficial and results in shorter-lasting change, but does not require as much motivation to process. An example of peripheral persuasion is a politician using a flag lapel pin, smiling, and wearing a crisp, clean shirt. This does not require motivation to be persuasive, but should not last as long as central persuasion. If that politician were to outline what they believe and their previous voting record, he would be centrally persuasive, resulting in longer-lasting change at the expense of greater motivation required for processing.


Social cognition

Social cognition studies how people perceive, think about, and remember information about others. Much research rests on the assertion that people think about other people differently from non-social targets. This assertion is supported by the social-cognitive deficits exhibited by people with
Williams syndrome Williams syndrome (WS) is a that affects many parts of the body. Facial features frequently include a broad forehead, underdeveloped chin, short nose, and full cheeks. While mild to moderate , with particular problems with such as drawing, is ty ...
and
autism Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder Neurodevelopmental disorders are a group of disorders that affect the development of the nervous system, leading to abnormal brain function which may affect emotion Emotions are biological sta ...

autism
.
Person perception A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness or self-consciousness, and being a part of a culturally established form of social relations such as kinship, ownersh ...
is the study of how people form impressions of others. The study of how people form beliefs about each other while interacting is interpersonal perception. A major research topic in social cognition is attribution. Attributions are how we explain people's behavior, either our own behavior or the behavior of others. One element of attribution ascribes the cause of a behavior to internal and external factors. An ''internal'', or dispositional, attribution reasons that behavior is caused by inner traits such as personality, disposition, character, and ability. An ''external'', or situational, attribution reasons that behaviour is caused by situational elements such as the weather. A second element of attribution ascribes the cause of behavior to stable and unstable factors (i.e. whether the behavior will be repeated or changed under similar circumstances). Individuals also attribute causes of behavior to controllable and uncontrollable factors (i.e. how much control one has over the situation at hand). Numerous biases in the attribution process have been discovered. For instance, the
fundamental attribution error In social psychology, fundamental attribution error (FAE), also known as correspondence bias or attribution effect, is the tendency for people to under-emphasize situational explanations for an individual's observed behavior while over-emphasizing d ...
is the tendency to make dispositional attributions for behavior, overestimating the influence of personality and underestimating the influence of the situational. The actor-observer bias is a refinement of this; it is the tendency to make dispositional attributions for other people's behavior and situational attributions for our own. The
self-serving bias A self-serving bias is any cognitive or perceptual process that is distorted by the need to maintain and enhance self-esteem, or the tendency to perceive oneself in an overly favorable manner. It is the belief that individuals tend to ascribe succes ...
is the tendency to attribute dispositional causes for successes, and situational causes for failure, particularly when self-esteem is threatened. This leads to assuming one's successes are from innate traits, and one's failures are due to situations. Other ways people protect their self-esteem are by believing in a just world, blaming victims for their suffering, and making defensive attributions that explain our behavior in ways that defend us from feelings of vulnerability and mortality. Researchers have found that mildly depressed individuals often lack this bias and actually have more realistic perceptions of reality as measured by the opinions of others.


Heuristics

Heuristic A heuristic (; ), or heuristic technique, is any approach to or that employs a practical method that is not guaranteed to be , perfect, or , but is nevertheless sufficient for reaching an immediate, short-term goal or . Where finding an optimal ...
s are cognitive shortcuts. Instead of weighing all the evidence when making a decision, people rely on heuristics to save time and energy. The
availability heuristicThe availability heuristic, also known as availability bias, is a mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that come to a given person's mind when evaluating a specific topic, concept, method or decision. The availability heuristic A heuri ...
occurs when people estimate the
probability Probability is the branch of mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained ...

probability
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 difficult to understand, resulting in a corresponding cognitive bias. The representativeness heuristic is a shortcut people use to categorize something based on how similar it is to a prototype they know of. Numerous other biases have been found by social cognition researchers. The
hindsight bias Hindsight bias, also known as the knew-it-all-along phenomenon or creeping determinism, is the common tendency for people to perceive past events as having been more predictable than they actually were. People often believe that after an event has ...

hindsight bias
is a
false memory In psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconscious mind, unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and thought. It is an academic discipline of immense sco ...
of having predicted events, or an exaggeration of actual predictions, after becoming aware of the outcome. The
confirmation bias Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one's prior beliefs or values. People display this bias when they select information that supports their views, ignoring c ...
is a type of bias leading to the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions.


Schemas

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 are generalized mental representations that organize knowledge and guide information processing. Schemas often operate automatically and unintentionally, and can lead to biases in perception and memory. Schemas may induce expectations that 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 a
stereotype Police officers buying doughnuts and coffee, an example of perceived stereotypical behavior in North America. Social psychology Social psychology is the Science, scientific study of how the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of individu ...
, a generalized set of beliefs about a particular group of people (when incorrect, an
ultimate attribution error The ultimate attribution error is a group-level attribution error that offers an explanation for how one person views different causes of negative and positive behavior in ingroup and outgroup members. Definition Ultimate attribution error is th ...
). Stereotypes are often related to negative or preferential attitudes (prejudice) and behavior (
discrimination Discrimination is the act of making unjustified distinctions between people based on the groups, classes, or other categories to which they belong or are perceived to belong. People may be discriminated on the basis of Racial discrimination, r ...
). Schemas for behaviors (e.g., going to a restaurant, doing laundry) are known as ''scripts''.


Self-concept

Self-concept is the whole sum of beliefs that people have about themselves. The self-concept is made up of cognitive aspects called
self-schema The self-schema refers to a long lasting and stable set of memories that summarize a person's beliefs A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is truth, true. In epistem ...
s—beliefs that people have about themselves and that guide the processing of self-referential information. For example, an athlete at a university would have multiple selves that would process different information pertinent to each self: the student would be oneself, who would process information pertinent to a student (taking notes in class, completing a homework assignment, etc.); the athlete would be the self who processes information about things related to being an athlete (recognizing an incoming pass, aiming a shot, etc.). These selves are part of one's identity and the self-referential information is that which relies on the appropriate self to process and react to it. If a self is not part of one's identity, then it is much more difficult for one to react. For example, a civilian may not know how to handle a hostile threat as well as a trained Marine would. The Marine contains a self that would enable him/her to process the information about the hostile threat and react accordingly, whereas a civilian may not contain that self, lessening the civilian's ability to properly assess the threat and act accordingly. The self-concept comprises multiple self-schemas. For example, people whose body image is a significant self-concept aspect are considered ''schematics'' with respect to weight. In contrast, people who do not regard their weight as an important part of their lives are ''aschematic'' with respect to that attribute. For individuals, a range of otherwise mundane events—grocery shopping, new clothes, eating out, or going to the beach—can trigger thoughts about the self. The self is a special object of our
attention Attention is the behavioral and cognitive process Cognition () refers to "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses". It encompasses many aspects of intellectual funct ...

attention
. Whether one is mentally focused on a
memory Memory is the faculty of the by which or is , stored, and retrieved when needed. It is the retention of information over time for the purpose of influencing future action. If s could not be remembered, it would be impossible for language, r ...

memory
, a
conversation Conversation is interactive communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions between self and other, private and public, and inner tho ...

conversation
, a foul smell, the song that is stuck in one's head, or this sentence,
consciousness Consciousness, at its simplest, is or of internal and external existence. Despite millennia of analyses, definitions, explanations and debates by philosophers and scientists, consciousness remains puzzling and controversial, being "at once t ...

consciousness
is like a spotlight. This spotlight can shine on only one object at a time, but it can switch rapidly from one object to another. In this spotlight the self is front and center: things relating to the self have the spotlight more often. The ABCs of self are: *
Affect Affect may refer to: * Affect (education) * Affect (linguistics), attitude or emotion that a speaker brings to an utterance * Affect (philosophy) * Affect (psychology), the experience of feeling or emotion ** Affect display, signs of emotion, such ...
(i.e. emotion): How do people evaluate themselves, enhance their self-image, and maintain a secure sense of identity? *
Behavior Behavior (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. Currently, American English ...
: How do people regulate their own actions and present themselves to others according to interpersonal demands? *
Cognition Cognition () refers to "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses". It encompasses many aspects of intellectual functions and processes such as: attention, the formation of ...
: How do individuals become themselves, build a self-concept, and uphold a stable sense of identity? ''
Affective forecasting Affective forecasting (also known as hedonic forecasting, or the hedonic forecasting mechanism) is the prediction of one's affect (emotion Emotions are biological states associated with all of the nerve systems brought on by neurophysiological ...
'' is the process of predicting how one would feel in response to future
emotion Emotions are mental state, psychological states brought on by neurophysiology, neurophysiological changes, variously associated with thoughts, feelings, behavioural responses, and a degree of pleasure or suffering, displeasure. There is currentl ...

emotion
al events. Studies done in 2003 by
Timothy Wilson Timothy DeCamp Wilson is an American social psychologist Social psychology is the scientific study of how the thoughts, feelings, and behavior Behavior (American English) or behaviour (British English; American and British English spe ...
and Daniel Gilbert (psychologist), Daniel Gilbert have shown that people overestimate the strength of their reactions to anticipated positive and negative life events, more than they actually feel when the event does occur. There are many theories on the perception of our own behavior. Leon Festinger's 1954 ''social comparison theory'' is that people evaluate their own abilities and opinions by comparing themselves to others when they are uncertain of their own ability or opinions. 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. There is also the ''facial feedback hypothesis'': changes in facial expression can lead to corresponding changes in emotion. 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 is recognized as a central human
motivation Motivation is what explains why people or animals initiate, continue or terminate a certain behavior at a particular time. Motivational states are commonly understood as forces acting within the agent that create a disposition to engage in goal-d ...

motivation
. Self-efficacy beliefs are associated with the self-schema. These are expectations that performance of some task will be effective and successful. Social psychologists also study such self-related processes as self-control and impression management, self-presentation. People develop their self-concepts by various means, including introspection, feedback from others, Self-perception theory, self-perception, and social comparison. By comparing themselves to 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 or lower in status or ability. Downward comparisons are often made in order to elevate self-esteem. Self-perception 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 theory.


Interpersonal phenomena


Social influence

Social influence is an overarching term that denotes the persuasive effects people have on each other. It is seen as a fundamental value in social psychology. The study of it overlaps considerably with research into attitudes and persuasion. The three main areas of social influence include: conformity, Compliance (psychology), compliance, and Obedience (human behavior), obedience. Social influence is also closely related to the study of group dynamics, as most effects of influence are strongest when they take place in social groups. The first major area of social influence is conformity. Conformity is defined as the tendency to act or think like other members of a group. The identity of members within a group (i.e. status), similarity, expertise, as well as cohesion, prior commitment, and accountability to the group help to determine the level of conformity of an individual. Individual variations among group members plays a key role in the dynamic of how willing people will be to conform. Conformity is usually viewed as a negative tendency in American culture, but a certain amount of conformity is adaptive in some situations, as is nonconformity in other situations. The second major area of social influence research is Compliance (psychology), compliance, which refers to any change in behavior that is due to a request or suggestion from another person. The foot-in-the-door technique is a compliance method in which the persuader requests a small favor and then follows up with requesting a larger favor, e.g., asking for the time and then asking for ten dollars. A related trick is the bait and switch. The third major form of social influence is Obedience (human behavior), obedience; this is a change in behavior that is the result of a direct order or command from another person. Obedience as a form of compliance was dramatically highlighted by the Milgram study, wherein people were ready to administer shocks to a person in distress on a researcher's command. An unusual kind of social influence is the self-fulfilling prophecy. This is a prediction that, in being made, causes itself to become true. For example, in the stock market, if it is widely believed that a stock market crash, crash is imminent, investors may lose confidence, sell most of their stock, and thus cause a crash. Similarly, people may expect hostility in others and induce this hostility by their own behavior. Psychologists have spent decades studying the power of social influence, and the way in which it manipulates people's opinions and behavior. Specifically, social influence refers to the way in which individuals change their ideas and actions to meet the demands of a social group, received authority, social role, or a minority within a group wielding influence over the majority.


Group dynamics

A Social group, group can be defined as two or more individuals who are connected to each another by interpersonal relationship, social relationships. Groups tend to interact, influence each other, and share a common identity. They have a number of emergent qualities that distinguish them from coincidental, temporary gatherings, which are termed social aggregates: * Norm (sociology), Norms: Implicit rules and expectations for group members to follow (e.g. saying thank you, shaking hands). * Roles: Implicit rules and expectations for specific members within the group (e.g. the oldest sibling, who may have additional responsibilities in the family). * Interpersonal relationship, Relations: 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. The shared social identity of individuals within a group influences Intergroup relations, intergroup behavior, which denotes 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 in a group may lead to intergroup discrimination, which involves favorable perceptions and behaviors directed towards the in-group, but negative perceptions and behaviors directed towards the out-group. On the other hand, such discrimination and segregation may sometimes exist partly to facilitate a diversity that strengthens society. Intergroup discrimination leads to prejudicial stereotyping, while the processes of social facilitation and group polarization encourage extreme behaviors towards the out-group. Groups often moderate and improve decision making, and are frequently relied upon for these benefits, such as in committees and juries. A number of group biases, however, can interfere with effective decision making. For example, group polarization, 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, which 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 that 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 as a historical case of groupthink. Groups also affect performance and productivity. Social facilitation, for example, is a tendency to work harder and faster in the presence of others. Social facilitation increases the ''dominant response''s likelihood, which tends to improve performance on simple tasks and reduce it on complex tasks. In contrast, social loafing is the tendency of individuals to slacker, slack off 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 crowds. An important concept in this area is deindividuation, a reduced state of self-awareness 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.


Interpersonal attraction

A major area of study of people's relations to each other is interpersonal attraction, which refers to all forces that lead people to like each other, establish relationships, and (in some cases) fall in love. Several general principles of attraction have been discovered by social psychologists. 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, worldviews, and other traits, the more likely they will be attracted to each other."Thus Interpersonal attraction and attitude similarity have a direct correlation. More so than those with dissimilar attitudes and views, who tend to not be as successful in the attraction department." (Byrne 1961). Physical attractiveness is an important element of romantic relationships, particularly in the early stages characterized by high levels of limerence, passion. Later on, similarity and other compatibility factors become more important, and the type of love people experience shifts from ''passionate'' to ''companionate''. In 1986, Robert Sternberg suggested that there are actually three components of love: intimacy, passion, and commitment. When two (or more) people experience all three, they are said to be in a state of consummate love. According to social exchange theory, relationships are based on rational choice and cost-benefit analysis. A person may leave a relationship if their partner's "costs" begin to outweigh their benefits, especially if there are good alternatives available. This theory is similar to the minimax principle proposed by mathematicians and economists (despite the fact that human relationships are not zero-sum games). With time, long-term relationships tend to become communal rather than simply based on exchange.


Research


Methods

Social psychology is an empirical science that attempts to answer questions about human behavior by testing hypotheses, both in the laboratory and in the field. Careful attention to research design, sampling, and statistics, statistical analysis is important; results are published in peer-reviewed journals such as the ''Journal of Experimental Social Psychology'', ''Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin'' and the ''Journal of Personality and Social Psychology''. Social psychology studies also appear in general science journals such as ''Psychological Science (journal), Psychological Science'' and ''Science (journal), Science''. Experiment, Experimental methods 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 video games and then observing their subsequent level of aggression during the free-play period. A valid experiment is controlled and uses random assignment. Correlation, Correlational methods examine the statistical association between two naturally occurring variables. For example, one could correlate the number of violent television shows 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 is quite possible that aggressive children choose to watch more violent TV. Observation, Observational methods are purely descriptive and include naturalistic observation, 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 Scientific control, controlled experimentation, which requires the manipulation of one or more Dependent and independent variables, independent variables in order to examine the effect on a Dependent and independent variables, dependent variable. Experiments are useful in social psychology because they are high in internal validity, meaning that they are free from the influence of confounding 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, or the degree to which the results can be generalized to the larger population. There is usually a trade-off between experimental control (internal validity) and being able to generalize to the population (external validity). Because it is usually impossible to test everyone, research tends to be conducted on a Sample (statistics), sample of persons from the wider population. Social psychologists frequently use Statistical survey, survey research when they are interested in results that are high in external validity. Surveys use various forms of Sampling (statistics), random sampling to obtain a sample of respondents that is representative of a population. This type of research is usually descriptive or correlational because there is no experimental control over variables. Some psychologists have raised concerns for social psychological research relying too heavily on studies conducted on university undergraduates in academic settings, or participants from crowdsourcing labor markets such as Amazon Mechanical Turk. In a 1986 study by David O. Sears, over 70% of experiments used North American undergraduates as subjects, a subset of the population that is unrepresentative of the population as a whole. Regardless of which method has been chosen, the significance of the results is reviewed before accepting them in evaluating an underlying hypothesis. There are two different types of tests that social psychologists use to review their results. Statistics and probability testing define what constitutes a Statistical significance, significant finding, which can be as low as 5% or less, that is unlikely due to chance. Reproducibility, Replications testing is important in ensuring that the results are valid and not due to chance. False positive conclusions, often resulting from the Publish or perish, pressure to publish or the author's own
confirmation bias Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one's prior beliefs or values. People display this bias when they select information that supports their views, ignoring c ...
, are a hazard in the field.


Famous experiments


Asch conformity experiments

The Asch conformity experiments demonstrated the power of the impulse to conform within small groups, by the use of a line-length estimation task that was designed to be easy to assess but where deliberately wrong answers were given by at least some, oftentimes most, of the other participants. In well 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. Additional manipulations of the experiment showed that participant conformity decreased when at least one other individual failed to conform but increased when the individual began conforming or withdrew from the experiment. Also, participant conformity increased substantially as the number of "incorrect" individuals increased from one to three, and remained high as the incorrect majority grew. Participants with three other, incorrect participants made mistakes 31.8% of the time, while those with one or two incorrect participants made mistakes only 3.6% and 13.6% of the time, respectively.


Festinger (cognitive dissonance)

In Leon Festinger's
cognitive dissonance In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance occurs when a person holds contradictory beliefs, ideas, or value (ethics), values, and is typically experienced as psychological stress when they participate in an action that goes against one or mo ...

cognitive dissonance
experiment, after being divided into two groups participants were asked to perform a boring task and later asked to dishonestly give their opinion of the task, afterwards being rewarded according to two different pay scales. At the study's end, some participants were paid $1 to say that they enjoyed the task and another group of participants was paid $20 to tell the same lie. The first group ($1) later reported liking the task better than the second group ($20). Festinger's explanation was that for people in the first group being paid only $1 is not sufficient incentive for lying and those who were paid $1 experienced dissonance. They could only overcome that dissonance by justifying their lies by changing their previously unfavorable attitudes about the task. Being paid $20 provides a reason for doing the boring task resulting in no dissonance.


Milgram experiment

The
Milgram experiment The Milgram experiment(s) on obedience to authority figures was a series of social psychology Social psychology is the Science, scientific study of how the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of individuals are influenced by the actual, ima ...
was designed to study how far people would go in obeying an authority figure. Following the events of The Holocaust in World War II, the experiment showed that normal American citizens were capable of following orders even when they believed they were causing an innocent person to suffer or even apparently die.


Stanford prison experiment

Philip Zimbardo's Stanford prison study, a simulated exercise involving students playing at being prison guards and inmates, ostensibly showed how far people would go in such role playing. 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. Subsequent research has contested the initial conclusions of the study. For example, it has been pointed out that participant self-selection may have affected the participants' behavior, and that the participants' personalities influenced their reactions in a variety of ways, including how long they chose to remain in the study. The 2002 The Experiment, BBC prison study, designed to replicate the conditions in the Stanford study, produced conclusions that were drastically different from the initial findings.


Robber's cave experiment

Muzafer Sherif's Realistic conflict theory#Robbers cave study, robbers' cave study 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 for resources. Inducing cooperation and superordinate goals later reversed this effect.


Bandura's Bobo doll

Albert Bandura's Bobo doll experiment demonstrated how aggression is learned by imitation.


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 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 psychologists who maintain that deception under any circumstances is unethical and that other research strategies (e.g., role-playing) 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 The Milgram experiment(s) on obedience to authority figures was a series of social psychology Social psychology is the Science, scientific study of how the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of individuals are influenced by the actual, ima ...
and Stanford prison experiment), 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 ethics, ethical review. At most colleges and universities, this is conducted by an ethics committee or Institutional Review Board, which examines the proposed research to make sure that no harm is likely to come to the participants, and that the study's benefits outweigh any possible risks or discomforts to people taking part. Furthermore, a process of informed consent is often used to make sure that volunteers know what will asked of them in the experiment and understand that they are allowed to quit the experiment at any time. A debriefing is typically done at the experiment's conclusion 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.


Adolescents

Social psychology studies what plays key roles in a child's development. During this time, teens are faced with many issues and decisions that can impact their social development. They are faced with self-esteem issues, peer pressure, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, sex, and social media. Psychologists today are not fully aware of the effect of social media. Social media is worldwide, so one can be influenced by something they will never encounter in real life. In 2019, social media became the single most important activity in adolescents' and even some older adults' lives.


Replication crisis

Many social psychological research findings have proven difficult to replicate, leading some to argue that social psychology is undergoing a replication crisis. Replication failures are not unique to social psychology and are found in all fields of science. Some factors have been identified in social psychological research that has led the field to undergo its current crisis. Firstly, questionable research practices have been identified as common. Such practices, while not necessarily intentionally fraudulent, involve converting undesired statistical outcomes into desired outcomes via the manipulation of statistical analyses, sample sizes, or data management systems, typically to convert non-significant findings into significant ones. Some studies have suggested that at least mild versions of these practices are prevalent. One of the criticisms of Daryl Bem in the Daryl Bem#.22Feeling the Future.22 controversy, feeling the future controversy is that the evidence for precognition in the study could be attributed to questionable practices. Secondly, some social psychologists have published fraudulent research that has entered into mainstream academia, most notably the admitted data fabrication by Diederik Stapel as well as allegations against others. Fraudulent research is not the main contributor to the replication crisis. Several effects in social psychology have been found to be difficult to replicate even before the current replication crisis. For example, the scientific journal ''Society for Judgment and Decision Making#Publications and journal, Judgment and Decision Making'' has published several studies over the years that fail to provide support for the unconscious thought theory. Replications appear particularly difficult when research trials are pre-registered and conducted by research groups not highly invested in the theory under questioning. These three elements together have resulted in renewed attention to replication supported by Daniel Kahneman. Scrutiny of many effects have shown that several core beliefs are hard to replicate. A 2014 special edition of ''Social Psychology (journal), Social Psychology'' focused on replication studies, and a number of previously held beliefs were found to be difficult to replicate. Likewise, a 2012 special edition of ''Perspectives on Psychological Science'' focused on issues ranging from publication bias to null-aversion that contribute to the replication crisis in psychology. It is important to note that this replication crisis does not mean that social psychology is unscientific. Rather, this reexamination is a healthy if sometimes acrimonious part of the scientific process in which old ideas or those that cannot withstand careful scrutiny are pruned. The consequence is that some areas of social psychology once considered solid, such as social priming, have come under increased scrutiny due to failure to replicate findings.


Academic journals

* ''Asian Journal of Social Psychology'' * ''Basic and Applied Social Psychology'' * ''British Journal of Social Psychology'' * ''European Journal of Social Psychology'' * ''Journal of Applied Social Psychology'' * ''Journal of Experimental Social Psychology'' * ''Journal of Personality and Social Psychology'' * ''Journal of Social Psychology'' * ''Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin'' * ''Personality and Social Psychology Review'' * ''Social Psychology (scientific journal), Social Psychology''


See also

* Association of Psychological and Social Studies * Crowd psychology * Intergroup relations * European Association of Social Psychology * Fuzzy-trace theory * List of biases in judgment and decision making * List of publications in psychology#Social psychology, List of publications in social psychology * List of social psychologists * Social psychology (sociology), Sociological approach to social psychology * Society for Personality and Social Psychology * Society of Experimental Social Psychology * Socionics


Notes


References


External links


Social Psychology Network


— basics
Social psychology
on ''PLOS'' — subject area page
Social psychology
on ''All About Psychology'' — information and resources page * {{Authority control Social psychology, Behavioural sciences