According to psychologist Gordon Allport, social psychology is a discipline that uses scientific methods "to understand and explain how the thought, feeling and behavior of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined or implied presence of other human beings" (1985).
Social psychology looks at a wide range of social topics, including group behavior, social perception, leadership, nonverbal behavior, conformity, aggression and prejudice. It is important to note that social psychology is not just about looking at social influences. Social perception and social interaction are also vital to understanding social behavior.
Brief History of Social Psychology
While Plato referred to the idea of the "crowd mind" and concepts such as social loafing and social facilitation were introduced in the late-1800s, it wasn't until after World War II that research on social psychology began in earnest. The horrors of the Holocaust led researchers to study the effects of social influence, conformity and obedience.
The U.S. government also became interested in applying social psychological concepts to influencing citizens. Social psychology has continued to grow throughout the twentieth century, inspiring research that has contributed to our understanding of social experience and behavior.
Relation to other fields
Social psychology has close ties with the other social sciences, especially sociology and psychology.
Sociology is the study of group behavior and human societies, with emphasis on the structures of societies and the processes of social influence.
Psychology is the study of individual behavior, like learning, perception, intelligence, memory, and personality.
On the one hand, Social psychology can be said to try to bridge the gap between disciplines. It can be said to be co-disciplinary with sociology and psychology, providing overlapping theories and research methods in order to form a clearer and more robust picture of social life.
However, social psychologists have different perspectives on what ought to be emphasized in the field. Social psychological work can be approached with the interests and the emphases of both psychology and sociology in mind. As a result, the discipline can be split in three general subfields, which concentrate on the relative importance of some subjects over others.
As sociological social psychology, which looks at the social behavior of humans in terms of associations and relationships that they have. This type leans toward sociology. One offshoot of this perspective is the Personality and Social Structure Perspective, which emphasizes the links between individual personality and identity, and how it relates to social structures.
As psychological social psychology, which looks at social behavior of humans in terms of the mental states of the individuals that comprise the society. This type leans toward psychology. Psychological Social Psychology is also very similar to personality psychology because personality psychology looks at how the personality in people is developed, and how our attitudes and values are influenced and affected.
As symbolic interactionism, which looks at social behavior in terms of the subjective meanings that give rise to human actions.
Social psychology is the study of the nature and causes of human social behavior. As the mind is the axis around which social behavior pivots, social psychologists tend to study the relationship between mind(s) and social behaviors.
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