Psychology is an important field where human beings are concerned. Various individuals will have different behaviour, they will respond differently to different stimuli. This is what psychologists seek to determine; what makes the difference between individuals and what makes them react the way they do. There are many fields in this field; most of them quite related. Care must, however, be taken not to confuse these fields- one for the other. Social psychology is just but a branch in the otherwise diverse field of psychology. One’s environment is certain to influence how they behave and it is this that the social psychology seeks to explain.
This is a branch of psychology concerned with the study of how people’s feelings, behaviours and thoughts are influences by the imagined, implied or actual presence of others. Feelings, thoughts and behaviours are all psychological variables that can be determined in human beings. A wide range of topics are considered in social psychology including nonverbal behaviour, conformity, prejudice, aggression and group behaviour to mention but a few. This branch not only looks at social influences but is also important in understanding social behaviour (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2005).
Differences with Other Disciplines
Most often than not, social psychology is confused with disciplines such as personality psychology, sociology and folk wisdom. Personality psychology lays focus on an individual’s thoughts, characteristics and individual traits. On the other hand, in social psychology, focuses on situations; the impact group interactions and the social environment have on behaviours and attitude (Bordens & Horowitz, 2001).
Folk wisdom lays focus on subjective interpretation and anecdotal observations. Conversely, social psychology employs scientific and empirical methods of studying human behaviour. Here, no guesses are made; instead, scientists carry out an in-depth research meant to determine the relationships that exist between (among) different variables.
There are many similarities between social psychology and sociology. Nevertheless, sociology looks at influences at a broad-based level. Sociologists desire to know how cultures and institutions influence human behaviour. Psychologists, on the other hand, focus more on how situational variables influence social behaviour. As such, the difference between these two disciplines is the perspective each one of them takes (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2005).
Clinical psychology integrates theory, clinical knowledge and science in a bid to relieving and even preventing dysfunction and personal development. Mostly, it is regulated by the health profession. As such, it should not be confused with social psychology that refers to the effect of the surroundings on human behaviour; to mention the least.
Role of Research in Social Psychology
As has been mentioned, social psychology involves much research; all in a bid to determine the relationship between various variables. As such, from research psychologists are able to avoid guesses but instead have facts where they can fall back to. This essentially leads to more valid results (Bordens & Horowitz, 2001).
Through research, psychologists acquire data that they can then use to carry out an in-depth analysis using various methods of analysis. Descriptive research, for instance, shows what really exists in a certain population. With this kind of knowledge, psychologists can then conclude on many issues. An example of descriptive research is where psychologists seek to determine how people feel about certain social issues such as gambling laws and divorce to mention a few.
Through correlational research, scientists determine the relationship that exists between variables. This kind of research is instrumental in learning how the correlations among (between) various variables affect human behaviour (social psychology in general). Data for correlational research comes from getting research from studies conducted earlier and also from directly observing behaviour. This kind of research does not, however, offer proof on whether a change in one variable causes change in the other (Bordens, & Horowitz, 2001).
Experimental research, on the other hand, uncovers the causal relationship that exists between variables. Here, the psychologist assigns the participants to either the control or experimental groups. The control group will essentially serve as a base hence receiving no treatment. Independent variables are then manipulated in the experimental group and the effects determined. The fact that the independent variables can be manipulated means that a causal relationship can be determined (Aronson, Wilson, &Akert, 2005).
Conclusively, social psychology involves much research since much more than guessing is required. Many factors are in play in as far as determining an individual’s behaviour is concerned. These, when determined, reveal a lot on a person’s behaviour and the reason why they act the way they do. Here, the correlational relationship is also determined enabling the psychologists to further understand human behaviour.
Aronson, E., Wilson, T. D., &Akert, R. M. (2005). Social psychology (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Bordens, K. S., & Horowitz, I. A. (2001). Social psychology (2nd ed.). Mahwah, N.J.: L. Erlbaum.