Monday, June 2, 2008

Definition of Social Psychology

Social psychology is the study of how social conditions affect human beings. Scholars in this field are generally either psychologists or sociologists, though all social psychologists employ both the individual and the group as their units of analysis.[2] Despite their similarity, the disciplines also tend to differ in their respective goals, approaches, methods, and terminology. They also favor separate academic journals and societies.

Social psychology is an interdisciplinary area. The greatest period of collaboration between sociologists and psychologists was during the years immediately following World War II.[3] Although there has been increasing isolation and specialization in recent years, some degree of overlap and influence remains between the two disciplines.

Most social psychologists are trained within 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 emphasize the immediate social situation, and the interaction between person and situation variables. Their research tends to be highly empirical and quantitative, and it is often centered around laboratory experiments.

Psychologists who study social psychology are interested in such topics as attitudes, social cognition, cognitive dissonance, social influence, and interpersonal behaviors such as altruism and aggression. 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.

Psychology (from Greek: ψυχή, psychē, “soul“, “self” or “mind”; and λόγος, logos, “speech” lit. “to talk about the psyche”) is an academic and applied discipline involving the scientific study of mental processes and behavior (Psychology studies human behavior, not mental processes, Cognitive Psychology studies mental processes, but psychology in general studies human behavior). There is some tension between scientific psychology (with its program of empirical research) and applied psychology (dealing with a number of areas).

Psychologists attempt to explain the mind and brain in the context of real life. In contrast neurologists utilize a physiological approach. Psychologists study such phenomena as perception, cognition, emotion, personality, behavior, and interpersonal relationships. Psychology also refers to the application of such knowledge to various spheres of human activity including issues related to daily life—e.g. family, education, and work—and the treatment of mental health problems.

In addition to dissecting the brain’s fundamental mental functions and processes, psychology also attempts to understand the role these functions play in social behavior and in social dynamics, while incorporating the underlying physiological and neurological processes into its conceptions of mental functioning. Psychology includes many sub-fields of study and application concerned with such areas as human development, sports, health, industry, media, law, and transpersonal psychology.

A significant number of social psychologists are sociologists. Their work has a greater focus on the behavior of the group, and thus examines such phenomena as interactions and exchanges at the micro-level, group dynamics and group development, and crowds at the macro-level. Sociologists are interested in the individual, but primarily within the context of larger social structures and processes, such as social roles, race and class, and socialization. They use a combination of qualitative research designs and highly quantitative methods, such as procedures for sampling and surveys.

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, reactance (Boomerang effect), and symbolic interactionism. The key sociological journal is Social Psychology Quarterly.

Sociology (from Latin: socius, “companion”; and the suffix -ology, “the study of”, from Greek λόγος, lógos, “knowledge” [1]) is the scientific or systematic study of society, including patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture[2]. Areas studied in sociology can range from the analysis of brief contacts between anonymous individuals on the street to the study of global social interaction. Numerous fields within the discipline concentrate on how and why people are organized in society, either as individuals or as members of associations, groups, and institutions. Sociology is considered a branch of social science.

Sociological research provides educators, planners, lawmakers, administrators, developers, business leaders, and people interested in resolving social problems and formulating public policy with rationales for the actions that they take.

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