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Social psychology is the part of psychology that deals
with the social interaction between people and how it is
shaped by values, attitudes, social systems and the current
situation. Social psychology typically focuses on the
individual in a social situation. Since the early 1900s,
social psychology has emerged as an independent research
branch with its own, distinctive issues and working methods.
In the 1890s, Gustave Le Bon and Gabriel de Tarde had
published their studies on the psychology of the masses and
theories of suggestion and imitation. In 1908 came the first
textbooks in social psychology, including William
McDougall 's An Introduction to Social Psychology. Later,
there was a strong expansion in social psychological
research. Experimental methods were used and new problems
were investigated. Researchers such as Kurt Lewin and Jacob
L. Moreno became pioneers for experimental studies of the
effects that take place in small groups. Louis Leon
Thurstone and Rensis Likert (1903ľ1981) devised a scaling
method, the Likert scale, for measuring people's
attitudes. George H. Mead 's theories of the social origin
of the self became the subject of renewed interest and led
to in-depth studies of social roles. Social anthropological
research produced new knowledge about the relationship
between culture and personality. This inspired social
psychologists to embark on in-depth studies of the impact of
the environment on children's personality development.
From the 1960s, social psychology became more
specialized. For example, the small group's function,
structure and process were studied. Another important
development from the late 1950s started with, among
others, Leon Festinger and Charles E. Osgood, who put
forward theories about the relationship
between attitudes and behavior. At the same time, the
Austrian psychologist Fritz Heider (1896ľ1988) opened a
phenomenological understanding perspective; thoughts that
have been continued in attribution theory, about how we
spontaneously understand and explain behavior. The cognitive
revolution in the 1960s generally led to an increased focus
on cognition, which is especially seen in social psychology
in the research area social cognition.
Social psychology of today
Modern social psychology encompasses a wide range of
1) Social cognition is about the way in which we
organize and make sense of our social environment in our
thinking. Important topics are how we form perceptions about
other people (impression formation), how we explain behavior
(attribution), the consequences our attitude towards others
(expectation effects) and how forms organize our
understanding of our social environment. Social cognition
also deals with how we understand ourselves and our own
actions and reactions, for example in self-attribution.
2) Social influence and interaction is another
comprehensive area of research. Why we do as others
(conformity), why we obey orders (obedience) and comply with
the wishes of others (flexibility) are central
themes. Stanley Milgram 's obedience experiments are an
important contribution in this area.
3) The study of attitudes, and in particular of
attitude change, is of great interest, not least because
knowledge of attitude change is believed to be able to help
reduce undesirable behavior (eg smoking) and promote desired
behavior (eg responsible traffic behavior).
4) Positive or negative attitudes (sympathy,
helpfulness, prejudice, discrimination, aggression) towards
others, individuals or groups, are also important research
topics in modern social psychology.
5) Knowledge of the behavior and decisions in groups,
such as group polarization, social loafing, social
facilitation, groupthink and bystander effect constitute
important contributions in modern social psychology.
A number of famous experiments that illustrate social
psychological principles are often mentioned in the media,
- Solomon Asch's conformity experiment
- Stanley Milgram's obedience experiments
- Philip Zimbardo's prison experiment
- The spectator effect (psychologists John M. Darley
and Bibb LatanÚ)
- Rosenthal Effect(Pygmalion Effect)
- Social facilitation and social loffing
Social psychology is an integral part of psychology, both
methodically and theoretically. Several applied
disciplines in psychology, including health
psychology, work psychology, organizational psychology and
social psychology, are rooted in social psychology.
Of Norwegian psychologists who have contributed to social
psychological research are Berit ┼s, Harriet Holter, Ragnar
Rommetveit, Karl Halvor Teigen and Bente TŠen.