"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" (Gordon Allport, 1985).
According to our text book Social Psychology is a "branch of psychology that seeks a broad understanding of how human beings think, act, and feel".
I want social psychology to help me understand:
- peoples behavior in social situations
- how much environment contributes towards our development.
Culture and Nature
Culture is an information based system in which people work together to satisfy their biological and social needs. It includes shared believes, meanings and values, and shared ways of doing things. According to Baumeister et al. (2008) human beings have been shaped by evolution to participate in culture.
Nature is a physical world around us, including its laws and processes. Natural selection is a process whereby genetically based traits become more or less common in the population.(Baumeister et al., 2008)
Even though research supports that both nature and culture are important in shaping behavior, nature and culture are viewed as two separate, completely different things. Recently a vision of nature as culture has been proposed. Here is the article about nature as culture that I found to be very interesting. http://www.newvisions.ucsb.edu/visions/nature_as_culture/index.html
According to Baumeister et al. (2008) the self can be a self knowledge or self concept, the interpersonal self or public self, and the agent or an executive function. The main purpose of the self is to gain social acceptance and to play social roles. According Rick Hoyle (http://www.psych.neu.edu/ISSI/daily.htm) “the self is reflexive, it can become the object of its own attention (from various perspectives), and this reflexiveness underlies many of the activities of the self. Most of our understanding of the world (e.g., other people, things we read or see) is filtered through our understanding of self. Although, from late adolescence onward, the self is stable over time, in particular situations different aspects of the self move to the fore, creating the appearance of fluidity. Due to a variety of personal and interpersonal motives, the self on public display often does not match the self of which we are privately aware.”
There are a number of things that we do not know about the self. Rick Hoyle (http://www.psych.neu.edu/ISSI/daily.htm) outlined the following 3 things: “1. We do not know where the self resides. Although the self is clearly a product of activity occurring in the nervous system, no one has yet identified areas of the brain that are associated with the capacity for self-relevant thought and emotion. 2. We do not know to what extent the self, at least the core of it, is in place at birth. The alternative, which, in its extreme form, is unsettling to many, is that the self is totally "written by" experience. 3. We don't know how profound is the effect of culture on the self. Is it possible that, in cultures that value the collective (e.g., family, religious group) over the individual, there is no clearly delineated self?” According to self-determination theory people need to feel at least some degree of autonomy and internal motivation. They should understand that at least some of their behavior is caused by their own free will. Self-control is person’s capacity to alter its own responses. The key three components of self-control are standards concepts, monitoring, and willpower/capacity for change. Self-defeating behavior is actions by which people bring failure, suffering or misfortune on themselves.
Social Cognition is a study about of thinking about people and social relationships. Research shows that people think about other people more then about anything else in the world. According to Baumeister et al. (2008) this is because people are designed to participate in the society and have to deal with other people. People think about other people because they want to be accepted and are trying to fit in and/or avoid people. Attitudes are global evaluations towards some object or issue. People need attitudes in order to survive and make decisions in everyday life. Attitudes help us differentiate the information that is around us. Our everyday choices depend on our attitudes. If people did not have attitudes everyone would be making exactly the same choices and there would not be any variety in our life. On the other hand does that mean that everyone would have exactly the same opinions about different thing which would reduce the number of disagreements, arguments and wars in the world? Or can people survive without variety in their lives?
Because people are social animals we interact with other people, search for their guidance and advice, and learn from them. All of this creates social influence. Social influence can be as little as a son following footsteps of their father, or as big as peer pressure and following particular popular trends. Young girls are socially influenced by celebrities, you might respect your boss at work and to aim to be like him one day. Because of social influence different groups and cults occur.
According to Baumeister et al. (2008) there are two types of social influence normative influence and informational influence. Normative influence – is when person goes along with the crowd in order to be liked and accepted. (Baumeister et al., 2008) Information influence – is when person goes along with the crowd because they think that crowd knows more than they do. (Baumeister et al., 2008)
Aggression is any behavior intended to harm another person who is motivated to avoid the harm. (Baumeister et al., 2008)
Some might say that our world is getting more aggressive these days. While in old days we have experienced big episodes of aggression such as during the wars, this days there are more single episodes of aggression. Almost everyday we see on the news that some one got killed, that there was a shooting somewhere. In the last couple of years there were a number of shootings in colleges in USA and just recently in Europe. The rate of bullying in Australian schools is growing rapidly. So why is it happening? A lot of people say that it is because there is a lot of promotion of violence and aggression on the television and computer games. Research shows that children are more exposed to violence these days. Some say that it feels like as if violence and aggression are more accepted these days and people do not pay enough attention to it. Something definitely needs to be done about aggression these days perhaps more education is needed and maybe it is time we reduce the amount of violent games and movies that are being released, as according to learning theories of aggression people learn aggressive behaviors by direct experience and observing others.
Prejudice is a negative feeling toward an individual based solely on his or her membership in the particular group. These groups can be social and/or cultural. Our world is growing and with it the amount of social groups that are in it. People in different groups have different opinions and therefore might disagree with each other, this usually leads to expression of negative thought and emotions between groups and therefore prejudice. But is there life without prejudice? All individuals are different and have different opinions and enjoy different things, as mentioned earlier we all have different attitudes and form different groups and make different choices based on those attitudes. Because we are so different we will disagree with things and like and dislike different things. Pretty much every person at least ones expressed negative feelings towards a foreign group that they do not understand and/or disagree with. Even if a person is very open minded and excepting of many things there will be something that they will disagree with. Chances are that most of the time we will not even notice it and not realize that it is prejudice. However these cases of prejudice are not likely to cause any harm and/or damage. On the other hand a person can express a lot of hate and disrespect towards particular group openly on the number of occasions which can lead to negative consequences. In this case it is important to get involved and we as a society should work very hard to reduce the number of these cases, as it is embarrassing and we are better then that.
Attraction is anything that draws two or more people together, making them want to be together and possibly to form a lasting relationship. (Baumeister et al., 2008)
Social acceptance is a situation in which other people have come to like you, respect you, approve of you, and include you in their groups and relationships. (Baumeister et al., 2008)
Rejection or Social exclusion is being prevented by others from forming or keeping a social bond with them. (Baumeister et al., 2008)
Being social creatures people need to be able to form relationships with others. We create relationships through communication and that is how groups and couples occur. One of the persons needs is to be socially accepted, they might not be accepted by a number of different groups, but they have to be accepted at least by one. People can not tolerate being lonely and while some might enjoy being a lone and get away from people sometimes majority of the time people crave social contact. Research shows that when the need for social contact is not satisfied it can lead to depression and even possible suicide. Unfortunately we can see that sometimes in school/college environment children who are socially unaccepted commit suicide. We should not be loosing children this way and this is perhaps why more education should be done in the area of creating relationship. Sometimes people just do not know how to communicate with others and/or are really shy. Apart from different social relationships, people also need some close, long lasting relationship. People were created in the way that through they whole life they are on the look out for a long term partners with whom they can start family. This is one of peoples needs and until they satisfy it they will not be hundred percent happy and fulfilled.
Group is a collection of at least two people who are doing or being something together. (Baumeister et al., 2008)
Deindividuation is the loss of self-awareness and of individual accountability in a group. (Baumeister et al., 2008)
Optimal distinctiveness theory is proposition that when people feel very similar to others in the group, they seek a way to be different, and when they feel different, they try to be more similar. (Baumeister et al., 2008)
Evaluation apprehension is a concern about how others are evaluating your performance. (Baumeister et al., 2008)
There are a lot of aspects that influence the group work. People tend to create groups and work in groups. In the work environment these days’ people tend to be divided into teams and work mostly in teams. This creates a lot more social interaction, but also as research shows improves the work progress. At the same time it can be a bit risky as not all personalities work well together. However research shows that in most situations working in the groups brings out the best in everyone, as because you feel and think that others are watching you and you do not want to fail and possibly want to impress them. On the other hand research also shows that when working in the group sometimes people do not put hundred percent of work in, but this could also be positive as it means that people do not overwork and stress themselves out. Also when you work in the group not all the pressure is on you and this can lead to even better results and performance.
Working in the social environment can improve your social skills, which is very useful in the long-term. People need social groups for the same reasons as they need social relationships. When participating in groups we fulfill our social needs for interaction, we also identify ourselves with people who have similar interests and goals, and the more you have in common with the person, the better relationship you fill have.
Prosocial behavior is doing something that is good for other people or for society as a whole. (Baumeister et al., 2008) There are a number of norms and obligations that we have in our society and in order to be accepted we try to obey and follow them. From when we are born and make our first steps with start to learn what behavior is acceptable and what not and what is expected of us in some situations. Depending on our families, traditions and cultures some things are more important to us then others, but at the same time there are basic norms that are universal.
Helping others is probably the most common behavior that is universal. Whether people perform it because they expect something in return, or because they just want to help, or because they feel sorry for a person and are trying to help, chances are you will always get the needed help. Friends and family are more likely to try and help you, because they care about you, and you are more likely to rely on their help. Some strangers tend to just be willing to help because that is how they were brought up and that is what they think is moral and is the right thing to do. Some might help because they want to look good in front of others. As we can see helping others is one of those norms that are universal and very significant.
As we were told in the lecture environmental psychology studies the interactions and relations between people and their environments." (Oskamp & Schultz, 1998, p.206)
Our environment is very important to us. Crowded shopping malls and busy streets, work and office environments, school environments, as well as natural environment that surrounds us, but differ depending on what part of the world we are in. All of these environments have very significant influence on people’s functioning and survival. People get used to their environments, they become their comfort zones, and then it is difficult for us to change our environments. While such social environments such as school and work will be constantly changing, and people have to get used to it and learn how to readjust, it is up to us to maintain our natural environment. Environmental changes due to the damage to the natural environment are a hot topic these days. We can see the changes in the weather and temperatures all over the world and are threatened by the fact that global warming is coming, or even have already started. These alarming changes are now teaching people to respect their environment. We are not only being taught how to reduce the use of our natural resources, we are developing a better understanding and are trying to do everything that we can to stop the process. Children are starting to get involved and educated in protecting environment from the early years these days. All of this is a big step forward from a few years back, when we not only did not know, we did not really care. However the question is whether it is too late now? It is also interesting to see that topic of environmental issues brings people together into a number of different social groups.
Social psychology gives us an understanding of our social world, interactions between people, groups and cultures. It gives us insight into why do we create relationships and why do we act the way we do. While it does not give us exact answers, it gives us very useful clues that we can then use to better understand human’s social interactions and social environments.
People are social creatures, we have a need to communicate with other people and create different relationships. Some people create their own social environments, some try to fit in. When we are put into different social environments we express ourselves differently and this is where nature vs nurture debate comes in. Do we act the way we do, based on genetics and/or biological causes, or because this is the way we were shaped to behave. Some people are tend to follow more of nature side, other tend to follow more of nurture side. I stand in the middle, I do believe that in some cases genetics and biology influence the way we are, but I also strongly believe that our families, environments, cultures and everyday experiences shape us.