Human behaviour has always been so complex that we have always pondered over it. What makes human beings behave in a certain way? And what makes them not to?
Social psychology is a huge field of social science which is of much significance in the contemporary world. No doubt it is a branch of psychology yet it consists of a wide range of unique topics and its own. Hence social psychology is an independent subject.
What is social psychology and what makes it dependent on psychology and sociology and at the same time independent? What are the other related social sciences? This article specifically talks about such things.
What is Psychology?
Psychology is a branch in social science that specifically deals with the science of behaviour. Its main focus is on the individuals. Psychology is curious about the functioning of individual human minds.
Read: Understand Psychology
What is Sociology?
Sociology is a branch of social science that studies social relations to understand the structures of society. It links human behaviour to social conditioning and different aspects of social life.
Read: How to apply Sociology in everyday life!
What is Social Psychology?
According to Gordon Allport, father of social psychology, “Social Psychology is a scientific attempt to explain how the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of individuals are influenced by actual, imagined, or implied presence of other human beings.”
Social Psychology acts as a bridge between Sociology and Psychology. Though its primary interest is to study the individuals it also concerns how individuals behave in social groups, collectively with other individuals.
For example, how a person behaves alone in his room will be different from when somebody is in their room. Or even with people around, who is with that person will determine their behaviour and actions. They will behave differently when they are with their friends in comparison to their teachers or parents. Even if they are alone, their thoughts are shaped by the social experiences they had had. Hence society plays a crucial role in shaping one’s thoughts and personality.
How is social psychology-related and different from other social sciences?
Social Psychology though derives its elements from both the sciences mentioned above; it is still unique in its nature and topics.
Although both sociology and social psychology tries to look at human relations and keeps its main focus on society social psychology also engages with human minds which sociology usually does not. Most of the social psychologists are also sociologists. They are interested in studying individuals but in the context of the societal structures, like their social roles, social relations, race, ethnicity, gender, etc. It has a great focus on macro-level studies.
The main focus of Psychology is individual and their mental experiences. It seeks to their emotions, intelligence, reaction time, and other mental characteristics, whereas social psychology also looks at the social elements and situations along with these traits.
It is also very important to know that social psychology not only does look at social influences but social perception and social interaction are also some of its crucial factors.
One of the factors of social psychology is its empirical methods. It devises and carries out experiments to understand the emotions of the person in a particular social situation.
Social Psychology as a discipline began in the United States in the late twentieth century. It was only after the word wars emerged, the vitality of the discipline was acknowledged. There was a high enthusiasm among the social scientist to distinguish it from psychology and sociology and social anthropology. Various experiments were done. There was a deep study of individual minds and how they function in society.
During the war, it was in great demand. It was used to study the characteristics of the militants.
However during World War II, there was a need to combine the working domains of psychologists and sociologists, but later, with due specialization (sociology focussing on social structures and social psychology on human behaviour concerning the social structures) both the subjects became independent on their own. Despite different from each other, both the subjects offer a great deal of similarity as well.
Today, both sociology and social psychology has its own space in academia and journals.
Contemporary Significance of Social Psychology
Social psychology is of high significance in today’s world. Human beings are social animals and hence it is very important to know how they behave in the social world.
It is important to understand how an individual behaves in a particular situation or in a social group to understand their personality.
For example, for the teachers to know their students well, it is very important to note their behaviour in the class, their social relations with other students. Or for a businessperson to employ a person, they need to have good control over social psychology. It is also very crucial in our daily lives to understand people around us.
With the study of the behaviour of human minds along with human interactions and human relations in society, social psychology can also determine the very problems of society.
Hence we need to continuously engage ourselves to understand social psychology which guides us to human behaviours.
Why is social psychology so important for us?
To make sure and sustain a healthy society with healthy individuals, social psychologists study human minds and its function in society and prevent the society from substance use, crime, prejudice, domestic abuse, public health, bullying, and aggression.