Social Psychology deals with what we think, what we feel, as well as how we behave in different situations and environments. It entails our interaction with the people and the world around us. If asked what is social psychology is by a group of peers it would be difficult to some in up in just a few simple sentences or details. It is a basic breakdown of emotions, actions, and reactions. In this paper I will examine the amazing world of social psychology. I will look at why we react to certain things in a certain way, how we view others, how we influence others, and relationships.
When viewing ones self how do you view yourself? How do you feel the people around you view you as a person? Every experience we have encountered throughout our lifes up to this point in our lives has had an impact on the person we are today. 'Self-concept is a general term used to refer to how someone thinks about or perceives themselves' (Mcleod, 2008). 'Our feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and opinion of ourselves are a collection of things we know about our self' (Feenstra, 2011). If I were to hold a mirror to expose my inner self I would say that I am a person that constantly evaluates myself. I am more haredr on myself than other people I come in contact with throughout my life however; My experience have taught me to ease up on myself and half the things I blow up to big things in my mind is quiet often not that serious this view I have of myself is an example of self-concept. For many reasons adults keep their thoughts and feelings private to avoid scrutiny. However, the way we view ourselves has a lot to do with our self-schema. Self- schema is based on our past experiences. When we absorb mostly positive experiences one tends to have high self esteem versus a person who has absorbed more negative experiences.There are two types of self-awareness: private self-awareness, and public self-awareness. When it comes to private self-awareness, we can associate it with only the things we know about ourselves. 'Our thoughts, feelings, and desires' (Feenstra, 2011), are applied to our private self-awareness. When we are in a public view, we are more aware of other people around us causing us to censor what we say or do.
This type of behavior we display may not be how we view ourselves in private, but because we are under a watchful eye we adapt to the people and environment. Our acting self-encourages us to behave in a way that we want others to assume us to be. An example of our acting self could be that we allow people to believe that we are more confident than we actually are. This leads us to self-esteem, and self-efficacy that is how much you value yourself and how important you think you are. 'It is also how you see yourself and how you feel about your achievements' (David Sheslow PhD, 2008). If you are extremely happy, you may hold yourself in high regard therefore you have a high self-esteem. Whereas, a person with low self-esteem would most often be unhappy, depressed, and lonely. A person with low self-esteem would be less likely to interact with other people spending a lot of time alone. People with high self-esteem would be outgoing and love to interact with others. The higher the self-esteem the more motivated and driven the person becomes. This leads us to the term self-efficacy. 'Psychologist Albert Bandura has defined self-efficacy as our belief in our ability to succeed in specific situations. Your sense of self-efficacy can play a major role in how you approach goals, tasks, and challenges' (Cherry, 2007). If we possess skills where we are stronger in one area and weaker in another, we are most likely to do well in the area where we have the strongest skills. The ability to excel in certain areas has to do with our knowledge and experience. In this area, we have a higher self-efficacy. Whereas if we are put in a situation where we have little knowledge and no experience of the task we may not do so well. Therefore, we have a lower self-efficacy and a greater chance of not succeeding at this task.
'When we form an opinion of ourselves or others actions, we are making attributions' (Feenstra, 2011). These types of judgments are either internal or external to the person in question. You are in traffic, it is raining, and someone rear-ends another car. If you assumed the person is reckless, this would be an internal attribution. In this case, you are assuming this person drives like this all the time and it is his/her behavior that caused the accident. On the other hand, you could blame it on his car as having bad brakes, and the rain slick roads. This would be an external attribution, because you are blaming outside forces for this event. Now with all the information about the conditions of the road, the brakes are bad, and the road is slick. If the person still thinks the person who was driving the car was reckless, this would be a case of fundamental attribution error. 'The fundamental attribution error is an error because we make decisions about someone's disposition when there are situational factors that we are not taking into account' (Feenstra, 2011). Maybe we should concentrate on the individual who has concluded about why the accident happened. This brings us to attitude and a person's thoughts and feelings about certain people, objects, or animals. We evaluate and come to a decision about certain events, objects, and people because of our attitudes. 'The attitudes we have involve two aspects, strength, and valence.' (Feenstra, 2011). Our attitudes also consist of either positive or negative. In addition, other factors pertain to our attitude. 'The attitudes we report, those that rely on our knowledge and beliefs about an attitude object, are called explicit attitudes. Nevertheless, there are other attitudes that we are often unaware of that we hold. These attitudes are based in the automatic, unconscious reactions we have toward an attitude object are called implicit attitudes' (Feenstra, 2011). In other words, we can have an explicit attitude about people, places, and things, because we may have been exposed to them for a time. This exposure has given us a reason behind our attitudes of these objects. However, our unconscious attitude toward certain objects is present when we associate words to objects. This is an automatic response and it is our implicit attitude coming into play. This association of words and objects is the implicit attitude of that which we are not aware. 'The Implicit Attitude Test' (Feenstra, 2011).can be given to participants to see where their implicit attitudes are strongest. Again, these attitudes can be either positive or negative. Our attitudes are closely related to our behaviors as well. People behave in certain ways depending on the circumstances. They can hide their attitudes towards other people by simply behaving in a manner that is opposite to what their attitude really is towards that person or object in question. A theory that explains this behavior is the theory of planned behavior. 'According to this theory if we want to predict a behavior (or an intention to do a behavior) we need to know three things: (1) attitude toward that behavior, (2) subject norms related to that behavior, and (3) perceived behavioral control' (Feenstra, 2011). When we think about how others will react to a certain behavior within our community, we are referring to the subject norm. If your friends think going out partying is a great way to get rid of stress, but that staying home is boring, this is an example of the subject norm. On the other hand, you can agree that going out is okay, but still enjoy staying at home. This would be your perceived behavioral control at play. With a positive outlook in all these areas, it is safe to say that the person will behave in this way. Cognitive dissonance allows us to reduce our attitudes about something we did at an earlier time. Let us say you went out shopping and you spent more money than you had planned. You could reduce your cognitive dissonance by allowing yourself to think you would have to buy those things eventually. Because of our knowledge about various situations, our cognitive dissonance helps us to help others who have been in the same situation as us. However, cognitive dissonance is not always the same in other cultures. When you see someone behaving in a certain way you assume his or her attitude is linked to the behavior as well. Suppose you meet someone on the street and you associate this person with a certain group of people. Your attitude towards this person could be linked to prejudice, stereotyping, and or discrimination.
'Our prejudice and stereotypes come not only from the way our systems process information but also from the world around us. Societal origins or prejudice involves the norms in the world around us, the competition that exists between groups, and the social inequalities that exist in the world. Because categorizing happens naturally and is a helpful tool in many ways, all-human cultures are likely to have stereotypes. In-group favoritism leads to unequal treatment of those we have categorized as in the out-group' (Feenstra, 2011). With all of this in mind, we would have to agree that how we view others depends on the environment in which we live. While we are growing up, we learn the acceptable norms from the environment in which we live. Therefore, if your parents are prejudiced you will very likely hear and see the attitudes and behaviors your parents have towards people who do not fit in with your parent's in-group. This is also evident in schools and other areas we participate in throughout our lives. Our social norms have a great influence on us when it comes to stereotyping and prejudice. 'Social norms dictate that we dislike child abusers, terrorists, and members of the Ku Klux Klan' (Feenstra, 2011). I would say this is the norm in most societies within the United States and other countries. In recent years, I have noticed that prejudice is still alive and well it is just a little more hidden than in the past Although we are a new generation and unity is the way of the world there are still some individuals that are still in that racist mentality. The fact that more and more people are coming together in efforts to achieve common goals is bringing the once called outcast to the in-groups. How it is possible to bring so many groups together in today's society? Could it be the powers of persuasion from our peers and those we look up to in today's society? 'Society is a massive group of people influencing, persuading, exhorting, inveigling, and otherwise manipulating each other to further their needs' (Rhoads, 1997). In order to persuade a person or group the persuader has to fit the part and come to the table with all the materials needs to accomplish his/her goal. Let us start with the characteristics of a persuader. First of all the persuader has to be credible. The persuader will get feedback that is more positive and gain more support if the audience perceives the persuader as being an expert in the field. They will also be more apt to trust the persuader if they know he/she has a lot of knowledge about the information they are sending out. Second, in order to get a better following the persuader might want to be attractive. This is why many of the advertisers use people who are attractive in their commercials and posters. People are attracted to beautiful objects, whether it is a person, place, or thing. There also has to be a sense of urgency in the message when it is being communicated to people. The audience has to think they really need to do whatever the persuader is asking them to do. An example would be an insurance salesperson. These people make a living selling insurance and they have to get the policyholder to buy as much coverage as they can in order to make more money for themselves. The persuader also has to have the right audience in order for the pitch to be successful as well. A persuader could not sell a membership to a fitness club to someone in their 90's but they might if that person was between the ages of 20 and 60. There are many types of persuaders we encounter in our lives. 'Foxes are cunning, crafty, and sly. They are competitive, have excellent persuasive skills, and are willing to deceive and manipulate other people. Their ultimate goal is for them to win and for you to lose' (Erupting Mind Education, 2011). Let us say you go to a casino, you are passing by all the tables, and the dealers are luring you in. These people are going to tell you whatever they want to get you to come to that table. They also know that in order to get you to play that game of chance they have to tell you what you want to hear. If you are a gambler, you know your chances are slim to none at winning a lot of money, but you gamble anyway. The big casinos are in business to make money and the only way to do this is to get the consumer to gamble at their establishment. There are also persuaders out there who need you to help them and in the process, your help will benefit you as well. Let us say you know something about a crime that has been committed, but you are afraid to say anything. The bounty hunter comes to your house and starts asking questions, and offers you a reward. You think about the offer and decide to take him up on it. You have been persuaded and you have gained from it. If you want results, you have to get people to conform and in order to do that you have to get them on your side.
When we think about influence and society, we have to take into account the three areas of social influence. The first area we will look at is conformity. "Conformity is changing how we behave to be more like others. This plays to belonging and esteem needs as we seek the approval and friendship of others. 'Conformity can run very deep, as we will even change our beliefs and values to be like those of our peers and admired superiors" (Changing Minds, 2011). In other words if your friends all believed in something you did not, chances are they could persuade you to conform just so you would fit in. You would not want to feel left out so you might go along with what they believe and leave behind all the things you once valued and believed in yourself. You may believe the group, which you have become a part of, has more insight into the subject at hand and this is why you have chosen to take sides with them. You may also want to be liked and accepted by this particular group and this is why you have chosen to be a part of the group.
Now that we have discussed conformity let us look at obedience. "Obedience is a deeply engrained tendency, one we are taught from early on in life. And most of the time obedience is a positive behavior' (Feenstra, 2011). Obedience is most evident when there is an authority figure present. Most of us assume that someone with a college degree in a certain field would be very knowledgeable in that area. If a person whom we think of as an authority figure were to ask us to undergo an experiment knowing it would probably hurt someone else we may attempt it, as did the participants in the Stanley Milgram experiment (Feenstra, 2011). Because these participants thought that, the researcher was a professional they figured it was okay to go on with the experiment even though they knew it was hurting the person on the other end. Because of all the ethical issues presented in past experiments, it is not acceptable to do some of these experiments. Throughout our lives, we have witnessed many acts of aggression. "Aggression is intentionally harming someone who is motivated to avoid harm" (Feenstra, 2011). There are many forms of aggression such as, instrumental aggression, hostile aggression, relational aggression, displaced aggression, etc. Instrumental aggression is needed at times to stop further aggression. Hostile aggression is the ability to hurt another person with words. With relational aggression, one is engaging in attacks on a person or person's reputation or other areas of people's lives by media or other people with rumors or propaganda aimed at hurting the recipient.
When we look at prosocial behavior, we think back to a time when our neighbors looked out for one another and there was closeness within a community. Back in those days, it seemed like people helped others out of the goodness of their hearts, without any expectations of reward. This could fall into the category of altruism, something that is hardly seen or heard of currently. When we think of love, we think of two people hand in hand. A relationship built on love and attraction. However, many other factors come into play when it comes to relationships. Some people may be infatuated with another person which means this is a one sided love. There may also be the relationship with all the love and intimacy and passion. The companionate love like that you have for your children, family, and friends.
There are many types of groups in this world. There is the group of kids playing tag on the playground at school. Another group could be that of a crowd gathered at a fundraiser for a political figure. Another is a group of workers gathered for a party being thrown for one of the bosses. A group can be three people going around selling encyclopedias. Regardless of what the group is, it has to be more than one to be a group. When you put a group of people in a room and have them come to a decision that is unanimous, chances are there might be one in that group who doesn't agree with the rest. Sometimes the outcome may not always be the right decision taken by all involved. "Groups affected by groupthink ignore alternatives and tend to take irrational actions that dehumanize other groups.' (Janis, 1972).A group is especially vulnerable to groupthink when its members are similar in background, when the group is insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision making. In the end, we are left with quite a dilemma. (Janis, 1972). This leads us to social dilemmas and how they affect society.
There are three areas in regards to social dilemma to discuss. If to many people went to a neighborhood garden and ripped up plants while they were picking fruits and vegetables, chances are the garden would be depleted of all of the vegetation after a while. This would be an example of the tragedy of the commons. However, if the people went in and were careful when picking and not tearing up the vines, the vegetation would continue to grow. In the case of resource dilemma, people put in their share and it is there for all to use. A good example of this type of dilemma would be that of the habitat for humanity project. In order for habitat for humanity to continue to build homes, they need donations and the help of the community. When they run out of money, they cannot build any houses even if there are plenty of people to help. "The commons dilemma and the resource dilemma involve groups of people" (Feenstra, 2011). The prisoner's dilemma puts the prisoner against someone else in order to gain some advantage. The use of different strategies can cause a breakdown between the two and desired outcome would be a confession.
With all of the modern technology in the world today, I think that social psychology will advance in its knowledge of human behavior as it relates to society. The changes are already being seen as we read the news and see that society is starting to accept the fact of same-sex marriage. Prejudice will take a back seat to other more important matters related to social psychology. In the future social psychology may help us to understand foreign countries and their cultures as it relates to us and in addition, what we need to be aware of to help protect our country, our family, and ourselves.
Over the course of a lifetime, we will meet and interact with the people around us. The environment where we live and work shows us many different ways to learn about the characteristics of our friends, family, and ourselves. I believe that Social Psychology will help us to gain insight into the reasons that people judge one another as well as to how the power of persuasion can influence an individual, group, or a nation. In addition, Social Psychology can help us to recognize the influences that can lead us to either obey or to conform and when either is, appropriate for us. Social Psychology addresses many of the dilemmas that individuals or groups face in society.
Changing Minds. (2011). Social Influence. Retrieved from Changing Minds.org:http://changingminds.org/explanations/theories/socialinfluence.htm
Cherry, K. (2007, April 24). What is Self-Efficacy? Retrieved from About.com Psychology: http://psychology.about.com/b/2007/04/24/what-is-efficacy.htm
David Sheslow PhD. (2008, November). The Story on Self-Esteem. from Kids Health: http://kidshealth.org/kid/feeling/emotion/selfesteem.html
EruptingMind Education. (2011). How To Persuade Different Types Of People. Retrieved
from EruptingMind Education: http://eruptingmind.com/how-to-persuade--different-types-of-people/
Feenstra, J. (2011). Introduction to social psychology. Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Janis, I. (1972). Victims of Groupthink. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
Mcleod, S. (2008). The Self Concept in Psychology. Retrieved from Simply
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