Psychology, as a discipline in itself, delves deep into human behaviour at times of their interaction. So, what exactly does social psychology as a subfield of the discipline focus on? Why do we need an academic pursuit of a distinct kind? Just as the name suggests, social psychology focuses on the intricate dynamics of human behaviour in the setting of social interactions. The article, thus aims to comprehend the vast field of social psychology in a concise manner emphasizing its major goals, famous theories and professional arenas where social psychologists are set to work.
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Social psychology can be defined as the scientific study of how people think, feel, behave and influence each other in social contexts. It extends beyond individual psychological processes to investigate the intricacies that emerge when people interact with one another. Attitudes, social perception, compliance, group dynamics, and interpersonal relationships are all investigated in this field.
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Goals of Social Psychology
The major goals of social psychology often overarche the goals of its parent discipline. It involves the identification, explanation, prediction, explaining causality and control of behaviour under social circumstances. It attempts to contribute to societal change by intervening in those arenas wherein not individual but societal changes are essential.
Theories of Social Psychology
Social psychology, over the years, has developed multiple interesting and eye-opening theories that explain the causality and even the nuances of social behaviour in individuals. Some of the most important ones propagated by the field include:
- Social identity theory: According to Henri Tajfel and John Turner’s Social Identity Theory, social identity and intergroup behaviour come from individuals categorising themselves and others into social groups. This approach emphasises the psychological importance of belonging to a social group.
- Social Cognitive Theory: Social cognitive theory was given by Albert Bandura and it talks about the relevance of observational learning and cognitive processes in one’s social behavior. The theory subsequently possesses multiple practical applications in the field of social psychology. It is further used for analyzing the development of social skills in young children.
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- Social Influence Theories: social influence theories are a pivotal set of theories propagated through the field of social psychology which investigates how people function by adjusting their behaviour to effectively adapt to societal needs and norms. Some of the most important studies based on social influence theories are the Conformity study given by Ash and Stanley Milgram’s Obedience studies.
How to Become a Social Psychologist
The journey to be a social psychologist or to call oneself a professional social psychologist, has to achieve various milestones. Individuals have to compulsorily complete a doctorate in psychology with a specialization in social psychology to embark on their journey as professional social psychologists in whatever field or workspace they wish to indulge in. One must also possess analytical skills, a passion for research work and a comprehension of statistics to work effectively and contribute to the field of study.
- Doctoral Programs: as mentioned earlier, doctorate degrees are almost mandatory to embark on one’s journey in the field. The degree provides the individual with not only theoretical knowledge about the various theories existing in the discipline but also provides the students a fertile ground to carry out novel research adding to the knowledge base in the field.
- Practical Experience: In addition to the academic journey that a student grows with, in social psychology, obtaining practical experience outside college campuses is inevitable to develop the skills required to be a social psychologist. Internships, assistantships and volunteering would provide students with platforms to apply their theoretical knowledge and may also help them demonstrate their research skills, thus giving them a good head-start on their careers.
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- Academic Research: Social psychologists mostly tend to pursue a career in academics through which they simultaneously conduct research while being in their academic circle thus contributing profusely to the advancements of their field of study.
- Applied Social Psychology: Applied social psychology, as a field involves working to address real-life problems and develop interventions to bring about positive change in society. applied social psychologists work with governments, non-governmental organizations and even multi-national companies and other international organizations.
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- Companies and Organizations: Social psychologists work in organizations, aiding them in understanding group dynamics and these insights would help employers to develop a healthy work environment.
- Public policy: Social psychology plays a pivotal role in public policy-making as it provides valuable insights regarding the interactions between humans and their societal interactions. It provides details that help policy makers to comprehend the attitudes, behaviors etc thus aiding in the formulation of effective policies.
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Social psychology encompasses well-defined goals and theories that pave for practical applications, thus greatly adding to our knowledge base regarding the interactions between individuals and their societies. Aspiring social psychologists embark simultaneously on both an academic as well as a practical journey to apply their knowledge and improve their societal dynamics.
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