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Social psychology is one of the primary subdivisions of psychology that tries to understand human behavior, through uncovering the effect of the social and cognitive process on human actions.
That is, through the application of scientific research insights, it tries to understand how different individuals think, perceive their immediate environments, and react to varying occurrences in their lives.
Unlike other branches of psychology that use global theories, for example, the personality theory to understand human behavior, social psychology uses a wide range of social and cognitive methods to comprehend human actions.
The most common theories that social psychologists use include the attribution theory, cognitive dissonance, elaboration likelihood model, observational learning, and self-perception (Pinkney, 2010, p.1).
Therefore, the primary goal of social psychologists is to analyze people’s thoughts, beliefs, and actions, by analyzing interpersonal relationships and interactions between individuals and effects of cultural factors, for example, the media, on people’s behaviors.
How Social Psychology Differs from Other Disciplines
Although there are numerous similarities between social psychology and other branches of psychology, one primary concept that makes social psychology a distinct discipline is its focus on understanding the main “social” elements, which shape human behavior.
One feature that makes social psychology a unique subject is its principle of correlating different concepts from different disciplines, done through research and analysis, in an endeavor to understand human behavior.
Human beings have a tendency to learning from each other; whereby, depending on the level of reinforcement or punishment, individuals can either copy or avoid certain behaviors.
Therefore, to understand such ideas, it is the function of social psychologists to conduct empirical studies on effects of the different social and cognitive process on human actions; hence making social psychology a unique discipline, because of its distinctive methodical approach.
For example, unlike folk wisdom whose primary sources of facts are anecdotal observations and prejudiced interpretations, social psychology is an empirical-based discipline, whose main source of insights are scientific researches.
There is also a difference between social psychology and personality psychology, in that, unlike personality psychology that centers on single traits, characteristics, and views, social psychology focuses on the effects of occurrences in people’s immediate environments on their behaviors (Istudi, 2010, pp. 1-3).
Another discipline that most individuals confuse with social psychology is sociology. Although these two disciplines share some common concepts, as far as the understanding of human behavior is concerned, the degree of inquiry varies.
Sociology approaches the idea of human behavior from a broad perspective, because of the tendency of sociologists to focus on social institutions and different cultural practices that shape social psychology.
Contrary to this, social psychologists tend to focus their inquiry on situational variables, which shape social behavior; hence, the difference in approach of this two disciplines to the concept of human behavior (Thoits, 1995, pp. 1232-1240).
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On the other hand, there is also a difference between social psychology and organizational psychology, whose primary concern is to understand human behavior within an in the certain working environment, social psychology focuses on non-specific situations.
The role of Research in social psychology
Due to the diverse nature of human actions, for social psychologists to understand human behavior fully, they must combine knowledge from different studies, fields, and disciplines.
Also, because of the varying nature of people’s behavior in different environments, it is a necessity for social psychologists to apply the numerous principles of social psychology, as it is the only way of uncovering fully human behavior.
This makes social psychology a research-based discipline, whose main objective is to understand the effects of social and cognitive processes on human behavior.
Research is very important in social psychology because it offers social psychologists a chance of understanding fully both individual and group behaviors (Allport, 1985, pp. 9-18).
Also, because social factors are primary causes of most deviant behaviors, research offers social psychologists a chance of using concepts from other disciplines, for example, theology, economics, literature, and economics to uncover the realities behind human behavior.
Through research and analysis, social psychologists can discover appropriate ways of shaping behavior, by altering certain social factors.
Such is the case primarily because; research involves the designing of different studies, finding correlations between different influences of social factors on human behavior, and formulation of viable solutions to any related social problem.
Primary areas of research in social psychology include social cognition (primarily on how the brain process, apply, and store information) discrimination, violence, Pro-social behavior, and interpersonal relationships.
Also, to understand how different factors influence human behavior, one must conduct empirical studies to understand the degree of influence of various factors on human behavior, because of the tendency of most elements to share environmental impacts.
Social psychologists cannot achieve this without research studies. Therefore, research is of considerable significance in this discipline, because of the diverse nature of social influences on human behavior (Allport, 1985, pp. 3-25).
In conclusion, social psychology is a unique subdivision of psychology, because of its tendency to analyze different sociological factors, in an endeavor to understand human actions.
Unlike most disciplines that study human behavior, which focus on single causes and effects of specific factors that influence human behavior, social psychology combines knowledge from different areas of knowledge, which are related to human behavior.
To achieve this, social psychologists must use empirical studies on various factors that cause human behavior; hence, the significance of research in social psychology.
Allport, G. W. (1985). The historical background of social psychology. Handbook of Social Psychology, 1, (3), 1-29.
IStudi. Social psychology. Web.
Pinkney, W. Theories and methods for analyzing the interactions between selves and societies. Web.
Thoits, P. A. (1995). Social psychology; the interplay between sociology and Psychology. Social Forces, 73, 1231-1243.