As a general rule, the majority of people act differently when they are with different groups of people. If you think about it carefully, you probably do as well. For instance, you most likely act differently around your family than you do your friends. The reason for this is simple. Our actions, thoughts, and feelings are almost always influenced by the individuals that surround us.
Social psychology is the study of how the presence of people can affect one individual's behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. The group of people that can influence a person is often real, but the imagined or even the implied presence of other people can sometimes alter an individual's behavior or thoughts. Social psychology is often thought to be a combination between sociology and psychology, since it utilizes research and analytical methods from both areas. Although social psychology is similar to sociology, it is also very different. For instance, professionals in both of these fields have a particular interest in groups of people. Sociology, however, focuses on group behavior, while social psychology focuses on how a group of people influences each individual in that group.
This special field of psychology began in the early 20th century, and it was spurred on by experiments on social facilitation performed by Norman Triplett in 1898. Social facilitation is the phenomenon that causes the majority of people to do better at certain things when other people are around. Social psychology became even more popular in the 1930's, when German psychologists who were fleeing from their country started studying prejudice and the spread of Nazism.
Since its beginnings, social psychology has been used to study everything from hate crimes to bullying to marketing tactics. Today, it is still a growing field, and it can be applied to many areas.
Why Do We Need Social Psychology?
The world, unfortunately is teeming with all different sorts of social problems. All it takes to see this is watching the evening news or skimming the morning paper. Understanding these problems and how a group can influence each of the individuals in that group, is one of the first steps toward putting an end to these problems. Some of the problem areas that social psychology can be used to study include
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