There are four key characteristics of social psychology including broad scope, cultural mandate, scientific methods, and search for wisdom. Social psychologists examine situations as an explanation for varied behaviors. Further, social psychology studies the influence of five core motives in which most individuals strive to fulfill in their social environment. Understanding the power of social influence as it pertains to behavior is the first step in improving negative social issues.
Key Characteristics of Social Psychology The study of human behavior from a social perspective is characterized by four key elements. Social psychology encompasses a very broad point of vein hat examines human interactions and the influence of society upon an individual. Culture is an important aspect of social psychology as it defines what is acceptable or unacceptable within that society. Further, scientific methods and the search for wisdom help to explain socially influenced behavior. Broad Scope Social psychology has a very broad perspective pertaining to the behaviors of individuals in society.
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Social psychology helps to explain why individuals conform to the rules of society and why individuals turn to deviance instead of conformity. Further, it helps explain selflessness and aggressive indecencies as well as why individuals love and hate C (Fiske, 2010)]. Social psychology spans the evolutionary progress of human societies, helping to explain how social influence facilitated human survival. Cultural Mandate The cultural mandate for societies is the blueprint of which behaviors are expected and accepted and which behaviors are considered deviant and unacceptable.
As societies change, the laws, rules, and beliefs must also change. Social psychology helps to explain these changes in society and how these changes are either advantageous for the betterment of the society or harmful to the society. In the past, predictions of social behavior were based upon religious beliefs however, as society evolves and changes, social psychologists are asked to explain changes in social behavior from a cultural perspective. The movement for equality for women is an example of how cultural mandate has evolved in society over the years.
Women were once considered and accepted as the weaker, less intelligent gender; today culturally mandated beliefs have changed that perception. Scientific Methods Without the benefit of scientific methods, the theories and hypotheses posed by social psychologists would be reduced to mere assumption. Social psychologists use scientific methods to either reliably us port their theoretical proposals or to make valid disputes pertaining to other theories. The use of scientific methods is vital to social psychology in three important ways.
First, social psychologists must have a means to validate the theories they develop. According to Fiske (2010), “… Scientific theories attempt to predict causality, create coherence, avoid excess, and facilitate investigation” [ (p. 33) Second, the data compiled through research are used to state scientifically reliable information C (Fiske, 201 0) l. Third, the strategies social psychologists use in research must always adhere to the strict standards of observational, experimental, and survey research before they make claims pertaining to how individuals influence each other in society C (Fiske, 2010) J.
Search for Wisdom The goal of most individuals in the field of social psychology is to help discover and explain what works for or against society as a whole. Social psychologists seek wisdom from the knowledge they gain through the study of societies [ (Fiske, 201 0) J. It is not enough to simply know why or how society functions; one must be able to incorporate that knowledge into daily life (wisdom). Situations in Social Psychology According to Fiske (2010) situations is the methodical belief in the importance of context as it applies to social interaction.
One opposition to the notion of situations is the theory of virtue ethics. Those in support of virtue ethics believe that character traits are reasonably stable and predictive Of how individuals will behave [ (Icemaker, 2004) Situations believe that behavior is dependent upon the situation in so much that individuals will behave differently depending upon the context of the situation [ (Icemaker, 2004) For example, just because a business owner does not cheat his customers, it does not mean that he will not cheat on his wife.
Situations is important in social psychology because it helps to explain the context in which some individuals behave outside their typical character. Most individuals tend to explain behavior from a personality perspective however social psychologists stress the importance of situations as reasons for behavior [ (Fiske, 2010)]. For example, somebody might label another person a procrastinator if they are always late turning in an assignment. However, a social psychologist will evaluate the situation and examine what is appending in that individual’s life.
Virtue ethics might imply that this person would likely procrastinate in all areas of her life however a social psychologist would imply that perhaps only in the least important situation does she procrastinate. Five Core Social Motives Individuals moving in and out of different situations are motivated in at least five central areas. Successful social beings are motivated to belong, understand the environment around them, to have some control of the situation they are in, to have high self-esteem and, and trust those around them. Belongs Eng One of the strongest and most fundamental of the core motives is the need to belong.
Belonging is the notion that individuals seek and need strong relationships with other individuals [ (Fiske, 201 0) Research shows that belonging is good for the individual as well as the group [ (Fiske, 2010) l. Although a correlation does not always support cause, evidence does show that when individuals form strong ties with others they are less likely to have health issues, become depressed, or commit suicide [ (Fiske, 201 0) l. Understanding Understanding is a cognitive motivation in which individuals strive to make ensue of what is happening around them [ (Fiske, 2010)].
In a recent article in the New York Times examining conspiracy theories, scientists explain that when individuals are faced with powerlessness and uncertainty, this triggers portion of the brain that kicks in the analytic drive which then tries to make sense of the situation [(Kosher-Baker, 2013)]. Conspiracy theories are formulated when the information is reassessed over and over again in an attempt to understand why the situation happened C (Kosher-Baker, 2013) J. Controlling The motive to control explains the concept of what people do and the outcomes of that behavior [ (Fiske, 2010)].
Research shows that individuals who have a higher degree of helplessness in a situation will be more sensitive to the socially available information [ (Asks, 2010)]. For example, individuals who live in Moore, Oklahoma will likely be more sensitive to the needs of others in their community than individuals who live in Michigan. Self- Enhancing The motive of self-enhancement entails that the individual maintains an acceptable level of self-esteem or is motivated for further self-improvement (Fiske, 2010)]. The bottom line is, people need and want to feel good about homeless.
Low self-esteem may lead to feared rejection from others in a social situation which can cause the individual to act in self-destructive behaviors such as eating disorders or chemical abuse [ (Fiske, 201 0) J. Trusting According to Fiske (2010) most people trust that other people will not cause them pain. Certainly, there are exceptions; however, typically people believe that other people will treat them well. Individuals who are trusting tend to be well-liked and are socially successful as compared to an individual who is paranoid and expecting the worst from all people [ (Fiske, 2010)
Conclusion It is important to understand the differences between general psychology and social psychology because each discipline examines distinct functions of human behavior. General psychology might examine why the chicken crossed the road whereas social psychology might examine who was the chicken with when it crossed the road. Social psychology is built upon four key characteristics and examines human interactive behavior influenced by five key motivations. Many social psychologists believe that behavior is the product of a given situation more so than it is the outcome of personality rats.