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It therefore looks at human behavior as influenced by other people and the social context in which this occurs.


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Social psychology is to do with the way these feelings, thoughts, beliefs, intentions and goals are constructed and how such psychological factors, in turn, influence our interactions with others. Topics examined in social psychology include: the self concept , social cognition, attribution theory , social influence, group processes, prejudice and discrimination , interpersonal processes, aggression, attitudes and stereotypes. Aristotle believed that humans were naturally sociable, a necessity which allows us to live together an individual centered approach , whilst Plato felt that the state controlled the individual and encouraged social responsibility through social context a socio-centered approach.

This led to the idea of a group mind, important in the study of social psychology. It emphasized the notion that personality develops because of cultural and community influences, especially through language, which is both a social product of the community as well as a means of encouraging particular social thought in the individual. Texts focusing on social psychology first emerged at the start of the 20th century.

The first notable book in English was published by McDougall in An Introduction to Social Psychology , which included chapters on emotion and sentiment, morality, character and religion, quite different to those incorporated in the field today. This belief is not the principle upheld in modern social psychology, however. His book also dealt with topics still evident today, such as emotion, conformity and the effects of an audience on others. Murchison published The first handbook on social psychology was published by Murchison in A text by Klineberg looked at the interaction between social context and personality development by the s a number of texts were available on the subject.

There is some disagreement about the first true experiment, but the following are certainly among some of the most important. By the study of social norms had developed, looking at how individuals behave according to the rules of society. This was conducted by Sherif Lewin et al. Much of the key research in social psychology developed following World War II, when people became interested in the behavior of individuals when grouped together and in social situations.

Key studies were carried out in several areas. Some studies focused on how attitudes are formed, changed by the social context and measured to ascertain whether change has occurred. Allport introduced the notion that the presence of others the social group can facilitate certain behavior. Bandura Social Learning Theory Bandura introduced the notion that behavior in the social world could be modeled.

Children who had seen the adult rewarded were found to be more likely to copy such behavior. We are motivated to reduce this by either changing one of our thoughts, beliefs or attitudes or selectively attending to information which supports one of our beliefs and ignores the other selective exposure hypothesis. Dissonance occurs when there are difficult choices or decisions, or when people participate in behavior that is contrary to their attitude.

Dissonance is thus brought about by effort justification when aiming to reach a modest goal , induced compliance when people are forced to comply contrary to their attitude and free choice when weighing up decisions. When the boys were asked to allocate points to others which might be converted into rewards who were either part of their own group or the out-group, they displayed a strong in-group preference.

That is, they allocated more points on the set task to boys who they believed to be in the same group as themselves. He believed that these were made based on three areas: locus, which could be internal or external; stability, which is whether the cause is stable or changes over time: and controllability. When the learner a stooge got the answer wrong, they were told by a scientist that they had to deliver an electric shock.

This did not actually happen, although the participant was unaware of this as they had themselves a sample real! They were encouraged to increase the voltage given after each incorrect answer up to a maximum voltage, and it was found that all participants gave shocks up to v, with 65 per cent reaching the highest level of v. It seems that obedience is most likely to occur in an unfamiliar environment and in the presence of an authority figure, especially when covert pressure is put upon people to obey.

It is also possible that it occurs because the participant felt that someone other than themselves was responsible for their actions. There was some basic loss of rights for the prisoners, who were unexpectedly arrested, given a uniform and an identification number they were therefore deindividuated. The study showed that conformity to social roles occurred as part of the social interaction, as both groups displayed more negative emotions and hostility and dehumanization became apparent. Prisoners became passive, whilst the guards assumed an active, brutal and dominant role.

Allport, F. The influence of the group upon association and thought. Journal of Experimental Psychology , 3 3 , Response to social stimulation in the group. Social psychology , Methods in the study of collective action phenomena. The Journal of Social Psychology , 15 1 , Bandura, A. People are born with skills that allow them to successfully interact with others in their social world. Newborns are able to recognize faces and to respond to human voices, young children learn language and develop friendships with other children, adolescents become interested in sex and are destined to fall in love, most adults marry and have children, and most people usually get along with others.

People have these particular characteristics because we have all been similarly shaped through human evolution. The genetic code that defines human beings has provided us with specialized social skills that are important to survival. Just as keen eyesight, physical strength, and resistance to disease helped our ancestors survive, so too did the tendency to engage in social behaviors. For example, it has been argued that the emotion of jealousy has survived over time in men because men who experience jealousy are more fit than men who do not.

According to this idea, the experience of jealousy leads men to protect their mates and guard against rivals, which increases their reproductive success Buss, Although our biological makeup prepares us to be human beings, it is important to remember that our genes do not really determine who we are. And yet each human being is different from every other human being.

Evolutionary adaption has provided us with two fundamental motivations that guide us and help us lead productive and effective lives. One of these motivations relates to the self— the motivation to protect and enhance the self and the people who are psychologically close to us ; the other relates to the social situation— the motivation to affiliate with, accept, and be accepted by others.

We will refer to these two motivations as self-concern and other-concern , respectively. Humans are motivated to find food and water, to obtain adequate shelter, and to protect themselves from danger. Doing so is necessary because we can survive only if we are able to meet these fundamental goals. The desire to maintain and enhance the self also leads us to do the same for our relatives—those people who are genetically related to us. According to evolutionary principles, kin selection occurs because behaviors that enhance the fitness of relatives, even if they lower the fitness of the individual himself or herself, may nevertheless increase the survival of the group as a whole.

In addition to our kin, we desire to protect, improve, and enhance the well-being of our ingroup— those we view as being similar and important to us and with whom we share close social connections , even if those people do not actually share our genes. Perhaps you remember a time when you helped friends move all their furniture into a new home, even though you would have preferred to be doing something more beneficial for yourself, such as studying or relaxing.


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  6. The tendency to help the people we feel close to, even if they are not related to us, is probably due in part to our evolutionary past: the people we were closest to were usually those we were related to. Although we are primarily concerned with the survival of ourselves, our kin, and those who we feel are similar and important to us, we also desire to connect with and be accepted by other people more generally—the goal of other-concern. We live together in communities, we work together in work groups, we may worship together in religious groups, and we may play together on sports teams and through clubs.

    Affiliating with other people—even strangers—helps us meet a fundamental goal: that of finding a romantic partner with whom we can have children.

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    Our connections with others also provide us with opportunities that we would not have on our own. We can go to the grocery store to buy milk or eggs, and we can hire a carpenter to build a house for us. And we ourselves do work that provides goods and services for others. This mutual cooperation is beneficial both for us and for the people around us.

    What the other-concern motive means is that we do not always put ourselves first. Being human also involves caring about, helping, and cooperating with other people. Just as birds and other animals may give out alarm calls to other animals to indicate that a predator is nearby, humans engage in altruistic behaviors in which they help others, sometimes at a potential cost to themselves. As a result, negative behaviors toward others, such as bullying, cheating, stealing, and aggression, are unusual, unexpected, and socially disapproved.

    Of course this does not mean that people are always friendly, helpful, and nice to each other—powerful social situations can and do create negative behaviors. But the fundamental human motivation of other-concern does mean that hostility and violence are the exception rather than the rule of human behavior. Sometimes the goals of self-concern and other-concern go hand in hand.

    When we fall in love with another person, it is in part about a concern for connecting with someone else but is also about self-concern—falling in love makes us feel good about ourselves. And when we volunteer to help others who are in need, it is in part for their benefit but also for us. We feel good when we help others. At other times, however, the goals of self-concern and other-concern conflict. Imagine that you are walking across campus and you see a man with a knife threatening another person. Do you intervene, or do you turn away?

    In this case, your desire to help the other person other-concern is in direct conflict with your desire to protect yourself from the danger posed by the situation self-concern , and you must decide which goal to put first. We will see many more examples of the motives of self-concern and other-concern, both working together and working against each other, throughout this book. When we work together on a class project, volunteer at a homeless shelter, or serve on a jury in a courtroom trial, we count on others to work with us to get the job done.

    We develop social bonds with those people, and we expect that they will come through to help us meet our goals. In addition to the people with whom we are currently interacting, we are influenced by people who are not physically present but who are nevertheless part of our thoughts and feelings. Imagine that you are driving home on a deserted country road late at night.

    No cars are visible in any direction, and you can see for miles. You come to a stop sign.

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    What do you do? Most likely, you stop at the sign, or at least slow down. We carry our own personal social situations—our experiences with our parents, teachers, leaders, authorities, and friends—around with us every day. When social psychologists analyze an event such as the Holocaust, they are likely to focus more on the characteristics of the situation e.

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    As an example, we will see that even ordinary people who are neither bad nor evil in any way can nevertheless be placed in situations in which an authority figure is able to lead them to engage in evil behaviors, such as applying potentially lethal levels of electrical shock Milgram, In addition to discovering the remarkable extent to which our behavior is influenced by our social situation, social psychologists have discovered that we often do not recognize how important the social situation is in determining behavior.

    We often wrongly think that we and others act entirely on our own accord, without any external influences. It is tempting to assume that the people who commit extreme acts, such as terrorists or members of suicide cults, are unusual or extreme people. There is perhaps no clearer example of the powerful influence of the social situation than that found in research showing the enormous role that others play in our physical and mental health.

    One of the goals of effective psychotherapy is to help people generate better social support networks because such relationships have such a positive effect on mental health. In addition to having better mental health, people who have adequate social support are more physically healthy. These differences appear to be due to the positive effects of social support on physiological functioning, including the immune system.

    The opposite of social support is the feeling of being excluded or ostracized. Feeling that others are excluding us is painful, and the pain of rejection may linger even longer than physical pain. People who were asked to recall an event that caused them social pain e. Because connecting with others is such an important part of human experience, we may sometimes withhold affiliation from or ostracize other people in order to attempt to force them to conform to our wishes.

    When individuals of the Amish religion violate the rulings of an elder, they are placed under a Meidung. During this time, and until they make amends, they are not spoken to by community members. The silent treatment and other forms of ostracism are popular because they work.

    Withholding social communication and interaction is a powerful weapon for punishing individuals and forcing them to change their behaviors. Taken together, then, social psychological research results suggest that one of the most important things you can do for yourself is to develop a stable support network. Reaching out to other people benefits those who become your friends because you are in their support network and has substantial benefits for you.

    In some cases, social influence occurs rather passively, without any obvious intent of one person to influence another, such as when we learn about and adopt the beliefs and behaviors of the people around us, often without really being aware that we are doing so. In other cases, social influence is anything but subtle; it involves one or more individuals actively attempting to change the beliefs or behaviors of others, as is evident in the attempts of the members of a jury to get a dissenting member to change his or her opinion, the use of a popular sports figure to encourage children to buy certain products, or the messages that cult leaders give to their followers to encourage them to engage in the behaviors required of the group.

    One outcome of social influence is the development of social norms — the ways of thinking, feeling, or behaving that are shared by group members and perceived by them as appropriate Asch, ; Cialdini, Norms include customs, traditions, standards, and rules, as well as the general values of the group. There are norms about almost every possible social behavior, and these norms have a big influence on our actions. The social norms that guide our everyday behaviors and that create social influence derive in large part from our culture. The culture in which we live affects our thoughts, feelings, and behavior through teaching, imitation, and other forms of social transmission Mesoudi, It is not inappropriate to say that our culture defines our lives just as much as our evolutionary experience does.

    Cultures differ in terms of the particular norms that they find important and that guide the behavior of the group members. Norms in Western cultures are primarily oriented toward individualism — cultural norms, common in Western societies, that focus primarily on self-enhancement and independence. Children in Western cultures are taught to develop and value a sense of their personal self and to see themselves as largely separate from the people around them.

    Adults in Western cultures are oriented toward promoting their own individual success, frequently in comparison with or even at the expense of others. In short, in Western cultures the emphasis is on self-concern. Norms in the East Asian cultures, on the other hand, are more focused on other-concern. These norms indicate that people should be more fundamentally connected with others and thus are more oriented toward interdependence , or collectivism.

    The members of East Asian cultures, when asked to describe themselves, indicate that they are particularly concerned about the interests of others, including their close friends and their colleagues. Other researchers have studied other cultural differences, such as variations in orientations toward time.

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    It has also been argued that there are differences in the extent to which people in different cultures are bound by social norms and customs, rather than being free to express their own individuality without regard to considering social norms Gelfand et al. And there are also cultural differences regarding personal space, such as how close individuals stand to each other when talking, as well as differences in the communication styles individuals employ. It is important to be aware of cultures and cultural differences, at least in part because people with different cultural backgrounds are increasingly coming into contact with each other as a result of increased travel and immigration, and the development of the Internet and other forms of communication.

    In Canada, for instance, there are many different ethnic groups, and the proportion of the population that comes from minority non-White groups is increasing from year to year. Minorities will account for a much larger proportion of the total new entries into the Canadian workforce over the next decades. Although these changes create the potential for greater cultural understanding and productive interaction, they may also produce unwanted social conflict.

    Being aware of cultural differences and considering their influence on how we behave toward others is an important part of a basic understanding of social psychology and a topic that we will return to frequently in this book. Ackerman, J. The costs of benefits: Help-refusals highlight key trade-offs of social life. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 12 2 , — Au, A. Suicide ideation and depression: The moderation effects of family cohesion and social self-concept.

    Retrieved from Academic Search Premier Database. Barrett, H. Modularity in cognition: Framing the debate. Psychological Review, 3 , — Bastian, B. Excluded from humanity: The dehumanizing effects of social ostracism. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46 1 , — Baumeister, R. The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation.

    Psychological Bulletin, , — Berkowitz, L. Aggression: A social psychological analysis. Bernstein, M. Adaptive responses to social exclusion: Social rejection improves detection of real and fake smiles. Psychological Science, 19 10 , — Bertera, E. The role of positive and negative social exchanges between adolescents, their peers and family as predictors of suicide ideation. Buss, D. The dangerous passion: Why jealousy is as necessary as love and sex. Evolutionary social psychology. Gilbert, S. Lindzey Eds. Chen, Z. When hurt will not heal: Exploring the capacity to relive social and physical pain.

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    Psychological Science, 19 8 , — Cialdini, R. Cohen, S. Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 98 , — Compton, M. Social environment factors associated with suicide attempt among low-income African Americans: The protective role of family relationships and social support. Darley, J. Bystander intervention in emergencies: Diffusion of responsibility. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 8 4, Pt. Diener, E. Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress.

    Psychological Bulletin, 2 , — Happiness, life satisfaction, and fulfillment: The social psychology of subjective well-being. Van Lange Ed.

    NATURE & SCOPE OF SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY

    Eagly, A. The psychology of attitudes. Fiske, A. Social cognition is thinking about relationships. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 5 5 , — The cultural matrix of social psychology. Fiske, S.