Social Psychology: The Study Of Influences

1631 words - 7 pages

Since the beginning of humanity, people have attempted to understand behavior. Rather it is a mother trying to understand her son adamant dislike for broccoli, or a psychologist trying to understand criminal behavior, “why” has always been a question that has been explored. Psychology, or the study of “why”, has been attempting to answer such questions for centuries. Although there are many answers (reflected in the number of schools of psychology), Social psychology attempts to explain the environmental factors that lead to a person behavior. By definition, Social Psychology is “the study of the manner in which the personality, attitudes, motivations, and behavior of the individual influence and are influenced by social groups” (Merriam-Webster, 2013).This school of psychology first explores components that effect emotions, thoughts, beliefs, intentions, and goals, then explores how that affects a person’s behavior, thus exploring the correlation between the components and behavior. Simply put, Social Psychology looks at the experience you have with other people and how they affect what you do.
Social Psychology, like all forms of psychology, has a brief history, however its historical perspectives past is lengthy. Although modern social psychology emerged in the 20th century, its original ideas were heavily influenced by early philosophical concepts (McLeod, 2007). Aristotle, who some credit as the first social psychologist, believed that “the nature of society…is based upon man’s nature” (Gilbert, Fiske, & Gardener, 2003). He argued that in order to understand human behavior, you must be familiar with social environments and the impact it has on an individual. He also believed that how individuals interpreted circumstances influenced their responses. His philosophical viewpoints where some of the earliest theories exploring the connection between society and an individual. Following Aristotle ground breaking theories were the Sophists thinkers of Greece. They discussed the power of social and spiritual influences on the behavior of humans, as well as the effect of socialization and learning upon the individual (Sharma & Sharma, 1997). Aristotle and the Sophists sparked numerous theories in the connection between society (the social) and the individual. Although many have been debunked or disproven today, these arguments are believed to be the start of Social Psychology.
Philosophical ideas like Aristotle’s and the Sophists slowly lead to the formation of non-experimental social psychology approaches. One major psychological concept that started the social branch of psychology was Volkerpsychologie. Volkerpsychologie, who’s main contributor was Wilhelm Wundt, dealt with “those mental products which are created by a community of human life and are, therefore, inexplicable in terms merely of individual consciousness since they presuppose the reciprocal action of many” (Manstead & Hewstone, 1996). In simpler terms, Volkerpsychologie looked at...

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