Social Psychology aims to discover the different ways in which people interact with other individuals, groups, and the larger society as a whole, as well as why people act in certain ways.
As with an anthropology or sociology course, social psychology looks at the inner workings of groups of people. However, it differs from these courses in terms of its focus; social psychology focuses primarily on the single individual’s psychology as part of the group or society, rather than the culture or group interaction (though both of these areas have some relevance in social psychology).
This may seem to be quite a broad subject area – and it is. Humans are social creatures (in other words, they have evolved to be able to interact and communicate at high levels with individuals of their own species) and almost invariably exist in a social context (even a situation in which society is absent could be studied by social psychologists as a social context).
Social psychology deals with a huge range of aspects of human life, including love, attraction, aggression, helping behaviors (or altruism), and obedience. While social psychology encompasses a multitude of topics, it also relates to many other fields, both within psychology and outside of it. For example, other branches of psychology (personality, gender, culture, emotions, clinical, and industrial psychology) have used important findings from social psychology in their own studies.
Subjects outside of psychology, such as religion, economics, and even engineering, have made use of information that has come out of social psychology research. Social psychology research has undoubtedly had the greatest impact on the field of psychology as a whole.
This course will introduce you to the most influential social psychology experiments and explain the impact that they have had on the field as a whole. First, we will introduce you to the broad topic of social psychology. Next, we will get into the content areas in which social psychological research is conducted. These areas will include the research, findings, and theories regarding self and person perceptions, attitudes, social influence, prejudice and discrimination, interpersonal relationships, aggression, and altruism, in addition to applications of social psychology to health, law, businesses, and the environment.
Primary Resources: This course is comprised of a range of different free, online materials. However, the course makes primary use of the following materials:
YouTube: University of California, Berkeley: Professor Robb Willer’s Saylor PSYCH301 Lecture Series
University of Idaho: Traci Craig’s Social Psychology Lessons
Principles of Social Psychology
Psych Web: Russ Dewey’s Psychology: An Introduction
Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:
. discuss experiments and other empirical research in the field of social psychology;
. outline the basic methodology, results, and impact of seminal research studies in social psychology (e.g., Milgram’s study, Asch’s study, Festinger’s study, etc.);
. explain how the notion of the “self” contributes to cognitive processes in social interaction;
. discuss the main research findings in the area of social persuasion;
. define the term “attitude” and identify the mechanisms behind attitude change;
. discuss the cognitive and affective theories/components linked to stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination;
. identify the basic properties of and factors involved in interpersonal attraction and the formation and maintenance of relationships;
. discuss the breadth and importance of social psychological research and its impact in the field of psychology;
. compare and contrast different types of aggression and discuss research techniques for studying aggressive behaviors;
. identify factors that affect a person’s decision to help or not help other people; and
. describe how social psychology can be applied to health, law, business, and environmental issues.