What is social psychology?

Social psychology definition

*By the way, I just made a YouTube video based on this answer if youu2019d rather watch that:,When I teach social psychology, I usually turn to a definition attributed to Gordon Allport:,Social psychology is the scientific attempt to explain how the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of other human beings.

A few elements are worth highlighting:,scientific study: Social Psychologists use carefully designed studies and statistical analysis to understand questions of the mind.

We dont just sit around writing down observations and musings; we ask questions, collect data, analyze that data, and slowly understand whether these effects are reliable.

,individuals: contrary to other disciplines like sociology, which look at societies as a unit, social psychology wants to know how individual people operate within social worlds,thoughts, feelings, and behaviors: psychology is interested in all three of these things.

They are inter-related, of course, but its important to understand the full range of human experience.

,influenced by.



other people: This is what makes it social psychology.

At the core, the questions that social psychologists ask (vs.

other psychologists) involve the ways in which social factors influence us.

Were social creatures by nature, so other people have a big impact on us!,To define social psychology by example, consider that all of the following (and more!) are topics that social psychologists study: persuasion, opinions, relationships, self-esteem, group decision-making, helping behavior, aggression, self-control, goals, conformity, prejudice, stereotyping, feelings of rejection, cooperation, perceiving other people, social memory, etc.

Social psychologist

I am a doc of clinical psychologyu2026,People usually treat me very differently when they find out my degree, so I donu2019t usually tell people.

If I do, they usually tell me their problems, make jokes about me u201canalyzingu201d them, or change the way they talk to me or what they disclose.

It makes many social occasions pretty terrible.

,So, at parties, I often say I am a ceramics engineer.

I know the basics of this profession enough to get by.

I try to avoid the topic, but if I canu2019tu2026I usually I just say that and change the topic quickly.

,Do I analyze the responses or conversations I have with other people? No.

Iu2019m there to have fun and relax.

Like a physician or anyone else, I only really notice if things jump out as truly unusual or abnormalu2026but Iu2019m not scanning for symptoms, or looking for pathology.

,Has my degree and experience helped my rapport and connecting with people? Absolutely.

,I used to do therapy, and work in hospitalsu2026and you have to be able to make solid connections with people and have them trust you in minutes.

Itu2019s a valuable skill to have anywhere and in almost any setting - in business, socially, etc.

,You asked if this knowledge has made me more social? In fact, Iu2019m more of an introvert by nature.

Iu2019m much more of a nerd than a social butterfly.

Social psychology definition and examples

Basically, it means, what you think about now you feel.

It is the process of changing feelings by thinking of strategies and alternatives

Psychology as a social science example

Wide open question that begs for a more definitive focus.

Social sciences deals with the way groups interact in the areas of human relations, social behavior and the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services.

Itu2019s all intertwined.

Common sense examples would depend on the advanced standing of the society.

Early societies interacted in primitive ways, such as bartering for goods and services, arranging marriages, social coalescence and interpreting behaviors of the individuals within the group.

Advanced societies are more formalized and specialized in the way social sciences are integrated into a way of life.

We are more institutionalized.

Common sense example would be in the way individuals and groups negotiate their total social milieu to merge all these disciplines in the most beneficial way.

Social psychology definition by different authors

This is an extremely interesting and important question Daveed Phoenix.

Iu2019d like to draw attention to this article Against Murderism by Scott Alexander which dissects this topic quite well and Iu2019d like to hear your opinion on it.

,The author asks us to consider six scenarios below for a thought experiment:,Alice is a white stay-at-home mum who lives in a neighborhood with lots of Middle Eastern immigrants.

She struggles to understand their accents and conversations.

She moves to a white neighborhood to live among people more similar to herself.

Is she racist?,Bob is a city mayor who needs to cut back on the cityu2019s bus system.

He decides to cut the least-used route which runs through a mostly-black neighborhood.

Is Bob racist?,Carol is a gay libertarian who cares about two major issues: free markets and gay rights.

She notices that immigrants from certain countries seem to be more socialist and more anti-gay than the average American native.

She worries they will become citizens and vote for socialist anti-gay policies.

She supports a ban on immigration from Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.

Is Carol racist?,Dan is a progressive member of the ACLU and NAACP and a Democrat.

He encounters The Bell Curve and its theory that some of the difference in cognitive skills between races is genetic.

After reading up the literature, he decides this is probably true.

He avoids talking about this because he expects other people to misuse as a justification for racism, he thinks this would be completely unjustified since a difference of a few IQ points has no effect on anyoneu2019s basic humanity.

Is Dan racist?,Eric is a restaurant owner who only cares about profit.

He moves to a very racist majority-white area where white people refuse to dine with black people.

He puts up a NO BLACKS ALLOWED sign in front of his restaurant to attract white customers.

Is Eric racist?,Fiona is a white separatist.

She believes that racial groups are the natural unit of community and they would be happiest set apart from each other.

She doesnu2019t believe any race is better than any other, just that they would be happier if they were separate and able to do their own thing.

She advocates for a plan to split the US into different regions, some mono racial, some multiracial and hopes people would migrate of their own accord.

She hopes these new countries will remain allies once they are separate.

Is Fiona racist?,Scott Alexander argues that we currently mix up three different definitions of racism (which you can pick up from other answers):,1.

Definition By Motives: An irrational feeling of hatred toward some race that causes someone to want to hurt or discriminate against them.


Definition By Belief: A belief that some race has negative qualities or is inferior, especially if this is innate/genetic.


Definition By Consequences: Anything whose consequence is harm to minorities or promotion of white supremacy, regardless of whether or not this is intentional.

,If we think of the consequentialist view (3) like a diagram: intent (racism or else) -> action -> harm minorities/racism, an action is judged racist by its consequence not intent.

His issue with this view is that it is circular, u201cif racism is just a description of what consequences something has, then it canu2019t be used as a causal explanation.

u201d,This definition also leads to many racist things being good and non-racist things being bad.

A hypothetical example of the first is resisting killing white people and transferring their wealth to minorities.

Using this Definition by Consequence, resistance is racist.

But resisting such murder is a moral decision that trumps the benefits to minorities.

,An example of the second is the Ban the Box campaign which backfired, as explained in detail by this excellent answer Tom Robinsons answer to What are some examples of institutional racism in The United States?.

By not allowing employers to ask a basic question u201cDo you have a criminal record?u201d, the well-intended campaigners genuinely believed itu2019d help give formerly incarcerated Americans (disproportionately blacks and Hispanics) a chance at getting employment.

But it had the opposite effect: it made it even more difficult for African Americans to get an interview.

Surely, we wouldnu2019t reasonably label such campaign racist.

,Definition by Consequence also makes it impossible to say a particular person is racist because no one can anticipate the full consequences of their action.

It is hard to even judge if an action is racist for the same reason.

,,Scott Alexander argues Definition by Belief is also problematic.

Is it really racist to say African Americans are poorer than white? What if you add u201cbecause they are oppressed and discriminated against?u201d What if your intention is to point out inequalities and help African Americans? What if saying something more innocuous like u201cVietnamese people are shorter than Dutch?u201d (which is obviously true).

What sort of inferiority makes such statement racist? Why is it racist when itu2019s due to genetics but not when itu2019s cultural? Does the statement have to be true for it not to be racist?,He believes that in real life, itu2019s actually Definition by Motive we care about.

Ultimately, if these differences did exist and really were due to genetic differences, it shouldnu2019t be racist to point that out.

The critics are saying that if we find that minority groups are genetically worse in some way, we should suppress that lest it be used to justify peopleu2019s irrational feelings of hatred for members of other races (i.

e justify racist motives).

,This Kantian view of racism clarifies a lot of the confusion in the questions above.

,,[Edit after reading comments]: Some of the comments have made me rethink the previous points and thank you for pointing out the Ethics of Beliefs article.

It is difficult to truly understand a personu2019s motives and beliefs, thatu2019s why we often have to resort to using consequence as a proxy.

If the consequences are obviously harming minorities and a person takes an action knowingly and not out of ignorance, then regardless of his ulterior motives, we might call that action or person racist.

I keep the bar very high though.

,,He goes on to describe u201cmurderismu201d, a hypothetical ideology in an alternative universe that murdering people is good and letting them live is bad.

Both major parties are united in their support for murderism.

Republicans push murderist policies like the invasion of Iraq, which caused the murder of thousands of Iraqis.

Democrats claim to be better, but they support openly murderist ideas like euthanasia, promoting the killing of our oldest and most vulnerable citizens.

,The point of the silly scenario is that it confuses cause and effect.

Murder is usually an effect of a strategy pursued for other reasons, not an end goal in itself.

Talking about it isnu2019t just uninformative but confusing.

If we believed that gangsters killed each other because of murderism, thereu2019d be no point in examining how poverty might lead to people joining gangs or the breakdown of law forces people to form gangs to defend themselves.

,He believes a similar situation applies to racism.

,I am not saying that racism doesnu2019t exist, Iu2019m not saying that we should ignore racism, Iu2019m not saying that minorities should never be able to complain about racism.

Iu2019m saying that itu2019s very dangerous to treat u201cracismu201d as a causal explanation, that it might not tell you anything useful about the world, and thatu2019s a crappy lever to use if you want to change behavior.

And Iu2019m not saying that there will never be a case thatu2019s impossible to break down into non-racist motives.

Heck, Iu2019m not even saying there arenu2019t some honest-to-goodness murderists out there.

But I am saying we should at least try.

Not because itu2019s necessarily costless.

Not because there isnu2019t a risk of false negatives.

,We should try because itu2019s the only alternative to having another civil war.

,Labelling things as racism too easily:,frees you from any obligation to do the hard work of trying to understand other people, or the hard work of changing minds, or the hard work of questioning your own beliefs, or the hard work of compromise, or even the hard work of remembering that at the end of the day your enemies are still your countrymen.

It frees you from any hard work at all.

You are right about everything, your enemies are inhuman monsters who desire only hatred and death, and the only u201cworku201d you have to do is complain on Twitter about how racist everyone else is.

,Iu2019m upset because weu2019re not even at the point where someone can say u201cIu2019m worried about terrorism,u201d without being forced to go through an interminable and ultimately-impossible process of proving to a random assortment of trolls and gatekeepers that they actually worry about terrorism and itu2019s not just all a ruse to cover up that they secretly hate everyone with brown skin.

Iu2019m saying that when an area of the country suffers an epidemic of suicides and overdoses, increasing mortality, increasing unemployment, social decay, and general hopelessness, and then they say theyu2019re angry, we counter with u201cAre you really angry? Is u2018angryu2019 just a code word for u2018racistu2019?u201d Iu2019m saying weu2019re being challenged with a moonshot-level problem, and instead weu2019re slapping our face with our own hand and saying u201cSTOP HITTING YOURSELF!u201d,Scott Alexander doesnu2019t deny that outright racists exist and that it is impossible to argue with them.

But he would like us to expand the possibilities and reject the choice to attribute whatever we disagree with to racism.

,It is quite possible that by being extremely sensitive, seeing everything through a racial lens and considering racism/hostility against whites acceptable, we cry wolf too often and it dilutes the real horrors of racism to the point that the word becomes meaningless.

I must admit that thinking about the possibility that u201cracismu201d is as meaningless as u201csocialismu201d being misused by the right is a very hard thing to swallow.

But it might well be the case.

Social media both on the left and the right might give the impression society is disintegrating into distinct racial groups each of which believe they are uniquely oppressed and aggrieved in a way that nobody else understands.

,Or look at the case below, why should a white person feel ashamed and disgusted for being white? I can only guess that he thinks being born white automatically makes someone racist, which is something to feel ashamed of.

In fact, this person is using a new definition, a much worse and more dangerous one to define u2018racismu2019: Definition by Association (being white = racism).

This caricature of u2018racismu2019 has to stop before the word becomes completely meaningless.

,,I am not even pretending that I know what the solution is.

But I like the story of Daryl Davis, a black musician, who spent 30 years befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan.

,In an NPR interview, he said once the friendship blossoms, the Klansmen realize that their hate may be misguided.

Since Davis started talking with these members, 200 Klansmen have given up their robes.

His inspiration started after he sat down with a Klansman who had never sat down with a black guy before.

He decided to go around the country and sit down with Klan leaders and Klan members to find out: How can you hate me when you donu2019t even know me?,He formed friendships with them.

They saw the light and converted themselves.

,He recalled a funny conversation where he artfully disarmed the racist rhetoric of a Klansman:,Initially, they feel that if youre not white, you are inferior.

[They believe] that black people have smaller brains, were incapable of higher achievement.

Ill give you an example of one.

This guy was an exalted cyclops sitting in my car in my passenger seat.

He made the statement, which Id heard before, Well we all know that all black people have within them a gene that makes them violent.

I turned to him and Im driving and I said, Wait a minute.

Im as black as anybody youve ever seen.

I have never done a carjacking or a driveby, how do you explain that? He didnt even pause to think about it.

He said, Your gene is latent.

It hasnt come out yet.

,So how do you argue with somebody who is that far out in left field? I was dumbfounded.

Im just driving along.

Hes sitting over here all smug and secure, like See you have no response? And I thought about it for a minute.

Then I used his point of reference.

I said, Well, we all know that all white people have a gene within them that makes them a serial killer.

He says, What do you mean? And I said,Well, name me three black serial killers.

He thought about it u2014 he could not do it.

I said, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy.

All whites.

I said, Son, you are a serial killer.

He says Daryl, Ive never killed anybody.

I said, Your gene is latent.

It hasnt come out yet.

He goes, Well, thats stupid! I said, Well, duh.

Yes, but you know what, youre right.

What I said was stupid, but no more stupid than what you said you me.

Then he got very, very quiet and changed the subject.

Five months later, based on that conversation he left the Klan.

His robe was the first robe I ever got.

,These personal, non-confrontational conversations and a bit of humor can go a long way.

But they are frustratingly slow.

,,I hope by now I have convinced some of you that apart from the really irredeemable racists whose only value is hatred, some behaviors that are called racist might have alternative explanations which make it more amenable to influence.

,Randomly, I thought of a famous psychology experiment called the Robbersu2019 Cave experiment in the 1960s (which I explained in more detail here Huyen Nguyens answer to What are some interesting case studies of behavioral psychology?.

When the researchers fomented friction and hostility between two groups of boys, they realized that pleasant contact was insufficient to lessen the tension.

The researchers had a lightbulb moment: theyu2019d introduce a number of scenarios that could not be achieve by either group alone.

The imposition of common goals forced them to view each other as allies instead of rivals.

,One well-known from psychology is that we tend to like things we are more familiar with.

Some people have proposed a simple u201ccontactu201d approach to solve racial disharmony.

Simply by providing individuals of different ethnic background with more exposure to each other, they will naturally come to like each other.

They will start seeing each other as equals and more like themselves.

,It turns out that becoming familiar with something through repeated contact doesnu2019t necessarily cause greater liking.

To the contrary, repeated contact under unpleasant conditions can lead to even more frustration and conflict, deepening the prejudice.

,The Robbers Cave experiment led to the revision of the contact hypothesis to include four conditions under which intergroup contact will reduce prejudice:,u00b7 Equal status.

Both groups must engage equally in the relationship.

Members of the group should have similar backgrounds, qualities, and characteristics.

Differences in academic backgrounds, wealth, skill, or experiences should be minimized if these qualities will influence perceptions of prestige and rank in the group.

,u00b7 Common goals.

Both groups must work on a problem/task and share this as a common goal, sometimes called a superordinate goal, a goal that can only be attained if the members of two or more groups work together by pooling their efforts and resources.

,u00b7 Intergroup cooperation.

Both groups must work together for their common goals without competition.

Groups need to work together in the pursuit of common goals.

,u00b7 Support of authorities, law or customs.

Both groups must acknowledge some authority that supports the contact and interactions between the groups.

The contact should encourage friendly, helpful, egalitarian attitudes and condemn ingroup-outgroup comparisons.

,In 2005, the political psychologist Karen Stenner published a book called The Authoritarian Dynamic that is somewhat consistent with the revised contact hypothesis.

Racism is only a subset of authoritarianism.

She defines authoritarians as u201csociotropic boundary maintainers, norm enforcers and cheerleaders for authority whose classic defensive stances are activated by the experience or perception of threat to those boundaries, norms and authorities.

u201d,Her core finding is that authoritarianism is not a stable personality trait.

It is rather a psychological predisposition to become intolerant when the person perceives a certain kind of threat.

When the alarm button is pushed, they suddenly become intensely focused on defending their in-group, kicking out foreigners and non-conformists, and stamping out dissent within the group.

They become more attracted to strongmen and the use of force.

When they perceive no such threat, they are not unusually racist or intolerant.

So it is absolutely crucial to understand what pushes that button.

,Stenner then describes a series of her studies using a variety of methods and cross-national datasets.

In one set of experiments she asked Americans to read fabricated news stories about how their nation is changing.

When they read that Americans are changing in ways that make them more similar to each other, authoritarians were no more racist and intolerant than others.

But when Stenner gave them a news story suggesting that Americans are becoming more morally diverse, the button got pushed, the u201cauthoritarian dynamicu201d kicked in, and they became more racist and intolerant.

Similarly, fabricated stories of social conflict, poor leadership, or political polarization turn authoritarians into highly intolerant, punitive individuals.

,She ends the book with some advice:,All the available evidence indicates that exposure to difference, talking about difference, and applauding differenceu2014the hallmarks of liberal democracyu2014are the surest ways to aggravate those who are innately intolerant, and to guarantee the increased expression of their predispositions in manifestly intolerant attitudes and behaviors.

Paradoxically, then, it would seem that we can best limit intolerance of difference by parading, talking about, and applauding our samenessu2026.

Ultimately, nothing inspires greater tolerance from the intolerant than an abundance of common and unifying beliefs, practices, rituals, institutions, and processes.

And regrettably, nothing is more certain to provoke increased expression of their latent predispositions than the likes of u201cmulticultural education,u201d bilingual policies, and non-assimilation.

,In this really underrated and insightful answer (Martin Levines answer to Why do multiculturalism and diversity have such a bad reputation in certain communities? ), Martin Levine, a Canadian ex-immigration officer, made the same point about the discipline required to make multiculturalism work:,Canada has built up relatively high tolerance for multiculturalism by creating an overarching kick that any rational person in the Canadian general public can understand.

Ethnics must accept the provincial school curriculum, ethnics must submit to the authority of the child welfare authorities, they must obey hate speech laws, there are not going to have their languages made official, they are not going to have traditional religious law systems, they will not be allowed self-government, their religious holidays will not become public ones, and Christmas and Easter will remain the dominant festivals of the Canadian holiday year.

,Lose the delusion that multigenerational, multicultural immigrants are temporary migrants.

Start by accepting that they and their kids are in your country.

Then, you can kick in the discipline and show the old-stock residents that you arent going to let them get away with anything.

Then, multiculturalism isnt so much of a bad thing.

,I highly recommend reading Martinu2019s many detailed reflections on Canadau2019s relatively successful immigration and multicultural model.

,I know all of this is a lot harder than shaming and getting outraged at others being racist.

I donu2019t expect many of us can be as charitable and brave as Daryl Davis.

But we can at least start by expanding our horizons by engaging with people we disagree with without labelling them racist too easily.

,By using the term too loosely, we are doing the cause a disservice by making the word lose all of its meaning, we might alienate and harden a lot of people we could potentially win over otherwise and drive the undercurrent of anger and resentment underground fomenting to explode.

As unpalatable as it is to liberals, civic nationalism, celebrating citizenship and shared responsibilities and values of freedom, tolerance, equality and individual rights, might be a better antidote than the constant celebration and emphasis on uniqueness and differences.

,(My answers to the six scenarios: no, no maybe, no, yes, maybe.

Whats yours?)