Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Social Psychology

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now

Want to get better grades?

Nope, I’m not ready yet

Get free, full access to:

  • Flashcards
  • Notes
  • Explanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Social Psychology

Have you ever wondered why someone acted super awkward in a social situation? Or maybe why people will follow along with what others are doing even if they know it’s wrong? Chances are, if you’re ever curious why someone acts in a certain way, social psychology can provide some answers.

  • What is social psychology?
  • What are different types of social psychology?
  • What are examples of social psychology?

Social Psychology Definition

Social psychology helps us understand other people, ourselves, and the world around us. It can be defined as the study of social interactions and how those interactions impact an individual’s ideas, behaviors, and emotions.

Social psychology is a broad area of psychology and is extremely useful in understanding a large array of ideas. There may be times when you’re studying a social psychology concept and have the thought that feels familiar – you know you’ve never studied it before but it’s almost as though you have. That's because a lot of the main ideas are already familiar, so almost everything makes sense. Social psychology uses scientific principles and methods to help you understand why things happen in your daily life.

Key Characteristics of Social Psychology

While many concepts can fall under the umbrella of social psychology, it is important to remember that a few important characteristics set it apart. Since it is social psychology, people and their interactions will always be at the forefront of research for social psychologists. There is also a focus on the mental state of the person doing those social interactions, as well as the social norms that are in place. Since social norms differ between cultures, being aware of and accounting for these differences is another important aspect of social psychology.

Of course, since psychology is a social science, following the scientific method is a necessity in producing results. Additionally, social psychologists need to remember to follow the ethical guidelines set in place by the American Psychological Association (APA) to ensure the safety of all participants.

Types of Social Psychology

Social psychology encompasses a lot of ideas and concepts, so here is a brief overview.

Social Influence

Social influence is a general term that refers to the way social surroundings affect people. Their environment could be other people, cultural norms, or even authority figures. The effect of social influence can vary in scale – it could impact what clothes you buy based on what your friends say, or it could cause you to take part in dangerous actions that seem confusingly out of character.

Stereotypes

Stereotypes are beliefs, often incorrect and misattributed, about a group of people. The most prevalent stereotype is racism - when people display prejudice and discrimination towards people based on their racial background.

An important part of stereotyping is the concept of outgroup homogeneity. This is the tendency to assume that there is a greater similarity among members of an outgroup rather than an ingroup.

You and your classmates get a tour of your rival high school. You and your classmates are your ingroup, the group of people with whom you share similarities and interests. When you get to the rival high school, you see the outgroup – the students from that other high school.

An outgroup is a group with which you don't identify, to which don’t belong. When you walk around this rival high school, you would assume that all the other students who attend this high school are more similar than they are. You might think they are less athletic, less intelligent, or even less attractive, simply because of outgroup homogeneity; you view the other group as much more similar than your ingroup (and more similar than they are).

Okonofua and Eberhardt (2015) conducted an experiment about stereotypes and racism on teachers. They presented the teachers with a story about a misbehaving boy. The only difference in the differing stories presented was the name of the boy – one was a name that is often associated with white people, and the other often associated with black people. While the teachers showed no bias and stereotyping upon a first infraction, the social psychologists found that the teachers would have a more negative reaction to the black boy if this incident happened again.

Social Psychology policeman and doughnuts presenting stereotypes StudySmarterPoliceman and doughnuts, flickr.com

Conformity

Conformity, also understood as social pressure, is when people change their ideas or actions to fit in with a group. It can happen on a large scale, but also without you even noticing.

Have you ever been in a class when a teacher asks a question, and you’re positive you know the answer; but then classmates start giving other answers, and you second guess yourself? Even though you were sure about your answer, you became unsure because others had different thoughts.

A renowned conformity study was conducted by psychologist Solomon Asch. He was curious about the effects that strangers had on conformity. He gathered a group of eight college students and showed them three lines of different lengths. He then gave them one line to compare it to. The participant didn’t know that the other seven people in the experiment were confederates – actors who were told what answer to give. In the beginning, they answered correctly, but in the last 12 trials, they were incorrect.

Asch ran multiple trials with the same participants, and 75 percent of the participants conformed at least once, showing that people conform to a group of people they don’t even know just to fit in.

Deindividuation

The concept of deindividuation can be categorized under conformity. Deindividuation happens when people become so engrossed in social norms or a group that they lose all sense of self.

Picture someone participating in a riot against supermarkets raising the price of milk. While this person usually is introverted and peaceful, they might lose themselves (figuratively) in the masses of the riot and start acting in ways that they wouldn’t normally – yelling, breaking windows, or pushing people. Even though this person was upset about the new price of milk, they were still acting out of character, thanks to deindividuation and the fluctuation of human behavior.

Social Psychology Examples

Sticking with the concept of stereotypes, let’s pretend you’re the water person for a basketball team. From attending all the games, you notice that the black athletes play more, even though players from other races are equivalent in ability. You would begin to think about stereotypes; perhaps the coach is unknowingly stereotyping the black people to be better athletes than the others?

You could test this theory by showing the coach statistics from a game with names associated with black people, and comparable statistics from a person who does not have a name typically identified with black people. Then, you could ask the coach who the starting lineup should be. Would the coach choose more black players than not?

Now let’s imagine you’re talking with a friend at lunch. Someone walks by in pants and your friend mentions that they look great. Late, you see the pants again. This time you mention that you like them to a large group of people you are with (including the friend from earlier). The group disagrees, saying that the pants are unattractive and they can’t believe that someone would wear them. Your friend, who agreed with you earlier, now agrees with the group that the pants are ugly.

What happened? You realize that he conformed to the group, rather than being one of the only ones who dissented from the majority opinion. You were able to see the different social pressures that your friend fell into when interacting with a larger group, and the effects the group had on his behavior.

Social Psychology - Key takeaways

  • Social psychology studies social interactions and how those interactions impact an individual’s ideas, behaviors, and emotions.

  • You most likely use social psychology in your daily life without even knowing.

  • Falling into believing stereotypes, racist thoughts and behavior, and conforming in a social setting are all examples of social psychology at work.

  • Social influence refers to how people are influenced by their surroundings.

    • Conformity is changing thoughts and/or ideas to fit into a group (think social pressure).

    • Deindividuation is losing your sense of self because you are so enthralled with adhering to the group's norms.

Frequently Asked Questions about Social Psychology

An example of social psychology is examining the internalization of racism. Some people don’t even realize they have racist instincts until tested! Another example is conformity – if you get into an elevator and all people there are facing the opposite wall, even if there’s no door in that direction, chances are you’ll face that way too. 

Social psychology studies humans, their emotions and behaviors, and how social interactions affect someone’s reaction to something. 

Psychology is a social science because it studies everything related to humans – their behavior, how they respond to things, and their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. 

Social psychology shows that people are influenced by social situations. 

The three main areas of social psychology are social thinking, social influence, and social behavior. 

Final Social Psychology Quiz

Question

Who created the attribution theory?

Show answer

Answer

Fritz Heider

Show question

Question

What are the three factors associated with the attribution theory?

Show answer

Answer

Locus of control, stability, and controllability.

Show question

Question

​Locus of control has both _____ and _____ factors. 


Show answer

Answer

internal and external

Show question

Question

Stability has two states: _____ and _____.

Show answer

Answer

Changeable and stable.

Show question

Question

Controllability has two factors: ______ and _______.


Show answer

Answer

Controllable and not controllable.

Show question

Question

The fundamental attribution error refers to overestimating our personal thoughts and assumptions and ______ situational possibilities.

Show answer

Answer

underestimating 

Show question

Question

People measure someone's behaviors by either the _______ or _____ situation.


Show answer

Answer

internal or external

Show question

Question

The stability attribute focuses on whether what causes _____ or ____ can be changed easily or not. 

Show answer

Answer

success or failure

Show question

Question

Controllability focuses on whether a person believes _____ or _____ can be changed and controlled or not.

Show answer

Answer

circumstances or behaviors

Show question

Question

The fundamental attribution theory exists because of the multiple _______ we as

humans have all over the world.

Show answer

Answer

perceptions

Show question

Question

Molly got a low grade on her test. She says that it is because her teacher does not like her. The situational attribute in this example is _______ and _______.

Show answer

Answer

external and uncontrollable

Show question

Question

"I passed my test because I am lucky." This statement is an example of external or internal locus of control?

Show answer

Answer

External

Show question

Question

"I can achieve my goals through my hard work." This statement is an example of external or internal locus of control?

Show answer

Answer

Internal

Show question

Question

"I should have studied more and gone to bed early". This statement is an example of changeable or stable stability?


Show answer

Answer

Changeable 

Show question

Question

"It is because my teacher does not like me". This statement is an example of changeable or stable stability?

Show answer

Answer

Stable

Show question

Question

What three factors cause deindividuation?

Show answer

Answer

Anonymity, suggestibility, and contagion.

Show question

Question

Which researchers oppose the idea of deindividuation?

Show answer

Answer

Postmen and Spears

Show question

Question

How did the "Stanford Prison Experiment" showcase deindividuation?

Show answer

Answer

The"prison guards" were anonymous and worked as a group, and were, therefore, more violent and cruel.

Show question

Question

Who conducted the "Stanford Prison Experiment"?

Show answer

Answer

Philip Zimbardo

Show question

Question

What was the Trick-or-Treating Experiment?

Show answer

Answer

Trick-or-treating children were either asked about their identities or not, and were present in both groups and alone. It was recorded whether they broke the rules and took more candy than they were supposed to.

Show question

Question

Who held the Trick-or-Treat experiment?

Show answer

Answer

Diener, Fraser, Beaman, Kelem

Show question

Question

What is anonymity?

Show answer

Answer

Concealing your identity, through large crowds, uniforms, masks, etc.

Show question

Question

What is suggestibility?

Show answer

Answer

Being ready to take on suggestions and be influenced by others.

Show question

Question

What is contagion?

Show answer

Answer

The ability of a behavior or mindset to spread through a crowd.

Show question

Question

What is social psychology?

Show answer

Answer

The study of social interactions, and how those interactions impact an individual’s ideas, behaviors, and emotions. 

Show question

Question

What is a stereotype?

Show answer

Answer

Beliefs, often incorrect and misattributed, about a group of people.

Show question

Question

What is an ingroup?

Show answer

Answer

The group of people with whom you share similarities and interests.

Show question

Question

What is an outgroup?

Show answer

Answer

A group of people with whom you don’t share any identities and where you don’t belong.

Show question

Question

What is outgroup homogeneity?

Show answer

Answer

The assumption that there is a greater similarity among members of an outgroup rather than an ingroup.

Show question

Question

What is outgroup homogeneity?

Show answer

Answer

The assumption that there is a greater similarity among members of an outgroup rather than an ingroup.

Show question

Question

What is deindividuation?

Show answer

Answer

A state in which we lose the sense of our identity and start behaving differently because of a group. 

Show question

Question

What is social influence?

Show answer

Answer

The way people are affected by their social surroundings.

Show question

Question

What is conformity?

Show answer

Answer

When people change their ideas or actions to fit in with a group.

Show question

Question

What social psychology principle does Asch's line study show?

Show answer

Answer

Conformity

Show question

Question

What is conformity?

Show answer

Answer

Changing your beliefs or behaviors to fit in with a group of people 

Show question

Question

What are social norms?

Show answer

Answer

Expectations that affect the behavior of the members in that group

Show question

Question

What is normative conformity?

Show answer

Answer

Conforming behavior not thought (not actually believing the conformity that you fall prey to)

Show question

Question

What type of of conformity does Asch's line study show?

Show answer

Answer

Normative conformity

Show question

Question

What is informational conformity?

Show answer

Answer

Conforming thought and behavior; turning to the group for knowledge when you are unsure of information 

Show question

Question

What type of conformity does Sherif's autokinetic effect study show?

Show answer

Answer

Informational Conformity

Show question

Question

Which type of conformity leads to the person actually believing the conformity?

Show answer

Answer

Informational conformity -- people look to the group for answers and then take those answers as their own

Show question

Question

What is conformity bias?

Show answer

Answer

When people want to belong to a group so they intentionally and knowingly conform to that group regardless of their own differing opinions

Show question

Question

What is groupthink?

Show answer

Answer

When members of a group have a desire to conform so strongly that the results are never something that an individual would do

Show question

Question

Which of these would show outgroup homogeneity?

Show answer

Answer

Thinking the other members of your baseball team look similar because they all dress the same

Show question

Question

What did Okonofua and Eberhardt's study on stereotypes show?

Show answer

Answer

Teachers showed no racial bias when the names were changed, even with multiple infractions

Show question

Question

What is an example of deindividuation?


Show answer

Answer

Cheering super loud in the stands of a football game

Show question

Question

Does culture have an effect on social psychology?

Show answer

Answer

Yes. Cultural differences have a huge impact on the norms and expectations in that specific culture.

Show question

Question

If there were no ethical guidelines set in place by the APA, what do you think would happen to social psychological studies?

Show answer

Answer

Some possibilities: 

  • Studies conducted with long-lasting psychological impacts
  • Participants would not be protected against harm from researchers
  • We would probably know a lot more about social psychology, but would harm more people along the way

Show question

Question

What is a factor that makes people not conform?

Show answer

Answer

Someone not conforming. It only takes one person dissenting to significantly reduce conformity. 

Show question

Question

Which of these would not be a reason why someone would conform?

Show answer

Answer

The more someone wants to be in a social group

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Social Psychology quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Just Signed up?

Yes
No, I'll do it now

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.