Social Psychology


decorative star graphic decorative lifespan graphic decorative star graphic

Top of Page


Links:    •  Crossword for 1 & 2
               •  Practice Test
                •  Studying Tips
                 •  Print Friendly Version
                  •  SP Topic Areas


Social Psychology
- Introduction -

    Ψ  Social psychology is the scientific discipline that attempts to understand & explain how the thought, feeling, & behavior of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others.

    Ψ  Social psychology: a science that studies the influences of our situations, with special attention to how we view & affect one another.

    Ψ  Social psychology: A broad field whose goals are to understand & explain how our thoughts, feelings, perceptions, & behaviors are influenced by interactions with others. It includes the study of stereotypes, prejudices, attitudes, conformity, group behaviors, & aggression.

    Ψ Social psychology: The scientific study of how people think about, influence, & relate to one another.

new  Differences between Psychological & Sociological Psychology.

    Psychological Social Psychology
  Central focus is on the Individual.
  Researchers attempt to understand social behavior by analyzing immediate stimuli, psychological states, & personality traits.
  Prediction of behavior is the primary goal of research.
  Experimentation is the primary method of research followed by surveys.

    Sociological Social Psychology
  Central focus is on the group.
  Researchers attempt to understand social behavior by analyzing societal variables, such as social status, roles & norms.
  Description of behavior is the primary goal of research.
  Surveys & participant observation are the primary research methods.


    Ψ  A theory is an integrated set of principles that explain & predict observed events. Theories are a scientific shorthand.

    Ψ  Theories are ideas that summarize & explain facts.

    Ψ  Theories not only summarize, the also imply testable predictions called hypotheses (guesses as to cause).

    Ψ  A good theory:

      1.  effectively summarizes a wide range of observations.

      2.  makes clear predications that:

            a.  confirm & modify the theory.
             b.  generate new exploration.
              c.  suggest practical applications.


    Ψ  An experiment is a method for identifying cause & effect relationships by following a set of rules & guidelines that minimize the possibility of error, bias & chance occurrences.

     Disadvantage: Information obtained in one experimental situation or laboratory situation may not apply in other situations.

     Advantage: Identifies cause & effect.

    Ψ  Random selection is how you draw the sample of people for your study from a population. Random assignment is how you assign the sample that you draw to different groups (control or experimental) in your study.

    Ψ  We randomly assign in order to help assure that our groups are similar to each other (i.e., equivalent) prior to changing the independent variable.

    Ψ  Conducting an experiment: seven rules:

        - Rule 1: ask (hypothesis)
        - Rule 2: identify variables
               - Independent variable (treatment)
               - Dependent variable (resulting behavior)
        - Rule 3: choose subjects (random selection)
        - Rule 4: assign subjects randomly
               - Experimental group
               - Control group
        - Rule 5: manipulate independent variable
               - administer treatment
               - Use double-blind procedure
        - Rule 6: measure resulting behavior (dependent variable)
        - Rule 7: analyze data


    Ψ  A correlation is an association / relationship between the occurrence of two or more events, a correlation coefficient is a signed number signifying the strength & direction of that relationship.

       Perfect positive correlation coefficient (+1.00) (always)
        Positive correlation coefficient (+0.01 to +0.99) (sometimes happens)
         Zero correlation (0.00) (events happen at random)
        Negative correlation coefficient (-0.01 to -0.99) (sometimes)
       Perfect negative correlation coefficient (-1.00) (Never)

    Ψ  Correlations are positive if  the occurrence of the events in each domain increase together.

    Ψ  Correlations are negative if  the occurrence of the events in one domain increases as the occurrence of events in the other domain decreases.

    new  Correlation is not causation! it is a clue that can be used to predict.

General Ethical Precautions

      •  Do no harm!
       •  Secure informed consent.
        •  Explain the procedures before hand. Use deception only if essential
           & justified by a significant purpose.
          •  Keep confidential all personal information.
           •  Fully explain the experiment afterward, including any deception.

    Precautions about Findings

          •  Report Honestly
           •  Limit Misinterpretation


    Ψ  Mundane realism can be defined as a superficial similarity to real life.

  Mundane Realism is a measure of external validity, or the extent to which experimental findings can be generalized to the real world. It asks: How close to real life are the materials & procedures used in a certain study?
  e.g. a memory task in which we remember a list of words is rather artificial & not something people tend to do in their daily lives, whereas reading a news paper & remembering aspects of it is more common, & thus higher in mundane realism.
     Ψ  Experimental realism is the extent to which situations created in social psychology experiments are real &  impactful to participants. The concept of experimental realism was developed in response to criticism that most social psychology experiments take place in artificial laboratory settings and thus are invalid for examining how people truly think and act.

It's a Mickey Mouse World , isn't it?

    Ψ  Generalization from laboratory to life: Does not always happen. Be cautious!

Social Psychology
  Robert C. Gates

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night ;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light!