Social Psychology is an important branch of psychology which studies human interaction, its manifestations, causes, consequences and the various psychological processes involved in it. In fact, it studies cognition that relates to social activities and that helps us in understanding and predicting our social behaviors. Further classifying into Levels of Social Behavior.
Let us first get familiar with some basic terms.
What is Behavior?
The way in which an animal or person responds to a particular situation or stimulus is known as Behavior.
What is Social Behavior?
Levels of Social Behavior
Social psychologists investigate human behavior but their primary concern is human behavior in a social context. Further, social psychology analyses human behavior at various Levels of Social Behavior, presented below:
Individual Level Behavior
Individuals involved in any social interaction are fundamental constituents.
As conceptualized in psychology, every individual is unique in his or her biological inheritance, thought process, affect and behavior. Therefore, the basic level analysis of social behavior is individual and intra-personal.
Social psychology also studies the feelings we experience as an individual in our social lives. Thus, what we think or feel in the social context is finally expressed through our behaviors in social interactions.
Variables studied under individual processes are :
- Social Cognition & Social Perception.
- Self –Concept: Nature, Self-regulation and self-presentation.
- Attitude: Definition, components, Dimensions and formation of attitude
- Prejudice: Causes.
Interpersonal Level Behavior
This component of social psychology refers that our behavior is influenced by the presence of other people. Moreover, we also influence other people’s behavior. The social context referred to in the definition of social psychology does not have to be real or present. In fact, even the implied or imagined presence of others can have important effects on individuals (Gordon Allport, 1985).
Individuals are affected by others in many ways.
For example, in everyday life, communication from others may significantly influence a person’s understanding of the social world. Attempts by others at persuasion may change an individual’s beliefs about the world and his or her attitudes toward persons, groups or other objects.
Variables studied under interpersonal processes are :
- Interpersonal Attraction, Love
- Pro-social Behavior
- Locus of control, increasing our helping nature.
- Aggression: Meaning, Nature and Causes of Aggression
Group Level Behavior
Social psychology further analyses the impact of a group on the behaviors of its individual members. Every individual belongs to many different groups and these groups influence and regulate the behaviors of their members, typically by establishing norms or rules.
One result of this is conformity, the process by which a group member adjusts his or her behavior to bring it into line with group norms. In fact, groups also exert substantial long term influence on their members through socialization, a process that enables groups to regulate what their members learn.
Socialization assumes that the members will be adequately trained to play roles in the group and in the larger society. Hence, significant outcomes of socialization are acquiring language skills, forming political and religious beliefs and attitudes and our conception of self.
Variables studied under Group Dynamics are :
- Groups: When we join and when we leave, The benefits of joining
- Cooperation and Conflict
- Conformity; Factors affecting Conformity, Obedience & Authority
- Group decision making
- Application: Team Building
Kurt Lewin’s Contribution to Social Psychology : A Model for Understanding Social Behavior
Kurt Lewin (9th September, 1890-12th February, 1947) was a German-American psychologist and is often recognized as the “founder of social psychology”.
Social psychologists are interested in the forces that operate on individuals and cause them to engage in specific examples of social behavior. But social behavior is typically complex and has many contributing causes.
Consequently, explaining social behavior is a difficult task. Thus, to simplify this task, we can assign the multiple causes of social behavior to one of two broad categories: the situation and the individual
According to a formula first proposed by Kurt Lewin (1936), social behavior is a function of the interaction of the situation and the individual’s characteristics.
B = f (P,E)
Hence, this suggests that the behavior is the product of an individual and her/his environment.
- Baron, R. A. and Byrne, D. (1997). Social Psychology, 8th edition. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
- Ciccarelli, S. K.; White J. N. Adapted by Girishwar Misra (2018). Psychology (5th Edition). Pearson.