Social Psychology

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Social Psychology Definition

Sandra Lattin

Tessie Blake

University of Phoenix

Social Psychology Definition

Social psychology is the study of the relations between people and groups. Scholars in this interdisciplinary area are typically either psychologists or sociologists, though all social psychologists employ both the individual and the group as their units of analysis (Myers, 1993).

In the text Social Psychology, Myers (1987) defines social psychology as "the scientific study of how people think about, influence and relate to one another." (p. 3) Another definition was proposed by Gordon W. Allport (1954), who defined social psychology as "an attempt to understand and explain how the thought, feeling and behavior of individuals is influenced by the actual, imagined or implied presence of others". Following from Allport's above definition of social psychology, there are three broad domains of social psychology: social perception, social influence and social interaction.

Whereas social perception is defined as "how we see other social objects (i.e., people and groups)", social interaction "includes areas like cooperation and conflict, aggression, helping, interpersonal relationships and many others" and social influence "is actually the link between social perception and social interaction".

According to Myers (1987), social psychology is "a subfield of its parent disciplines, sociology and psychology" and "shares common interests with sociology (studying how people behave in groups), and personality psychology (focusing on the individual person)".

Although there are some overlaps between the disciplines in psychology, the disciplines have a different focus and differ in other aspects as well. For example, psychological and sociological researchers tend to differ in their goals, approaches, methods, and terminology. Social psychology and sociology also have separate academic journals and professional associations (Sewell, 1989). Whereas sociologists are trained in sociology (Flick, 1998), most social psychologists are...