Social psychology is a branch of psychology that examines how people's emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are influenced by the presence of others, whether real or imagined. It also looks at how these emotions, thoughts and behaviors impact how we socialize with others. Sociology is a topic related to social psychology, but it tends to focus more on macro level concepts like societal structure as a whole.
While most of the social psychology field examines social processes and social influence, some biology is also incorporated by seeing how personality is influenced by genetics. Social psychologists may engage in research in this area as well as in areas related to human behavior and social situations.
Some theories and theorists in social psychology include trait theories, which examine people's traits and personality, as well as type theories, psychoanalytic theories, behaviorist theories, social cognitive theories, humanistic theories, and biopsychological theories. In terms of social cognition, some topics and theories included are automatic thinking, controlled thinking and the development of schemas, and cognitive heuristics like the availability heuristic and representativeness heuristic. Social perception is also considered to determine how nonverbal behavior and physical appearance affect social interactions, and includes attribution theory, correspondence inference theory, and more.
Other main topics in social psychology include self-concept, cognitive dissonance theory, embodied cognition, attitude, conformity, group processes, interpersonal attraction, aggression and prejudice. For example, someone deciding to give in to doing drugs with a group of friends may be an act of conformity to increase their friendship and degree of liking between their friends, but it is also an example of group polarization and deindividuation, with everyone in the group merging in terms of activities, behavior, and likes and dislikes.
Two well known studies in social psychology include Milgram's study of authority and obedience in his electric shock experiment and Zimbardo's study of conformity in his prison experiment. Many social psychology experiments dealing with human participants, such as Milgram and Zimbardo's, can be questioned in terms of ethics due to the impact these studies may have on people. However, they are very interesting and insightful by seeing how different social processes can greatly influence and shape human thought and action.
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