By Farrah Sharpe
Humans are described as one of the most amazing creatures that exist on planet Earth. Although the exact origin of the human species is unknown, there is still an ever increasing curiosity within the field of psychology that asks the larger questions, why and how? Why do people do the things they do? Why do people think the way they think or feel the way they feel? How does the human mind work and why do people react to certain stimuli and others do not? Human beings change like the wind depending on their current situation, why? Why in one moment are they calm and serene and in the next frantic and anxious? What is the human mind and why does it exist?
The field of psychology that questions and researches why people do, think and feel the way they feel on an individual level in relation to their societal context is called Social Psychology. According to Gordon Allport (1954), for example, social psychology is best defined as the discipline that uses scientific methods in “an attempt to understand and explain how the thought, feeling and behavior of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of other human beings” (p. 5). This field of psychology is most concerned with the studies individual human beings. Social Psychology allows psychologist to gain a better understanding of how negative personality traits such as sexism, racism and other stereotypes are formed. Social Psychology allows for individual study of peoples reactions to a multitude of situations including love and various personal issues. Social psychology seeks to provide a greater understanding of the processes of the individual mind and the human condition.
Social psychology differs from other disciplines, such as clinical psychology, general psychology and sociology because Social psychology studies how people interact with one another, their associations and personal relationships and group behaviors. Clinical Psychology primarily focuses on analyzing and predicting conflict associated with psychological issues. Sociologists, conversely, are more interested in understanding the relationships between group structures and processes. The human mind can be compared to an onion and its many layers, as you pull back one layer another layer become visible. While these branches of psychology are interrelated they are very different and each study different parts of the human psyche. Social psychologists are keen at examining person individual behaviors, belief systems, perceptions, identities and moralities.
Most of these individual traits are inherited by the individual’s culture geographical location. Everything in the environment shapes and individual’s behavior offering layers and layers of unique personality traits embedded in each human being. Plenty of information can be gathered about a person depending on their geographical context. Each human tells a different story based on their locations age, gender, race, and social class. Other areas of individual study involved in social psychology are religious beliefs, choice in community affiliations and family and work settings.
Research into specific areas of psychology is extremely important because it aids in the development of new and leading edge ideas and treatment approaches that assist individuals with specific psychological needs. Without research there would be no documentation and would halt the study and expansion of what exact factors play key roles in mental health.
Research helps us understand what makes people think, feel, and act in certain ways; allows us to categorize psychological disorders in order to understand the symptoms and impact on the individual and society; helps us to understand how intimate relationships, development, schools, family, peers, and religion affect us as individuals and as a society. (AllPsych and Heffner Media Group, Inc, 2011)
Psychology is an ever growing field of study and each year new minds are born and enter the vast field of psychological studies. New minds equal new perspectives and new breakthroughs in the wide field of Social Science. Humans are not always predictable or reliable and people’s actions and inner motivations entangled with thoughts, feelings and a plethora of behaviors continue to make social science far from an exact science. One small change in the human situation can lead to a windfall of changes in the human mind.
Allport, G. W. (1985). The historical background of social psychology. In G. Lindzey, and E. Aronson, (Eds.), Handbook of Social Psychology, Vol. I, (3rd Ed.), 1-46.
AllPsych and Heffner Media Group, Inc, (2011, November 11). Influence of research on psychology. Retrieved from http://allpsych.com/psychology101/research_methods.htmlPlous, S. (1996). Social psychology network. Retrieved from http://www.socialpsychology.org/facq.htm