Social psychology is an important area of study

Humans are inherently social creatures.

Find out the main areas of social psychology and how its used by psychologists. 

With increasing challenges and pressures facing today’s society globally, as well as greater mental health awareness over recent years, psychology as a chosen study area and profession has seen a rapid increase in popularity.

Connection with others is an important part of being human. And, as such, social psychology is an important part of psychology and understanding people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.

We explore social psychology in some more detail here.

Definition of social psychology

Social psychology is the study of how people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours are influenced by the actual, or imagined, presence of people around them.

It’s about understanding how an individual’s behaviour can be shaped by the social environment in which that behaviour takes place.

Humans are inherently social creatures – although we may enjoy some alone time, we essentially look to maintain connections with others. This means the social aspect of our lives is an important one.

In social situations, our behaviours may differ greatly from those we would exhibit if we were alone. Some examples of these situations include:

  • Work situations where managers and colleagues are present

  • A date

  • Large family get-togethers

  • Catch-ups with close friends

Think of how you might behave differently in each of these social situations. Social psychology is about delving deeper into these differences.

What are the main areas of social psychology?

Social psychology covers a range of topic areas, including:

  • Social perception and interaction

  • Group behaviour

  • Conformity

  • Non-verbal behaviour

  • Prejudice

  • Aggression

  • Leadership

These areas are all important in understanding the factors that influence and determine an individual’s behaviour in various social situations.

Why is social psychology important? How is it used by psychologists?

Social psychology is important because humans are social by nature – it’s virtually impossible to completely remove the social aspects of our lives altogether. Although some people may be more ‘social’ than others, we inevitably find ourselves in multiple and various social situations throughout our lives.

Since we’re often placed in social environments, we also often adapt our behaviours according to each of those environments. If we want to understand an individual’s behaviour, we therefore need to examine their social environments as a key element.

The way we see others, and the way we think they see us, can have a big impact on our thoughts, feelings, behaviours and decisions. So, it’s important to understand how these factors can influence us as individuals and as groups.

Psychologists use social psychology to gain a deeper understanding of these factors and influences, and work to identify and raise awareness of how these can impact an individual’s mental health and wellbeing.

They can also work to develop programmes that aim to address these – for example, being involved in public health programmes that can help teenagers resist peer pressure to engage in potentially harmful behaviours, such as smoking and substance abuse.

What will you learn about social psychology with an MSc Psychology?

It might be obvious that our behaviours as humans change according to our social environments, and that being around others can have an impact on our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, but how and why this is the case requires in-depth research and analysis.

With an MSc Psychology, you’ll explore the important theories around this, as well as changes in these theoretical approaches over the years. You’ll also gain an understanding of the concepts and values that shaped the methodologies and discussions around social psychology – from its initial inception as a field of psychology to the present day.

If you’re looking to transition into a rewarding career in psychology, The University of Portsmouth offers a part-time online MSc Psychology that will empower you with the knowledge and skills you need to drive change and make a positive difference in people’s lives:

Explore the course  ❯

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