What is a Social Psychologist?

Social PsychologyA social psychologist explores how groups behave and interact with each other and their social environment. They scientifically study how individuals’ thoughts and behaviors are influenced by people around them. Being a social psychologist is a fascinating career that provides unique insight into the human mind and society as a whole.

What is Social Psychology?

Social psychology studies how real people or the imagined presence of people influences an individuals’ feelings, thought processes and social behavior. Social psychology studies a wide range of important social issues, such as bullying, prejudice, family problems, substance abuse and criminal activity. Social psychology also focuses on key social topics, such as group behavior, conformity, perception, leadership and decision making, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the academic world, social psychologists may study how students react to bullying, conform to socially dominating individuals and engage in socially deviant behavior. In the business world, social psychologists may study leadership and employee personality types and dynamics. Therefore, the goal of social psychology is to observe, analyze and understand how social attitudes, perception and interaction influences individual behaviors.

What Does a Social Psychologist Study?

As mentioned above, social psychologists research how people influence each other. For example, social psychology studies group norms regarding socially acceptable behavior. However, different demographic groups and sub-cultures will have contradictory social norms. To illustrate, the elderly are highly respected and valued members of society in China. Therefore, it is very reprehensible for adults to place their elderly parents in assisted living facilities. On the other hand, older Americans prefer independent living and typical American adults tend to focus on their immediate nuclear family. On the other hand, social psychologists may study how the mere presence of people creates biological and psychological reactions. For instance, social psychologists have studied how male athletes tend to automatically increase their performance intensity when females are present, even if they are not watching or nearby. Finally, social psychologists may also study how the virtual presence of people influence attitudes. For example, they may analyze how children internalize cultural norms through news and television.

How is a Social Psychologist Unique?

Social psychology is very different from other psychology disciplines. For starters, most people confuse sociology with social psychology. However, sociology studies collective behaviors of entire cultures or societies. Sociologists have a broad view of social behaviors and influences. They are more interested in social and cultural institutions than situational variables that impact social behavior. On the other hand, sometimes social psychology is associated with negatively associated with the folk wisdom movement. While both areas attempt to explain common attitudes and behaviors, only social psychology utilizes empirical methods and scientific experiments to explore social phenomena. Finally, social psychology is also associated with personality psychology, perhaps because they are both represented by the same academic organization, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

The Society for Personality and Social Psychology

The Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) is the premier academic association for social psychologists. In fact, the SPSP is the world’s biggest organization of social psychologists in the world and is part of the American Psychological Association (APA). The goal of the SPSP is to promote scientific research, academic advocacy and public awareness of social psychology. They accomplish this through publishing academic information, promoting the field of social psychology and encouraging students to become social psychologists.

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In the end, a social psychologist is an empirically trained scientist who methodically analyzes how individuals are influenced by social groups and society.