PYB202 Lecture One Notes
Introduction - What Is Social Psychology
1. What is Social Psychology?
The scientific investigation of how the thoughts, feelings and behaviours of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined or
implied presence of others.
Social Psychology is a science that is concerned with the impact of the group on the individual and vice versa.
It has similarities with a number of other disciplines within psychology, most notably sociology. The following is a brief run-down
of ways that social psychology is different or similar to other disciplines:
Cognitive Psychology: the overlap between cognitive and social psychology can include the application of
cognitive processes to a person’s social interpretations e.g. hearing a voice speaking and then processing the
words in accordance with the perceived status of the speaker.
Sociolinguistics Languages Communication: the overlap here could be the interest in the way we speak to each
other and communicate in group situations as opposed to individual situations.
Individual Psychology: essentially, individual psychology is in many ways opposite to social psychology because
it focuses on the individual outside of a group context, whereas social psychology is concerned with the
individual and their relation to the group.
Social Anthropology: this type of psychology focuses particularly on more ‘exotic’ groups and their processes,
for example native tribes, whereas social psychology tends to focus on more mainstream ‘run of the mill’ groups.
Sociology: perhaps the most closely linked to social psychology, sociology is very similar in that it looks at
groups. However, unlike social psychology, sociology tends to be interested in the dynamics of groups as a whole
and not the individuals within the group.
What Does Social Psychology Study and How?
Social psychology studies a range of group dynamics such as conformity, prejudice, love stress etc. and does so through rigorous
and structured use of scientific methods.
2. Theoretical Issues
Metatheory: refers to a set of interrelated concepts and principles concerning which theories or types of theories are
Criticisms of Social Psychology:
Reductionism: in which the science may be criticised for attempting to explain something at a lower level of analysis than is
required for the situation.
Positivism: in which the science may lose sight of the importance of individualism and other underlying factors and instead
treat science as a religion – in other words, accept