Psychology and Social Psychology
Social psychology is considered the scientific study of how individuals thoughts, behaviors, and feelings are influenced by other peoples behaviors and characteristics, notwithstanding if these behaviors and characteristics are inferred, real, or imagined. Social psychology is critical in understanding how the psychology of individuals works and the external factors that have an overarching impact on developing the self-concept.
Psychology and social psychology intersect as the individuals interact; they may act following social expectations or depending on peoples behaviors, attitudes, and thoughts in different cultures (Morris & Maisto, 2016). Thus, behaviors often are perceived as reflections of individual traits, such as values and attitudes, instead of situational behavior that other peoples social expectations may prompt.
Social psychology acknowledges peoples behaviors are greatly influenced by a sense of universality, exploring how social behaviors differ in different cultures. Further, social psychology is not oblivious to the biological influence on a persons behavior; thus, neuroimaging and social cognition are examined extensively to understand factors that come into play in social interactions.
Social cognition is one of the main sub-topics in social psychology explored in-depth in social psychology. Social cognition refers to a set of complex mental abilities that are the foundation of stimulus perception, processing, interpretation, and responses (Morris & Maisto, 2016).
Collectively, these cognitive abilities aid the development of sufficient social competence and adaption. In social psychology, the process of influence in a social setting is associated with the organization and interpretation of information about other people that seek to understand their behavior to determine the extent to which they influence our behavior.
Before starting a conversation with a new person, a person forms an ideal perception of the individual that informs their interaction for the first time. After that, even if the individual share is contrary to the first impression. For example, the first impression can be formed based on the clothes, manners, body build, facial features, or gestures a person uses (Morris & Maisto, 2016).
This phenomenon is based on a schema, a set of expectations and beliefs an individual has built over time based on their experiences. Consequently, the schema we develop about an individual often informs our behaviors based on what we expect their behaviors might be or our expectations of what an interaction with an individual might be like. This effect is self-fulfilling if the other person mirrors our behavior.
Notably, social cognition focuses mainly on the axioms upon which the thinking process is predicated upon. As established, individuals rely on schemas to understand the world, but these schemas differ among people. The cultural background of an individual mainly determines the differences in schemata.
The cultural influence at an early age informs how individuals think and perceive their environment and people from other cultural backgrounds (Hunt et al., 2012). These are stereotypes that are presumed to be shared unanimously across all members of a social grouping. Notably, after forming the first impression, people are reluctant to change perceptions based on the newly acquired information but infer from that individuals distinguishing feature.
Social cognition is essential in social psychology since it creates a foundation for studying social interactions and the dynamics of social interactions. Study the cognitive process before an individual interacts with another person to educate people on their own biases that might inhibit successful interactions. For example, the stereotypes traditionally held across races have been dismantled by establishing that life experiences in different cultures do not differ, but their perception does. Social cognition gives us an insight into the manner individuals are biased and offers strategies to overcome such bias.
Attitude is defined as the relatively stable organization of beliefs, feelings, and behavioral tendencies directed towards an attitude subject, something, or an individual. The attitude and individual greatly influence their behavior depending on the social circumstances. An individuals attitude is not the only predictor of their behavior, but attitude is the greatest predictor of behavior (Hunt et al., 2012).
For example, the world has concluded that racial bias is unacceptable; therefore, racially prejudiced people conceal their attitudes with corrective behavior that other people would not associate with prejudice. However, explicitly prejudiced individuals do not attempt to take corrective measures in their behavior to conceal their bias.
The core components of attituded are affected behavior and cognition. Thus, the impact of an attitude on behavior is tethered to these components. The three primary variables that influence the attitude-behavior relationship are subjective norms that result in the inclination to
support things we value.
The attitude adopted towards a behavior is a predictor, and the stronger we feel, the more likely we are to perform the behavior. The perceived behavioral control determines our conviction to perform the behavior (Morris & Maisto, 2016). In the previous scenario, an individual who has implicit racial prejudice is convinced that their attitude is justified but is not convinced to act in this manner, unlike people who have explicit prejudice and are committed to behaving in a manner that reveals their prejudice despite the implied social repercussions. Individuals with implicit bias are likely to conceal their attitudes since racial prejudice is frowned upon and may attract unwetted feelings in case of reprehension.
When the components of attitude, attitude or cognition, are accessed when action is performed. For example, cognitively, an individual might be aware of the benefits of recycling and feel good after they recycle. Therefore, such an individual is likely to recycle whenever necessary to enjoy the cognitive and emotional benefit or the behavior (Morris & Maisto, 2016).
Further, since recycling is encouraged in the community, individuals who are aware of the benefits of recycling and feel strongly about the importance of recycling are likely to be more inclined to recycling. Therefore, an individuals attitude is likely to influence behavior if the social, cognitive, and affective components of behavior are aligned.
Attitudes are better predictors of behavior when measured at a similar level to behavior predicted. For example, acknowledging how frequently an individual recycles in a month may elicit a more likelihood for the person to recycle more frequently than when the individual is asked if they do recycle.
Therefore, the evaluation of attitudes and behaviors in specific measures is likely to influence an individuals behavior than when the measures are done generally. This factor of attitudes impact on behavior is also reflective of self-monitoring. Individuals who have a high measure of self-monitoring are likely to read into the social cues and act according to the social expectations (Hunt et al., 2012).
As such, they suppress their beliefs and try to meet the social expectations in a social setting. Conversely, individuals who have low self-monitoring are likely to behave following their beliefs and attitude with consistency with little regard for the social expectations in any context. Therefore, high self-monitoring is a greater predictor of behavior in a social context compared to low self-monitoring.
Hunt, C., Borgida, E., & Lavine, H. (2012). Social Cognition.Encyclopedia Of Human Behaviour, 456-462. https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-375000-6.00331-1
Morris, C., & Maisto, A. (2016).Understanding psychology(11th ed.). Pearson.
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