Psychology is split into many branches. This is partly because of its diverse origins, and partly because of the wide range of topics studied. For instance, psychoanalysis grew up as a side branch of clinical psychology, and clinical psychology is also influenced by many other branches of psychology. As a scientific study, psychology may be classified as pure science which refers mostly to principles and theories of behavior, which seeks to acquire knowledge about people for its own sake (Berkowitz, 1972).
Applied science applies to the daily life or devoted to practical and applied psychology which seeks to use this knowledge to improve human welfare. Psychology as it is today, however, has forty specializations or content areas, and social psychology belongs to one of these areas (Bower et al. , 1987). It is different from clinical psychology as the latter focuses as a specialty which develops ways pf studying, diagnosing, and treating abnormal behavior. This also includes community psychology, with aims to prevent to mental disorders.
Other branches of psychology embrace general psychology referring to that which considers the underlying principles of human behavior. This includes the study of how and why people behave as they do, and the principles of the structural and functional mechanisms of the human body. Social psychology is the study of individual behavior in a social setting. It studies the effect on individuals of other persons. As a discipline, it is concerned with social attitudes and group behavior (Berkowitz, 1972). Discussion on the essential concepts in social psychology
A social attitude is a combination of feelings, beliefs, and action tendencies towards classes of persons or objects that are directly or indirectly social in nature. Thus an attitude has three components: (1) beliefs or knowledge – the cognitive component, (2) feelings, the emotional-motivational component, and (3) tendencies to act on particular ways on the basis of knowledge and emotion – the performance component. Attitudes are sometimes referred to as social concepts. They are generally, though not always, concepts about classes of people, and they are concepts with a prominent evaluative character.
They provide a way of responding to all members of a given class membership. Attitudes serve as a guide to future behavior. They are important basis for consistency, for people always respond in the same way to class members. Attitudes can be learned both by direct examples and by instruction from others. They can be organized according to the principles of consistency, which states that the attitudes held by a particular individual are mutually supportive and do not conflict with each other (Berkowitz, 1972) Understanding Prejudice
Prejudice is a kind of attitude, consisting of a combination of feelings, beliefs, and action tendencies. It is often a matter of pre-judgment. The implication is that one has made up his mind too soon, before all the facts are in or has come to his attention. Prejudice is usually, though not always: (1) highly emotional in character, (2) rigidly or inflexibly felt and acted on by group members (meaning they wont listen to reason), and (3) negative (the object of the prejudice is disliked and the group’s tendency is to mistreat or discriminate against members of the disliked group (Berkowitz, 1972)
Interpersonal attraction Before one can develop a friendship, there must be an opportunity to interact with persons. Physical proximity is important in determining friendship. Living near someone or working near someone is likely to produce interaction. Another factor is the frequency of interaction. There are likely to be people with similar attitude near you frequently, thus the important effect on friendship could be frequency of contact, which in turn is caused by similarity (Bower et al. , 1987).
Some cases of friendship may come about through complementary needs and the mutual benefits that people can deliver to each other determine friendship. This notion of mutual benefit as a factor in friendship is know as the social exchange theory (Berkowitz, 1972) Social Influence and Conformity The mere absence of others, as audience or co-workers without any verbal exchange, affects individual performance, a phenomenon known as social facilitation. The effect of others is more dramatic when pressure is placed in the individual to conform.
People tend to feel uncomfortable, even unhappy when they are alone in their actions, out of step with the crowd. When individual behaves in full accord with the values of the social group, there is conformity (Berkowitz, 1972). Conformity is a rational process reflecting a recognition of the validity of other viewpoints. Perception of a given situation is the same as that of the social group as there might be conformity despite a difference in interpretation (Berkowitz, 1972). The role of research in the area of social psychology
Common knowledges are often inane talks. They are handed from generation to generation through word of mouth and are thus accepted as they are without clear scientific bases. They are not a good source of information because they are often misleading. They often prevent people from seeking laudable information and at times could be lethal. It should be noted that psychologists now utilize careful measures and specialized research techniques and procedures to avoid pitfalls of the so-called common knowledge (Aronson, 1972).
Psychologists, being scientists, are concerned with investigating and explaining behavior. They make use of scientific inquiries in gathering data for obtaining facts about human behavior. These facts are collated, organized, and interpreted or analyzed according to the aims of the research (Aronson, 1972). Experimentation and direct observation are two modes that are employed in the empirical approach to investigation – the approach that is guided by experience.
They propose hypotheses or propositions to be tested, which may either be derived from theories or formulated from observations. Hypotheses may be tested by experimental or non-experimental methods (Bower et al. , 1987). There are several well-known methods in social psychological research. Although not all are used for a given research project, a knowledge of these approaches will help one to choose the most suitable way to obtain most data and the most effective technique to use especially when studying individual behavior in groups (Aronson, 1972).
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