Social psychology

scientific study of social effects on people's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors

Social psychology, a field of psychology, is the scientific study of how people's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others. Social psychologists study conditions that cause groups of people to have certain behaviors, actions, and feelings.


  • Social organizations are flagrantly open systems in that the input of energies and the conversion of output into further energy input consists of transactions between the organization and its environment.
  • Managers construct, rearrange, single out, and demolish many “objective” features of their surroundings. When people act they unrandomize variables, insert vestiges of orderliness, and literally create their own constraints.
  • How do people cope when they feel uninformed or unable to understand important social issues, such as the environment, energy concerns, or the economy? Do they seek out information, or do they simply ignore the threatening issue at hand? One would intuitively expect that a lack of knowledge would motivate an increased, unbiased search for information, thereby facilitating participation and engagement in these issues— especially when they are consequential, pressing, and self-relevant. However, there appears to be a discrepancy between the importance/self-relevance of social issues and people’s willingness to engage with and learn about them...
    Ignorance—as a function of the system justifying tendencies it may activate—may, ironically, breed more ignorance. In the contexts of energy, environmental, and economic issues, the authors present 5 studies that (a) provide evidence for this specific psychological chain...and... illustrate the unfortunate consequences of this process for individual action in those contexts that may need it most.
  • A burgeoning literature has begun to establish the dynamic relationship between people and the external systems (i.e., governments, institutions) within which they operate... This literature, although diverse, paints a picture of a social animal who acts not like a dispassionate observer and judge of her or his governmental systems, or one who relies on the government and other institutional systems solely for the provision of tangible, physical goods (e.g., safety, roads, water), but of someone who also leans on the government and other organizations to cope with various psychological needs—needs traditionally thought to be handled by the individual alone or, at the very most, via the individual’s connections to others... It has become clear that people turn to their external systems to regulate a number of relational, existential, and epistemic threats... We leveraged this past research to develop a novel explanation for how people’s tendency to trust in their social systems, and outsource their worries and fears to these systems, can lead to the propagation of ignorance in the context of important social issues.
  • In summary, the present research revealed both positive and negative aspects of parents’ aspiration for their children’s academic performance. Although parental aspiration is an important vehicle through which children’s academic potential can be realized, excessive parental aspiration can be poisonous... Excessive parental control or parental over involvement could be factors that may mediate the negative relation between parental overaspiration and children’s achievement.
  • We addressed the question of whether behaviors in school have any long-lasting effects for one‘s later life. Specifically, we investigated the role of being a responsible student, interest in school, writing skills, and reading skills in predicting educational attainment, occupational prestige, and income 11 years... and 50 years... after high school... We found that student characteristics and behaviors in adolescence predicted later educational and occupational success above and beyond parental socioeconomic status, IQ, and broad personality traits. Having higher interest in school was related to higher educational attainment at years 11 and 50, higher occupational prestige at year 11, and higher income at year 50. Higher levels of being a responsible student were related to higher educational attainment and higher occupational prestige at years 11 and 50.
  • Research by a team of Canadian psychologists recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that all leaders can actually be divided into two types. The research was built on a simple observation: There are two ways to get ahead. You can dominate people by making them fear you or you can win their loyalty with your intelligence and kindness. The first type of leader tended to adopt a stereotypical "power pose"...Essentially, they intimidate people into following them...Instead of looking down with a scowl, the other type of leader looked up with a smile. These folks were also seen as leaders, but they were viewed as caring and competent rather than dominating. They gained followers through prestige, which they developed by demonstrating their expertise and helping people.

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Psychologists Wilhelm Wundt (1832–1920) •William James (1842–1910) •Ivan Pavlov (1849–1936) •Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) •Edward Thorndike (1874–1949) •Carl Jung (1875–1961) •John B. Watson (1878–1958) •Clark L. Hull (1884–1952) •Kurt Lewin (1890–1947) •Jean Piaget (1896–1980) •Gordon Allport (1897–1967) •J. P. Guilford (1897–1987) •Carl Rogers (1902–1987) •Erik Erikson (1902–1994) •B. F. Skinner (1904–1990) •Donald O. Hebb (1904–1985) •Ernest Hilgard (1904–2001) •Harry Harlow (1905–1981) •Raymond Cattell (1905–1998) •Abraham Maslow (1908–1970) •Neal E. Miller (1909–2002) •Jerome Bruner (1915–2016) •Donald T. Campbell (1916–1996) •Hans Eysenck (1916–1997) •Herbert A. Simon (1916–2001) •David McClelland (1917–1998) •Leon Festinger (1919–1989) •George A. Miller (1920–2012) •Richard Lazarus (1922–2002) •Stanley Schachter (1922–1997) •Robert Zajonc (1923–2008) •Albert Bandura (1925–2021) •Roger Brown (1925–1997) •Endel Tulving (b. 1927) •Lawrence Kohlberg (1927–1987) •Noam Chomsky (b. 1928) •Ulric Neisser (1928–2012) •Jerome Kagan (1929–2021) •Walter Mischel (1930–2018) •Elliot Aronson (b. 1932) •Daniel Kahneman (b. 1934) •Paul Ekman (b. 1934) •Michael Posner (b. 1936) •Amos Tversky (1937–1996) •Bruce McEwen (1938–2020) •Larry Squire (b. 1941) •Richard E. Nisbett (b. 1941) •Martin Seligman (b. 1942) •Ed Diener (1946–2021) •Shelley E. Taylor (b. 1946) •John Anderson (b. 1947) •Ronald C. Kessler (b. 1947) •Joseph E. LeDoux (b. 1949) •Richard Davidson (b. 1951) •Susan Fiske (b. 1952) •Roy Baumeister (b. 1953)