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What Does Social Psychology Contribute to Our Understanding of Human Behaviour?

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What Does Social Psychology Contribute to Our Understanding of Human Behaviour? Social psychology helps us to understand ourselves and the world around us. In contrast to other disciplines, the social psychological approach focuses on the individual rather than large scale societal processes. (Taylor, S. E., Peplau, L. A., & Sears, D. O., 2003). This essay will look at some specific areas of social psychology, including the concept of the self, impressions, attitudes and helping behaviours, and attempt to explain how it relates to our understanding of human behaviour. Social psychology is the scientific study of how people relate to others. It is, therefore, important to look at how impressions of others are formed and how it affects our behaviour. Impressions of people are usually formed quickly, on the basis of minimal information. We then go on to ad general traits to them. Processing information involves perception of meaning in their behaviour. We often use the context of one's behaviour to infer its meaning rather than interpreting their behaviour in isolation. The knowledge we have and the expectations we hold of someone are determined by the impressions we form of them. (Taylor, Peplau & Sears, 2003) ...read more.


They had different expectations of what a 'Karen' or 'Adele' would be like. Moreover, these stereotypes affected their marking. Higher grades were given to students with 'positive' names than those with names associated with negative stereotypes. (Hayes, 1993) Fiske and Cox, 1979 (cited in Hayes, 1993) asked subjects to remember what they could about other, named individuals. They found that memories tended to follow a particular sequence; first the subjects would discuss appearance, then they would continue with descriptions of their behaviour and finally discuss the person's personality and character traits. Rosenberg and Sedlak (1972, cited in Hayes, 1993) found that the types of traits people mentioned when remembering a person could be divided into two groups: those concerned with social desirability and those relating to a person's competencies. We frequently talk about our own, and other people's attitudes and behaviour, but what is meant exactly and how do they affect the way we see the world around us? There have been a number of different attempts to define attitudes. Fishbein and Ajzen (1975, cited in Hayes, 1993) defined them as "learned pre-dispositions to respond in a consistently favourable or unfavourable way towards a given object, person or event" This definition highlights three features of attitudes; one, they are learned, two they are consistent and three they are concerned with a response - either good or bad. ...read more.


In the case of Kitty Genovese, reported by Rosenthall (1964, cited in Hayes & Orrell, 1998) her murder was committed in front of forty or so witnesses in a block of flats. Each witness assumed someone else had called the police and so, in the end, no-one did. The way we understand a situation can also affect our actions. People mentally define situations for themselves. If they define it as an emergency they are far more ready to help than if they have defined it as a non-emergency. This factor is also influenced by other people's responses. If someone appears calm in a particular situation we assume they have perceived it as a non-emergency, therefore we define it as such ourselves. (Hayes & Orrell, 1998) From the above evidence it is clear to see that social psychology plays a key part in helping us to understand why humans behave in the way they do. We all have social roles and we have expectations about the behaviour that is appropriate for those roles. People are expected to play a variety of different roles in their everyday lives. Social psychology highlights the fact that humans are very heavily influenced by the people around them. Impressions of people are formed and roles develop according to different situations we find ourselves in. Naomi Beckett: 0206842 2128 words ...read more.

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