To start with the definition of social psychology, it is a branch of psychology, which focuses on the thoughts, feelings, behavior, and the mannerism of individuals when they interact with people in society. This branch should not be mistaken with sociology, as sociology studies groups and classes of society, like races and the socioeconomic class.
Whereas social psychology concentrates mainly on the individual and how he/she would react and deal with a situation in the society. Through this study, we can analyze a number of social problems that are faced by people on a personal level. There are a few theories that support the subject of social psychology. These are very interesting and can be studied on an independent basis as well.
Social Psychology and its Theories
After reading the introduction, it must be clear to you as what is social psychology and its focuses. This study is very important to determine the way a person thinks, behaves or reacts, when he is separated out or included in the crowd. This branch of psychology was introduced in the late 1800s, when psychologists started their research on the effects of the Holocaust on people. This concept gradually gained momentum throughout the 20th century, and psychologists later studied the effects of wars and social rejections on groups of people. Let's look into the actual theories that emerged out of these investigations.
The attribution theory deals with the explanation or interpretation of certain events, given by individuals, and how this explanation can be related to their behavior and thinking. The founder of this theory was Heider, 1958 and he derived it by studying the way people analyzed other people's behavior and tried to draw a conclusion through it, for themselves.
Festinger, 1957 founded the theory of cognitive dissonance, which studies the behavior of people when they are caught up between two opposite thoughts in their mind. They usually become uncomfortable and tensed as they can't make a choice, and hence a change in their behavior is observed.
According to this theory, all organisms on the earth are born with certain physiological needs which have to be satisfied, after which the organism is relaxed. However, if these needs are not satisfied, there is tension and discomfort in the mental state, which is known as the "drive". It is because of this drive, that people work towards their goals, thus making this theory a motivational one.
Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM)
The ELM was founded in 1980s, by R. E. Petty and J. T. Cacioppo and is known to be a persuasion model. It explained the way in which particular attitudes are formed and changed. There are 2 parts of this model, viz; central route, that deals with logical reasoning and peripheral route, which includes superficial judgments.
This theory analyzes physiological traits of an individual like perception, memory, language, etc. These traits have been developed over time and are called adaptations of the individuals from nature, to solve recurrent environmental problems faced by them.
Every brain has the power to observe, retain and replicate specific behavioral patterns that are executed before it. This theory is called the observational learning where individuals tend to display traits and behavior that's similar to the others in society.
Developed by Daryl Bem, the self perception theory states that individuals observe their own behavior, analyze it by thinking about what could have caused the behavior and then develop a particular attitude depending on this conclusion.
According to this theory, people have a set of firm beliefs and feelings about their own selves. Thus, they portray themselves before the world, in a way they want to be understood and known, depending on their own judgments.
Social Comparison Theory
As this theory is very self-explanatory, it talks about the way people compare themselves to others in the society and evaluate their own desires. This theory was proposed by Leon Festinger in 1954, the founder of the cognitive dissonance theory.
Social Exchange Theory
A theory that holds an example in every relationship, the social exchange theory states all relationships are based on a "cost-benefit analysis". When individuals socialize in the society, there is exchange of thoughts & opinions. A collective analysis of the correlation is done, based on which a decision is made that would be profitable.
Social Identity Theory
The social identity theory explains the intergroup behavioral patterns that are perceived by individuals. It was developed from 1970s to 80s by Henri Tajfel and John C. Turner, to put forward the urge to have a social identity. Individuals feel the need to be accepted in society and therefore need a social identity.
Socioemotional Selectivity Theory
Laura Carstensen put forward the theory of socio-emotional selectivity. Here, people turn very selective with respect to emotional stability, setting meaningful goals and engaging in activities to calm their minds. This usually happens as they age, and the theory is also considered to be a motivational one.
System Justification Theory
When individuals become defensive about themselves, their groups to protect their status quo, the theory of system justification is fulfilled. They tend to hold favorable attitudes and in turn damage sentiments of people who don't matter to them.
Triangular Theory of Love
This theory of love was proposed by Robert Sternberg in order to explain interpersonal relationships depending on three components. These are intimacy, defined through feelings such as closeness, bonding and attachment. The next component is passion, which means the emotional and sexual connection between two individuals. The last component is called commitment, that includes the sharing of a lifetime with the concerned individual.
With this elaborate list of social psychology theories, you must have learned many new facts about this fascinating branch of psychology.