Social psychology is the science of how people feel, think and behave within a social setting. It is different from traditional psychology because it studies human behaviour within a social context. Social psychology is different to sociology because sociology pertains to the behaviours of a society, whereas social psychology pertains to the behaviours of the individual. The two disciplines do share interests within the same issues such as violence, prejudice and marriage, and often through combining the two disciplines it can provide a more comprehensive overview of a specific issue.

What is sociology?

Examples of sociological based investigations may include: does prejudice vary based upon social class, does religion influence marriage length, or does education determine political stance.

The pain of social rejection actually activates areas in the brain associated with physical pain

What is social psychology?

Examples of social psychology include:

  • Is there a relationship between playing violent video games and aggressive behaviour?
  • Explain the bystander effect*
  • Exploring how social rejection is so painful and establishing that it actually produces brain activity in the same areas as those that register physical pain

Not only is it a fascinating area of study, but knowledge within this area can help in careers in business, law, journalism, education and obviously, sociology and psychology.

How is a Social Psychologist different to a Clinical Psychologist?

A Clinical Psychologist will, typically within a clinical setting, treat a patient through seeking to understand and treat psychological difficulties and disorders. A Social Psychologist focuses more on how mental thoughts and processes relate to social behaviour.

Questions a social psychologist answers versus questions a clinical psychologist answers

“Generally are people more likely to be friendly and outgoing when they feel anxious at a party or when they are more relaxed?” Social psychology

“Why is attending parties causing anxiety? Is this a symptom of social anxiety?” Clinical psychology

How is social psychology different from common sense?

Let’s put this to the test. True or false?

Individuals will enjoy an activity more if they receive a large reward. They associate the activity with positive enforcement.

False! Social psychologists put this theory to the test and research indicates this is not actually the case. Knowing how rewards affect motivation is complex. This is just one of the questions that social psychology has investigated. 

Bystander Effect – The effect where the presence of other people prohibits helping those in need

Click for more information, tips and articles on mental health.