Social Psychology

The primary goal of psychologists is to explain an individual’s behavior through the study of the mind.  In order to have a complete understanding of “why” an individual behaves in a certain, one must delve deep into all the makes up that individual.  These areas include, but are not limited to the environment, genetics, learning, cognition and society.  Social psychology is a relatively new field of study in which the impacts of others are considered in the development of certain behaviors an individual adopts (Meyers, 2010).  Social psychology is a discipline of science necessary to understand how behaviors develop and establish individualization among society.

Define social psychology

            Psychologists study the mental processes of the human mind in conjunction with the behavior and culture in order to gather an understanding of the reasons individuals behave in the manners that they portray (Kowalski, 2011).  Sociologists study the thoughts, relationships, and influences of society that impact the people within the society (Myers, 2010).   Social psychology is the scientific discipline aimed at the societal effects on an individual through the use of experimentation (Myers, 2010).  The primary goal is to learn how individuals impact one another by answering questions of perceptions, conformity, and beliefs that may persuade an individual’s development (Myers, 2010).  Social psychologists try to grasp an understanding of how society influences the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and emotions of an individual by studying social interaction, social influences, and social perceptions (Myers, 2010).

Differences from other disciplines

Sociology is primarily geared towards society as whole.  Sociologists are interested in the cultures and institutions that influence social and individualized behavior (Myers, 2010).  Social psychologists are interested in the variables that affect the individual behaviors within a society (Myers, 2010).  Sociologists attempt to explain behavior through little experimentation whereas psychologists look for, research, and conduct experimentation to gather evidence as to a more precise and scientific explanation of behavior (Myers, 2010).  Although the two studies are directly correlated and have similar ideas, both offer a different perspective on human behavior.

Personality psychology is often confused with social psychology as they both try to explain behavior; however they are both different disciplines deserving the same amount of respect.  Personality psychologists are geared toward finding what makes individuals unique, or what causes individuals to think and feel in certain manners that make up their personality.  Social psychologists look for answers about how individuals perceive and influence one another (Myers, 2010).  Personality psychologists focus on the individual differences among others, but social psychologists delve into the societal role that influences individuality (Myers, 2010).

Clinical psychology is the discipline of psychology that focuses on assessing and treating mental illness, behavioral dispositions, and other mental health issues (Kowalski, 2011).  Clinical psychologists refer to all necessary disciplines of psychology in order to establish a proper diagnosis and develop a therapy plan for individuals seeking mental help (Kowalski, 2011).  In this discipline, social psychology, ersonality psychology, cognitive psychology, geneticists, along with others are all utilized properly to treat an individual who experiences mental incapacities or discomfort (Kowalski, 2010).  Social psychology has a primary focus, whereas clinical psychology utilizes a variety of different disciplines to explain individual behavior.

Role of research

Research is utilized to prove a theory.  Social psychologists develop theories from ideas based on the way individuals think, influence, and how individuals feel about one another (Myers, 2010).  There are a number of scientific experimentation methods used in social psychology, all of which allow the theories to be tested in search of relationships between the different variables.  Most research is correlational through the use of surveys that may disconnect or connect two variables explaining the why of the relationship (Myers, 2010).  Another type of research used by social psychologists is experimentation that is usually able to explain the cause and effect between two variables that may influence behavior (Myers, 2010).  Due to the nature of the studies, it is vital that psychologists adhere to strict ethical guidelines and practices.  Adhering to ethical guidelines protects those involved in the research process (Myers, 2010).


Social psychology, although a newer discipline, has aided psychologists in explaining how society may influence an individual’s personality, thoughts, beliefs, and feelings.  Although there are many similarities between social psychology and other defined disciplines of the science, social psychology aims to understand and explain the impact that society can have on individuals; the primary focus being how individual’s impact and define one another.  Through the use of ethical research and experimentation, answers are found.


Kowalski, R., & Westen, D.  (2011).  Psychology (6th ed.).  Hoboken, NJ:  Wiley.

Myers, D.  G.  (2010).  Social Psychology (10th ed.).  New York, NY:  McGraw Hill.


Albert Bandura

Centuries ago, philosophers began pondering about learning.  Rationalists believed learning was an innate process gained through reason and thought.  Empiricists believed that knowledge cannot exist without experience gained from the environment and senses.  Then psychology became a science and behaviorists, such as Sigmund Freud, came along and declared that learning results from experience in the world, but the internal mental processes were not necessary for learning to occur (Foster, 2011).  Behaviorist theories began to receive discreditation as theories of learning because of the inability to account for the complexities of human thought and behavior (Foster, 2011).  New theories evolved combining the original philosophical ideas, behaviorist theories, and scientific research and data forming a new trend in psychology: Cognitive Psychology.  Albert Bandura is a renowned cognitive psychologist who made many vital contributions to cognitive psychology.  His theories have proven useful in the educational system yesterday, today, and will continue to be utilized and further developed tomorrow.


             Bandura had a primary focus in the causes of human behavior, particularly the influences of behavior (Foster, 2006).  Although he agreed that behavior was influenced through environment, he felt that environment did not do justice to the intricacy of human behavior (McLeod, 2011).  Bandura believed that cognitive processes are vital in the decisions of demonstrating certain behavior because individuals think about the relationship between behavior and consequence (McLeod, 2011).  Additionally, he posits that people learn from one another through observation and imitation (Foster, 2011), known as reciprocal determinism which means the world and behavior cause each other (McLeod, 2011).  These processes allow for the imitation of a model and the identification among individuals which develop personality in humans (McLeod, 2011).

Models and concepts

            Banduras earliest research was led by his curiosity of aggression in adolescents.  Through the use of the infamous Bobo doll experiment, he was able to prove that behaviorist theories, such as Sigmund Freud’s, were limited (Foster, 2011).  Bandura exposed children to a model who used aggressive behavior towards towards the bobo doll (McLeod, 2011).  When the children were placed in a room with a bobo doll, they tended to imitate similar aggressiveness towards the doll, proving that behavior was learned through observation and not just an innate process (McLeod, 2011).  This meant that there was memory recall in behavior which requires cognitive processes in the brain as thought was used to demonstrate and observed action (Foster, 2011).  Banduras research on aggression paved the foundation of the social – cognitive theory which is the basis of the social learning theory (McLeod, 2011).  The social – cognitive theory emphasize how factors such as cognition, behavior, and environment all interact with personal factors to determine motivation and behavior in an individual(Foster, 2011).

Bandura’s early research on observation and social modeling led him to wonder about the motivational behavior, or self-efficacy.  Self – efficacy is an individual’s belief, or confidence in his or her ability to execute a certain behavior (Foster, 2011).  The self – efficacy theory states that individuals are more likely to display behavior that is more personally satisfying than not (McLeod, 2011).  Through observation, imprinting occurs which may be recalled at a later time for the imitation of the observed behavior (McLeod, 2011).  During the process of recall, thought processes occur which include social acceptance and consequence of the behavior.  Bandura found that individuals behave to seek approval giving internal satisfaction to increase the likelihood of repetitive behavior(McLeod, 2011).

Combining his research on aggression with his self – efficacy research, Bandura changed his social – cognitive theory to the social – learning theory which posits that learning is a cognitive process that takes place in a social context through observation of the behavior and its consequences (McLeod, 2011).  Since learning involves making decisions based on recall of observations, it is not necessary for a behavior change to occur in order for learning to occur (McLeod, 2011).  Reinforcement may be used as a definitive factor for individual to behave in a certain manner, but is not solely responsible for the motivational factors of a behavior (Foster, 2006).  Additionally, Bandura posits there is a mutual influence of all factors, environment, cognition, and behavior on each other in the learning process (McLeod, 2011).

Modern day relevancy

Albert Bandura’s research has proven to have a positive effect on education system today.  Educational providers as well as parents realize the vitality of modeling appropriate positive behaviors.  It is a well-known and accepted fact that children are like sponges and learn through constant observation and imitations.  Schools are now also adding “success” classes that teach motivation and drive in order to improve self – efficacy in individuals success in education.  Media uses highly appealing advertisement in order to grab the attention of the consumer in order to sell a product that may or may not produce desired results.


            Albert Bandura took philosophical ideas, combined them with behaviorist theories, and then dove a little deeper into the internal aspect and drive of behavior to develop the social learning theory used in most education systems today.  He believed that individuals are unique in all aspects and set out to prove why.  He posits that and individuals personality is based on observations of models found in the environment.  The observations force an individual to learn a behavior and decide if the behavior is going to be adopted based on the consequences of the action.  A highly noted theory in society today is that individuals must model the behavior they desire for a child to adopt, a theory developed by Albert Bandura.


McLeod, S.  A.  (2011).  Bobo doll experiment.  Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/bobo-doll.html

McLeod, S.  A.  (2011).  Bandura – social learning theory.  Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/bandura.html

Foster, Christine.  September, 2006.  “Confidence Man.”  Stanford Magazine.  Retrieved from http://www.learningandtheadolescentmind.org/people_06.html

social psychology

Who are we?

The relationship between what we are and what we do:

What we are should be defined through our actions.   We are our beliefs, feelings, emotions, thoughts and morals.  These beliefs that make us what we are should be proven through our actions.  Our actions should, therefore define us.  Our actions should portray our private beliefs and feelings.  However, this is not always the case.  Sometimes people tend to act adversely to their beliefs, morals, and other emotions because they may become unaligned with their true self which causes confusion about what they are.  Humans all have core needs, the most basic being survival.  When one becomes unaligned, they may lose sight  of their core needs and act on impulse.  Acting on impulse may result in a negative action which causes another person to perceive us as “wrong”.  When we are aligned with our true self, we know what our needs are and act accordingly to fulfill those needs. 
Outsiders perceive us based on our actions.  People have a tendency to behave in a manner that is socially acceptable which may or may not be acceptable to our true self.  Behaving outside the social norm may create a negative perception from our peers therefore we may unalign ourselves and behave in a manner that is unacceptable to our true self.  When we act on impulse, we are acting based on feelings thoughts and emotions which serve as a reason for denial or wrong doing (doing wrong for good).  We may also feel we are behaving in an acceptable manner because the majority at the time was doing the same (bargaining for acceptance of a negative action).  Then there are those who truly feel no remorse because their true self feels as if they are not doing wrong. 
There should be a direct relationship between what we are and what we do, but as we face moral dilemmas and social acceptance issues, that relationship may disconnect and cause a clouded perception of who we truly are from our peers.  If we stay aligned with our true self and do not quiver or hesitate to do what we truly feel is morally acceptable, we will not disconnect and society perceives us as we perceive ourselves.