This PSY-362: Social Psychology and Cultural Applications course investigates the effects of social and group factors on individual behavior. Attitudes, roles, norms, group processes, aggression and cooperation, persuasion, stereotypes and prejudices, and social awareness are all discussed. Culture’s importance in social processes is emphasized.
What is social psychology?
The scientific study of how the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others influences people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are known as social psychology (Allport 1998). The empirical method of investigation is defined as scientific in this definition. All of the psychological variables that can be measured in a human being are referred to as thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The statement that others can be imagined or implied implies that we are vulnerable to social influence even when there are no other people around, such as when watching television or adhering to internalized cultural norms.
Social psychology is an empirical science that tests hypotheses in the lab and the field to answer a variety of questions about human behavior. Such an approach to the field focuses on the individual and tries to explain how other people influence one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Great strides have been made in understanding human nature by studying how people behave under extreme social influences or lack thereof. Because humans are essentially social beings, social interaction is critical to each individual’s health. A better understanding of how humankind as a whole can live together in harmony is emerging as researchers look into the factors that influence social life and how social interactions affect individual psychological development and mental health.
Thinking about Culture
One of the biggest problems with understanding culture is that the word itself is used in different ways by different people. When someone says, “My company has a competitive culture,” does it mean the same thing as when another person says, “I’m taking my children to the museum so they can get some culture”? The truth is, there are many ways to think about culture. Here are three ways to parse this concept:
- Progressive cultivation: refers to a small subset of activities that are intentional and geared toward “refinement.” Learning to play a musical instrument, appreciating visual art, and attending theater performances, among other forms of “high art,” are examples. Throughout the mid-nineteenth century, this was the most common usage of the term culture. This concept of culture served as the foundation for a superior mindset among those in the upper economic classes. Many tribal groups, for example, were viewed as lacking cultural sophistication under this definition. As global travel became more common in the late 1800s, this understanding of culture was largely replaced by one of culture as a way of life.
- Ways of Life: A culture’s distinct patterns of beliefs and behaviors are referred to as ways of life. The “ways of life” understanding of culture place a greater emphasis on long-term patterns of belief and behavior. Although cultures can be small—for example, “school culture”—they usually refer to larger groups of people, such as countries. People sometimes mix up national identity and culture. Even though Japan, China, and Korea are politically very different, there are cultural similarities between them. Indeed, within each of these countries, there is a great deal of cultural diversity.
- Enculturation: is a term coined by anthropologists and social psychologists in the twentieth century to describe how people learn about and share cultural knowledge. Enculturation is a verb where “ways of life” is treated as a noun. Enculturation, in other words, is a fluid and dynamic process. That is, it emphasizes that culture is a learnable process. Children are taught how to behave according to regional cultural norms as they grow up in society. Immigrants learn a new set of rules for behaving and interacting as they settle into a new country. A person can have multiple cultural scripts in this way.
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