Social psychology

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Social psychology is the study of the relations between people and groups. Scholars in this interdisciplinary area are typically either psychologists or sociologists, though all social psychologists employ both the individual and the group as their units of analysis.[1]

Despite their similarity, psychological and sociological researchers tend to differ in their goals, approaches, methods, and terminology. They also favor separate academic journals and professional societies. The greatest period of collaboration between sociologists and psychologists was during the years immediately following World War II.[2] Although there has been increasing isolation and specialization in recent years, some degree of overlap and influence remains between the two disciplines.[3]



Most social psychologists are trained within psychology. Their approach to the field focuses on the individual and attempts to explain how the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of individuals are influenced by other people. Psychologically oriented researchers emphasize the immediate social situation and the interaction between person and situation variables. Their research tends to be empirical and quantitative, and it is often centered around laboratory experiments, but there are some computational modeling efforts in the field.[4]

In its early days, with the exception of sociologists of the day, social psychology struggled for recognition as a social science.[5] One of the earliest psychologists to deal directly with this was William McDougall.[5] Contemporary social psychology is "characterised by a fundamental commitment to the experimental method".[6] While publications on social psychology tend to be dominated by American texts, efforts have been made to balance this by publication of a European perspective.[7]

Psychologists who study social psychology are interested in such topics as attitudes, social cognition, cognitive dissonance, social influence, and interpersonal behaviors such as altruism and aggression. Three influential journals for the publication of research in this area are the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, and the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. There are also many other general and specialized social psychology journals.

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