What is a Social Psychologist?

What is a Social Psychologist?

If you are interested in using your fascination with psychology to examine human interactions with other people in the social environment, then you should consider becoming a social psychologist. In one of the specialty niches within the diverse psychology field, social psychologists focus on studying how individuals affect and are affected by others. Research in social psychology is essential for fostering a better understanding of how group dynamics and social perceptions can have an impact on our own decisions and actions. There are a wide array of social psychology topics being studied, such as prejudice, bullying, romance, aggression, propaganda, homophobia, racial bias, and stereotypes. Below we’ve created a broad overview on social psychology to help determine if this niche is the right fit for you.

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The Need for Social Psychologists

If ever there was a need for social psychologists, that was shown on January 6, 2021 when thousands of protesters gathered in Washington, DC to disrupt the legitimacy of the 2020 Presidential election. One important question that arose from the situation was whether the protesters stormed Congress because they believed some of the false stories being spread about what they perceived as an illegitimate election or whether they believed the false stories because they wanted to storm Congress. Social psychologists and political scientists, as explained by an article on the Ars Technica website, will be studying the explanation for the riots that took place, as well as trying to find ways to prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again.

Social Psychologist vs. Sociologist

What is a Social Psychologist?

Due to the similarity in their names, people often confuse sociology with social psychology even though the two disciplines are vastly different. First of all, social psychology is focused on better understanding the dynamics of interpersonal relationships from the mind of the individual or small group. Social psychologists tend to study individuals to discover generalities in society and human behavior. On the flip side, sociologists look beyond the single person to examine whole populations through a specific lens. Sociological research tends to test theories on social issues by studying groups, cultures, classes, organizations, or social institutions. Although both of these social sciences deal with human behavior, their approach differs greatly.

Social psychology focuses on the individual first and foremost, working outwards to understand how and why that individual or group behaves a certain way, while sociologists tend to work from a larger model and tend to focus their studies upon the groups, rather than the individuals found within those groups.

Where Social Psychologists Work

All social psychologists specialize in using various scientific research methods to provide insight into the influence of social perceptions on behavior, but their work environment can vary. Many social psychologists choose to find employment in academia at universities or colleges to conduct research, teach psychology classes, and run laboratories on social psychology. However, social psychologists can also lead research projects in government agencies, non-profit organizations, hospitals, and research institutions. In some cases, individuals trained in social psychology will even work as consultants in private corporations for building effective advertising campaigns and conducting market research.

Social Psychology in the Workplace

Social psychology has become an important area of research when it comes to improving conditions within the workplace environment. As organizations grow in size and hire more workers, it’s vital to find ways for everyone to co-exist without hostility and to function smoothly. Jeff Moss, writing for Forbes, explains that many of the findings learned from social psychology can be applied to today’s workplace. Social psychologists, by focusing on the individual, can help companies find the most effective ways to communicate and coordinate with their workers.

Social psychologists can also be found working within the confines of a company as an industrial-organizational psychologist. Their job is to find the most effective ways for a company to locate and recruit the best employees, and once those employees are hired, the most effective ways to train them and integrate them into the workplace. By emphasizing educational opportunities, positive performance evaluations, as well as various forms of compensation, social psychologists can actively improve both a company’s bottom line, as well as enrich the lives of those individuals working within the company.

Social Psychology and Rethinking Old Concepts

What is a Social Psychologist?

Today’s world is remarkably complex and social psychologists are at the forefront of helping people understand that what might have worked in the past for them may no longer apply. Devon Price, a social psychologist, points out in the book Laziness Does Not Exist that the way our minds work does not necessarily coincide with what is expected of us in our lives. For example, Price states that productivity works best within small spurts, rather than for prolonged periods. Therefore, while some people might assume that taking a break from work is making them unproductive during that time, the reality is they might actually be increasing their productivity when they return to the task at hand.

Social psychologists have been in the front lines of research into finding ways to increase happiness in people while minimizing negative emotions. This has led to changes in some business practices, including allowing workers to set their own schedules, have guaranteed time off when needed, and having a more active voice in the organizations they are a part of.

Social Psychology and the Pandemic

When the Covid-19 lockdown first was implemented, businesses didn’t know how to handle the problems individuals were having with being isolated and not allowed to be socialized within the workplace, sharing ideas. The more problems that arose, however, the more social psychology found ways to assist in making workers still be productive while maintaining some relative mental well-being. One of the leaders in healthtech, Maital Rasmussen, emphasized the need for business leaders to have a solid understanding of social psychology in order to best help their businesses to grow while keeping their employees satisfied.

Social Psychologists and Persuasion

One area where social psychologists are proving their mettle is found with what’s known as “the science of persuasion.” The ability to persuade an individual is of paramount importance to both businesses and to ourselves. Social psychologists understand this and have developed a method of helping train ourselves to be more persuasive.

  • Reciprocity
  • Consistency
  • Social Validation
  • Liking
  • Authority
  • Scarcity

Social psychologists discovered that by using elements such as reciprocity and social validation in order to persuade others, drastic results were obtained. In this way, social psychology is becoming a more vital aspect of business than ever before. The more persuasive individuals and companies are, the greater the likelihood of achieving their short-term and long-term goals. Using such tactics as having influencers providing social validation and supply chains create market scarcity, individuals and companies are finding new ways to incorporate the research provided by social psychologists into their wheelhouse.

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Social Media and Social Psychology

There’s little doubt that you’re aware of the huge role that social media plays in today’s world. There are obvious dangers to it and to that end, social psychologists have been actively working to help eliminate some of the problems taking place. With people literally becoming addicted to social media and with depression rising because of all the time spent on social media, social psychology is actively being engaged in order to combat some of the problems.

Because of the nature of social media and how quickly information (and misinformation) can be spread, social psychology is always looking for ways to improve valid communication while finding methods of preventing misinformation from spreading.

Making Major Changes through Social Psychology

What is a Social Psychologist?

One of the ways that social psychologists can effect major changes in society is by understanding human behavior within an individual and working on ways to improve the individual’s life. In some cases, this can be through external conditions but it can also be from internal changes.

You may have heard about how money can’t buy happiness. While that might be often repeated, it does seem to have some bearing on reality. In a study discussed by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, researchers learned that higher-income did seem to have some bearing on being more frequently happy but it didn’t seem to have much effect upon the level of happiness attained. So, having more money leads to being happier more often but not resulting in a deeper level of happiness, helping people become more financially secure can result in them being happier — and, more importantly, it can lead to them being happier with what they currently possess.

Social psychologists also were able to study “time poverty.” In a paper presented to the Harvard Business School, researchers Laura Giurge and Ashely Whillans identified the issue of time poverty, pointing out that while there are more and more monetarily affluent individuals throughout the world, it has not led to any sort of temporal affluence.

This leads to organizations possibly working on finding a way to alleviate time poverty. This can either be letting individuals have more time off from work by raising wages so that they can receive the same amount of money for spending less time working and more time enjoying leisure activities and even social and family events.

Social Psychology and Diversity

While diversity can be a cause for celebration in many parts of society, it can also lead to various problems. In a paper presented in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, researchers pointed out that diversity presents numerous benefits, using examples ranging from the immigrants who have created one of the most productive economies in history to the creative energies in technology brought about by individuals who come from other countries with unique skillsets. At the same time, the researchers acknowledged that diversity comes with its own set of problems and stressed the importance of discovering new ways to embrace the positive aspects of diversity while minimizing the costs.

Social Psychologists as a Catalyst

Social psychologists are at the forefront of working for ways to help individuals improve their lives and the lives of those around them. When a social psychologist, for example, lifts an individual out of poverty by helping them learn essential financial skills — skills which they can then pass along to others — it creates a ripple effect. We all know that living in poverty can have incredibly destructive effects upon the individual and upon society as a whole. When social psychologists are able to go to lawmakers and employers and corporations with ideas and methods that can be implemented to create far-ranging changes, just about every level of society can improve.

Social psychologists take their jobs very seriously when it comes to examining change. For example, at one time, Twitter and Facebook were simply websites where social information was shared and maintained within a small community of individuals. Those sites are now dominant economic forces in the marketplace, due in no small part to various techniques studied and developed by social psychologists.

Training Required of Social Psychologists

Before starting a career in social psychology, you’ll need to first develop a broad introduction to the field by earning a four-year bachelor’s degree in general psychology from an accredited college. From there, you can specialize in social psychology in graduate school. Some employers will hire social psychologists with a master’s degree, but the majority of organizations will require a doctoral degree. It will typically take four to six years for doctoral students to complete a Ph.D. degree in social psychology, including the independent dissertation research. Licensure is typically not necessary for social psychologists, but those wishing to do so must abide by qualifications within their state of residence and build work experience through an internship.

Since being spurred by social facilitation experiments by Norman Triplett in the early 20th century, social psychology has evolved into a popular specialty area for discovering how the presence of people can affect an individual’s behaviors, emotions, and even mental processes. Social psychologists strive to pinpoint the exact factors that lead us to behave in certain ways within the presence of others. If you take the journey towards becoming a social psychologist, you’ll have the rewarding chance to enrich your understanding of your own relationships and the social world around you. In the process, you may find yourself at the forefront of exciting new changes you never thought possible.

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