What is it that shapes our attitudes? Why are some people such great leaders? How does prejudice develop, and how can we overcome it? These are just a few of the big questions of interest in the field of social psychology. Social psychologists tackle issues that can have a significant impact on individual health and well-being, from understanding why bullying behavior and aggression take place to analyze why people sometimes fail to help individuals in need1 .

What Is Social Psychology?

According to psychologist Gordon Allport, social psychology is a discipline that uses scientific methods “to understand and explain how the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied the presence of other human beings.”2 Essentially, social psychology is all about understanding how each person’s individual behavior is influenced by the social environment in which that behavior takes place.

You probably already realize that other people can have a dramatic influence on the way you act and the choices you make. Consider how you might behave in a situation if you were all alone versus if there were other people in the room. The decisions you make and the behaviors you exhibit might depend on not only how many people are present but exactly who you are around. For example, you are likely to behave much differently when you are around a group of close friends than you would around a group of colleagues or supervisors from work.

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