What is Social Psychology?

Social psychology is that area of psychology that studies how people’s behavior changes depending on the social context they may be faced with. It is common for individuals’ behavior to change depending on their current environment and depending on who they may be interacting with. Social psychologists examine how these various contexts affect people’s behavior in a broad range of areas. But the most common areas they typically study are discussed briefly in the sections that follow.

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Learned Behavior

One important area of study in social psychology is learned behavior. Most people know that young children do not know how to behave properly in various contexts: their parents or caregivers must teach them how to behave and react to different people and in different situations. This is what is known as learned behavior. But what is curious is that not all parents (or caregivers) have the same beliefs on how to behave under certain circumstances. And for this reason, as children grow into young adults and adults, they may not all behave the same way in the same social contexts.

Societal Beliefs

Another area of study in social psychology is how societal beliefs affect people’s behavior under different social contexts. While some societal beliefs are determined through the legal system (for example, law tells us not to streak in public areas), other societal beliefs are simply agreed upon by society in general. For example, most people would agree that it is rude to loudly burp during a job interview. This type of behavior is often learned as well but is acquired through such others as peers, acquaintances, coworkers, and other family members in addition to parents.

Self-Fulfilling Goals

Self-fulfilling needs and goals are also examined in the field of social psychology. In an article posted on the website known as Very Well Mind, people typically behave in ways that will support their unique needs and goals. For example, persons who have a strong desire to be accepted by their peers may be friendlier while with their peers than they may be with their family members. People who desperately need a pay raise may choose to perform additional tasks at work, or persons who are trying to attract a mate will often behave in a flirtatious manner.


How self-identity affects behavior is yet another concept that is studied in social psychology. Self-identity is basically how a person views him or herself, and according to various theories on this topic, how people see themselves can affect how they behave with others and how they behave in various social settings. For example, while a person who possesses a great amount of self-confidence may be the “life of a party”, a person who has little self-confidence may choose to sit in a corner alone (if that person even attends the party at all).

Situational Determinations

When people are faced with different situations, they typically draw on past experiences and learned information to determine how to behave. Social psychology studies the process that individuals commonly use to come to these determinations. A person may behave quite differently while shopping than while paying bills or working. Likewise, an individual’s behavior may be very different while interacting with others at a solemn event than it would be while attending a birthday party.

Social psychology is an intriguing field that studies how people’s behavior is often determined by various social contexts. And for those persons who have ever wondered what is involved in social psychology, the information described above can help.

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