Social Psychology – Definition, Theory, Scope and Concepts

Social psychology is a science that studies the relationship between humans and groups in their environment which is influenced by human behavior. In social life, sometimes there are times when we have bad relationships with other humans, things that trigger quarrels, fights, or disputes between groups that can occur between family, friends, neighbors, and others.

Then, this is what encourages the development of social psychology to study the relationships between humans and the behaviors that affect these relationships. Relationships between humans that are influenced by behavior, attitudes, and also decision making originate from social psychology and can produce responses that are destructive or constructive.

Also read:  Branches of Psychology

Definition of Social Psychology

Social psychology consists of two words, namely psychology and social. Psychology is defined as a field of science that focuses on the behavior and mental functions of humans scientifically. Then, social is all behavior related to relationships between individuals. So, the notion of social psychology can also be interpreted as a scientific field that studies human behavior and mentality related to relationships between individuals in society.

Read also: Psychological codes of ethics

The following is an understanding of social psychology according to the experts:

  1. Hubber Bonnerstated that social psychology is the study of human behavior.
  2. Shawand Costanzo stated that social psychology is the study of individual behavior which is social stimulation.
  3. Kimbal Youngstated that social psychology is the study of the process of individual interaction.
  4. Sherif Bersaudarastated in his book entitled ‘An Outline of Social Psychology’, namely social psychology is a science that studies human experiences and behavior in relation to situations of social stimulant situations.
  5. Gordon W. Allportstates that social psychology is a science that seeks to understand how an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior are influenced by the reality or presence of others.
  6. Joseph E. Mc. Grathstated that social psychology is a science that investigates human behavior which is influenced by the presence, beliefs, actions and symbols of others.
  7. Secordand Backman state that social psychology is the study of individuals and social contexts.

Also read:  Personality Psychology

Basic Concepts of Social Psychology

Human social interaction in society, be it between individuals, individuals and groups or between groups, has a psychological response. Psychiatric reactions such as attitude, emotion, attention, volition. Then also motivation, self-esteem and so on are included in social psychology. Social psychology is the science of the mental development process of humans as social beings. Thus, social psychology studies things that include human behavior in a social context.

Read also:  counseling psychology

Then, conditions in social interaction are influenced not only by psychological processes but also by environmental conditions. Environmental factors apply such as norms, values, social rules, culture, weather, and others. This environment affects self-esteem, work ethic, pride, enthusiasm for life, or people’s awareness in everyday life. The roles of family, peers, and people in the environment also encourage enthusiasm, achievement, someone in achieving success. The basic concepts of social psychology are one part of social science studies as follows:

  1. Emotions towards social objects

Emotions and emotional reactions can be influenced by the environment. Emotional acuity and emotional reactions are influenced by internal and external factors. Controlling emotional responses is very important in social life. Emotion is a study of social psychology which has an important role in shaping a person’s behavior in response to stimuli in the social environment. In fact, emotion is also a potential personality that needs psychological guidance, for example through religious education.

  1. Attention

Attention or sensitivity to what happens in a person’s social environment also affects the way an individual behaves in his social relationships.

  1. Interest

The interest or attractiveness of individuals to their social relationships also affects the relationship between individuals and groups in relation to the process of interaction and response. Interests arise from within the individual and may be influenced by external subjects such as family, culture, environment.

Also read:  Abnormal Psychology

  1. Will

Willingness is a potential that encourages individuals to obtain and achieve what they want. A strong desire is the basic capital of an achievement. Willingness becomes a strong foundation to do something to achieve.

  1. Motivation

Motivation as a basic concept that arises from within yourself and can also be obtained from the environment or the closest people. Motivation is a force capable of encouraging the will to achieve something. Then strong motivation will strengthen an individual’s struggle to achieve what he wants.

  1. Intelligence in responding to social problems

Intelligence is the basic asset that exists in each individual and is different for each individual. Then also is the basic capital to solve social problems that arise. The potential of intelligence with cognitive characteristics will be easier to measure. Meanwhile, affective intelligence is more difficult to measure and evaluate in terms of intelligence. Intelligence is also very important for individuals to live life and the problems of life that continue to occur.

  1. Appreciation

The appreciation is a psychological process that requires a calm atmosphere. This process does not only involve feeling, paying attention, enjoying or others, but more than that. Things that happen in the process of social interaction are calmly felt and followed so as to create a deep impression on each individual. This process of appreciation is carried out in a state of mindfulness. Full appreciation will be more difficult.

Also read:  Nursing Psychology

  1. Awareness

Awareness needs to exist in taking action, making decisions in interactions with social life. Individual awareness is determined by the individual himself after seeing what happens in his social environment as a positive psychological response.

  1. Pride

Self-esteem is a concept that creates humans as dignified living beings. The dignity or self-esteem that is nurtured and maintained will be a calculation for other individuals in seeing the individual. Lowered self-esteem will damage individual dignity and be used by others for things that are not positive.

  1. Mental attitude

Mental attitude is a reaction that arises from each individual if there are stimuli that come. Mental reactions can be positive, negative, and neutral. This depends on the condition of each individual and also depends on the nature of the stimuli that come. Stimulation that comes will be responded to by individuals through attitudes or mental reactions that can be said to be positive, negative or neutral.

Also read:  Literary Psychology

  1. Personality

Personality is dynamic ideas, attitudes, and habits that are fostered by biological potential psycho-physiologically and socially transmitted through culture, and combined with the will and goals of individuals based on the needs of their social environment.

The basic concept of personality, according to the Brown brothers,  is as a denotative expression, while that is put forward by Hart in a more comprehensive connotative sense. This personality is unique in that it combines internal potential with external factors in the form of an open environment. External factors such as the environment are very strong. Environmental factors are able to play an active role in providing a positive influence on personality development. A strong and strong personality is needed for building a good life and overcoming challenges or increasingly tough competition in the social environment.

Read also:  Educational Psychology

Social Psychological Theory

The following are theories in social psychology:

  1. Reinforcement Theory ( Reinforcement Theory)

This strengthening theory based on the behaviorism approach consists of several theories, namely:

  • Social Learning Theory and the Imitation ( Theories of Social Learning and Imitation)

The imitation mechanism is divided into 3, namely (1) Same behavior: behavior that states the same behavior between two individuals towards the same stimuli. (2) matched-dependent behavior: behavior to imitate others who are considered superior. The behavior of the second party will match the behavior of the first party. (3) Copying: behavior to imitate or base cues (behavior) from a given model, including models in the past.

  • Observational Learning

Bandura and Waltens argued that imitation behavior is a form of association from a stimulus. This theory can also explain the emergence of the same emotions as the emotions in the model. According to them, there are three kinds of influences on model behavior: (1) Modeling effect: imitators perform new behavior according to the model. (2) Inhibition and disinhibition : behavior not in accordance with the model’s behavior will be inhibited and behavior in accordance with the model will be eliminated all obstacles. (3) Facilitation effect : the behavior of the model has been studied i = by the writer then appears again by observing the model’s behavior.

  1. Reinforcement Theory of Social (Social Reinforcement Exchange Theories)

This theory is divided into several parts, namely:

  • Basic Social Behavior Theory ( Behavioral Sociological Model of Social Exchange). Homas exemplified this theory that it is essentially the same as the buying and selling process in which both parties price each other and seek profit.
  • Results Interaction theory ( Theory of Interpersonal Independence). The relationship of two or more people which depend on each other to achieve results and maximize positive results for each interaction participant.
  • Functional Theory of Authoritarian Interaction ( Equity Theory). According to Walster, Berscheid, and Adams, this theory talks about justice and injustice in interpersonal relationships. Every contribution given is called negative input, for example, such as effort, work, etc., and something that is received is called a positive outcome, affection such as enthusiasm, interest.

Also read:  Forensic Psychology

  1. Orientation Theory of Fields ( Field Theoretical Orientation )

An important way of approaching according to Lewin, et al is the use of constructive methods, dynamic approaches, emphasis on psychological processes, analysis based on the situation as a whole, differences between systematic and historical problems, and mathematical representations of psychological situations.

  1. Role Theory ( Role Theory)

A person’s role will depend on the role of other people and their social context. Biddle and Thomas divide roles into four groups, namely: (1) people who take part in social interactions. (2) behavior that appears in interactions. (3) the position of the person in behavior. (4) the relationship between people and behavior.

Also read:  Child Psychology

  1. Cognitive Orientation theory ( Cognitive Theory Orientation)

This theory deals with cognitive processes which are divided into several types of theories again:

  • Krech & Crutchfield’s Cognitive Theory

Motivation is molar, involving needs and goals. Psychological instability can cause tensions that affect perception, cognition, and action. Despair to achieve goals or failure will appear in a variety of adaptive and maladaptive behaviors.

  • Cognitive Consistency Theories

This theory is based on the feelings that exist in a person (P), towards other people (X) and other things (X). There is in it the principle of harmony regarding forecasting changes in attitudes in certain situations. Cognitive theory emphasizes that inconsistent cognitive conditions can cause discomfort and lead to behaviors that return to comfort.

  • Attribution Theory

This theory explains how a person determines his cap, traits, or characteristics based on what is known about that person in certain situations and with certain behaviors.

Also read:  Cognitive Psychology

  • Theories of Social Comparison, Judgment and Perception

The process of mutual influence and competitive behavior in social interactions raises the need to assess oneself by comparing oneself with others. There are two things that are compared, namely opinion and ability. Ordinary humans make self-comparisons such as which words or opinions are better, or who has certain advantages.

Also read:  Abnormal Psychology

Approaches in Social Psychology

Here are some approaches that can be taken in social psychology:

Biological Approach

Social psychology with a biological approach is expressed by Mc. Dougall et al about what distinguishes humans from other creatures:

  • Human instincts that are there from birth and cannot be changed. The existence of an innate drive that leads to destructive behavior even though the innate drive can be directed towards constructive behavior.
  • XYY chromosome genetic differences are more likely to be criminals, brain damage and can cause aggressiveness in animals.

Learning Approach

There are four mechanisms for learning as behavior change:

  • Law of effect,satisfying behavior will tend to be repeated.
  • Operant conditioning, the theory of affirmation.
  • Modeling, imitation theory.

Incentive Approach

This third approach emphasizes the depiction of the impulsive character and emphasizes the disadvantages and advantages obtained. This approach uses exchange theory, need satisfaction, and rational decision making theory . Rational decision making theory suggests that a person calculates the advantages and disadvantages of various actions based on rationale. Need satisfaction theory states that individuals have certain needs or motivations and behave in such a way to get their needs.

Cognitive Approach

This approach is to interpret how the causes occur. For example with cognitive dissonance. Example: the cognition “I know I like smoking” is then confronted with the dissonance “I know smoking is damaging to health”. Faced with a dissonant situation like that, the behavior change made is quitting smoking or reducing smoking. Cognitive approach emphasizes the conditions of the present situation and not the past.

Also read:  Family Psychology

Scope of Social Psychology

Shaw and Constanzo divided the scope of social psychology into three, namely:

  1. The study of social influence on the process in an individual is exemplified such as the study of perception, motivation in the learning process.
  2. The study of shared individual processes, such as language, attitudes, behavior, and others.
  3. The study of interactions in groups, such as leadership, communication, competition, cooperation, and others.

As explained by Ahmadi, 2005, that social psychology is the object of study of all movements or behaviors that arise in the social environment. Therefore, the main problem studied is the social influence on individual behavior. The problems discussed in social psychology are humans as members of society, such as relationships between individuals in a group. Social psychology examines individual relationships with one another.

Read also:  Anthropology

Goals of Social Psychology

The goals of social psychology are defined in the same way as any other discipline. Where there are instructional goals in the form of curricular goals or learning objectives. Curricular goals in social psychology, there are five goals that need to be achieved, namely:

  1. Social situations are not all good, so students need to get knowledge about social psychology so that they are not influenced, suggested, by these bad social situations.
  2. Students are equipped with the knowledge to identify, analyze, and compile alternative solutions to social problems systematically and instill a psychological process related to the mutual influence of life together.
  3. Students are equipped with the ability to communicate well with fellow individuals in society so as to make it easier to make approaches to bring about changes to their goals as well as possible.
  4. Students are equipped with an awareness of social life and their environment to change their social characteristics and behavior for the better.
  5. Students are equipped with the ability to develop social psychology knowledge and science in the development of life, community development, environment, technology, and science.

The five goals above are the goals of teaching social psychology that students must achieve as a result of learning the social psychology curriculum.

Read also: Educational psychology

Benefits of Social Psychology

The presence of social psychology science is intended to provide benefits to changes in human behavior in social life. And also improve the quality of social life. The following are the benefits of studying social psychology and applying it to a social environment.

  1. Provide an overview to humans about how to establish ideal relationships between fellow humans as social beings.
  2. Prevent conflicts between human life which are caused by the ego of each individual in relation to society.
  3. Provide solutions when conflicts arise in community groups. With social psychology, humans can understand the character of a society so that it is easy to find solutions to conflicts that are happening in society.
  4. As a guide for society in managing differences between individuals in society. And also make the difference as strengthening social relations in society to achieve common goals.

Also read: Experimental psychology

Implementation of Social Psychology in Community Life

Every problem comes from an imbalance between individuals in their behavior and social interactions. The emergence of problems and the ineffectiveness of solutions comes from one’s psychology on their social life which can have a positive or negative impact.

In some cases, social psychology helps solve problems with the social stimulants of education, religion, and the environment. In some cases with individuals from an environment that is not conducive, giving poor understanding or attention will affect the development of a person’s soul which results in poor social interaction. Therefore, the importance of social psychology in social interactions supports a harmonious life between individuals and mutually beneficial problem solving.

According to Arifin, 2004, in this case the most important thing is the cultivation of a religious spirit from an early age. The role of religion in individuals is expected to be able to filter out everything that is negative in social life.

For example, the case of beating students by friends at school. This situation occurs as a result of a maladaptive social psychological process. The individual may not get a good education or example from his family, or his environment which results in a maladaptive psychology. Psychiatric conditions affect a person’s emotions in certain situations. Problem solving initiatives between the two parties cannot be carried out because of the maladaptive psychological growth of their environment.

Then, the results of maladaptive psychology that are brought from the family and their environment then influence the attitudes and behavior of the individual in each environment in which he is located. Social psychology needs to be taught and instilled in each individual so that he can interact with the people around him well and live comfortably.

Read also:  Industrial and Organizational Psychology

This is the explanation of social psychology and its role in social life. So the importance of social psychology affects our lives in interacting with other people and is also the basis for the characteristics of a person’s behavior that can have positive or negative impacts both for the individual and the welfare of social life in society.

Then, social psychology focuses on the psychological condition of a person which is influenced by various aspects and is associated with the relationships or interactions of individuals with other individuals as well as with their environment in society. With the basic concept of mutual need, social psychology brings changes in behavior for every individual who wants a change in life for the better.


by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

Leave a Comment