Applied Social Psychology Theories

Social psychology seeks to understand how people think, feel, relate, and influence one another. This sort of influence can be either actual, imagined, or implied, which further means that individuals are predisposed to social influence even when other people are not present. Since the concept of human behavior is a product of the interaction of different mental states and instantaneous social situations, social psychologists prefer to use various standards of assessing behavior, among which the most instrumental are laboratory-based, empirical findings and specific theories. Theories in particular are the core principles that determine how behavior is analyzed with regard to specific contexts. With reference to this, applied psychology plays an important role in the study of behavior in different social contexts and themes including group performance, negotiations, aggression, and general human behavior.

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Social Identity Theory

            Social identity theory is perhaps one of the most significant theories in the field of social psychology and particularly in the context of group behavior. The theory attempts to examine how the categorization of people into in-groups or outgroups impacts perceptions, attitudes, and behavior. It enables psychologists to predict particular behaviors with relation to perceived grouped status differences. A review of Hackman in his co-authored article Group Behavior and Perfromance reveals a precise illustration of the social identity theory and how it functions as a basis of foretelling behavior. First, he contends that groups are diverse in the way they carry out tasks and thus their productivity can be measured using various approaches. According to his view, while some psychologists may concentrate on measuring the productive purpose of a group, some may opt to measure the extent to which the experience of working in a group affects the individual wellbeing. Those who chose to focus on the process of work also scrutinize the group’s organization in order to find out how it relates to effective functioning. Moreover, Hackman cites various approaches which psychologists are fond of using while analyzing the link between group members, how individuals in the group interact, as well as various tools that are utilized. The underlying philosophy in his argument involves the variance of social behavior along the range between interpersonal and intergroup behavior, which is also the key aspect that enthuses the theory of social identity.

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Theory of Drive

            Another equally important theory in social psychology is the theory of drive which claims that the presence of an audience brings about arousal and thus produces typical and dominant responses depending on the situational context. As pointed out by Juror Proof in Group Polarization & How It Impacts Your Verdict, the concept of judgement is complicated by many dynamic processes that are often a result of a group. Juror’s decisions and attitudes normally undergo certain alterations when they are placed in a group setting. They tend to become more extreme on their view points in the midst of other jurors as opposed to when they are on their own. This form of behavior change is known as polarization and can prove influential in the decision-making process. This is in perfect harmony with the theory of drive which claims that the presence of a passive audience can trigger or inhibit better performance in a certain task.

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Social Exchange Theory

            Social contexts that involve social change and stability as a development of bargained exchanges between two or more parties are better characterized by the social exchange theory. It maintains that human relationships are a product of subjective cost-benefit analyses and an assessment of alternatives. In his article The art of negotiation: How to improvise agreement in a chaotic world, Wheeler demonstrates that negotiations are directly dependent on the social exchange theory. He introduces a new approach to negotiation and describes the overall process of negotiation as one that involves ongoing learning, adapting, and influencing. Thus, negotiations demand for human exploration and agility that enables the negotiation parties to find a common ground on which they can form solid and beneficial relationships. Examples of simple negotiations occur when buying a car, selling a house, or even landing a new contract. Thus, social exchange theory attempts to explain the dynamics behind the maintenance of human relationships between two or more people.

Social Learning Theory

            The social learning theory is one of the most common theories in social psychology. It was curated by Albert Bandura, who proposed that human behavior is learned through modeling. This implies that observing others consequently spurs the formation of ideas on how to perform new behaviors. As a result, the conception of these ideas act as a guiding tool of performing an action (Bandura 69). However, not all behavior which is observed is necessarily learned. The learning process involves a series of steps where an individual needs to pay attention, retain the information, reproduce by doing what they observed and finally motivation to perform the act. An example is perceived from the aspect of violence and aggression where children who are exposed to violence at home from an early age develop aggressive attitudes and may end up bullying other children in schools. In an article published on the Huffington post website, Keiper illustrates how children who emulate bullying, violence and aggressive behavior like substance abuse and suicide often come from violent homes. The author goes on to show reports by the CDC of how bullies and their victims reported that they were physically hurt by family members or that they witness violence within their homes. From the article a relationship to Albert Bandura’s social learning theory is imminent in that children who bully others and emulate aggression act in a way that imitates what they see at home as well and their experiences with violence and aggression at home.

Attribution Theory

Attribution theory strives to explain how an ordinary individual tries to understand human behavior. The theory was curated by a psychologist, Heider who explained that people try to make sense of human behavior often through a cause and effect system. There are two aspects of the attribution theory, which encompass external and internal attribution. External attribution is concerned with assigning the cause of a behavior to occurrences outside the individual’s control. On the hand, internal attribution explains a behavior with relation to internal characteristics like a person’s personality.  In an article published on 2 know myself blog, (Farouk) shed some insights on understanding human behavior. The author explains how individuals try to understand human behavior by looking at specific variables and disregarding other considerations. This is similar to the cause and effect notion where a person tries to understand the reason behind another person’s action by looking into the cause from a restrained angle. Internal attribution adds on this perception where people often conclude that an act of kindness is directly linked to a kind person. This may not necessarily be the case, therefore spurring an inaccurate judgment on an individual’s character.

Radwan gives the example of a person who perceives himself to be successful. However, he starts experiencing an insecurity that he left his car open, therefore developing a habit of checking his car very often. The insecurity came as a result of a dream where his car is stolen. A person may not understand the habit that the subject develops because of internal attribution. The author further explains that the subject behaves the way he does because he holds himself responsible for his success, and consequently responsible for any possible failures. This implies that the behavior he develops is not necessarily about the car but rather about the fear of losing his success. The latter aligns to the theory of attribution, per say internal attribution, where the behavior of an individual can be understood by linking the effect to an internal cause like personality or self-esteem.            

In conclusion, applied psychology plays an important role in the study of behavior in different social contexts and themes including group performance, negotiations, aggression, and general human behavior. The analysis of behavior in each of these contexts is further linked to one or more theories which attempt to rationalize the occurrence of various behavioral patterns. Hence, social psychology attempts to explain the manner in which attitudes, personality, motivations, and behavior are affected by social groups. An individual’s acuity of the events around them influences their emotions and behavior, a phenomenon that is likely to trickle further down to others. Most importantly, social psychology helps psychologists to understand group behaviors and how they can be manipulated, the nature of negotiations, the occurrence of aggressive behaviors, and the personality of an individual.

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