The concept of social psychology had initially been established during the time of Plato when he introduced “crowd mind.” The philosopher opined that some people have a tendency to possess a collective mind when they are together. And while it is no longer an accepted postulate, it was the first theory that concerned the effect of socialization to the human psyche.
In the late 19th century, other similar studies were made, including social facilitation, or the tendency of people to perform in a different way when with others, and social loafing, which explains that individuals are likely to give less effort when they are part of a group.
But the formal study of social psychology started after the horrors of Holocaust during World War II. Researchers desired to understand what drove people to follow orders or bow to social pressure that resulted in countless people suffering – even the innocent ones. It has since evolved into a discipline that seeks to “understand and explain how the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of other human beings.”
Because of social psychology, studies on how people function, conduct themselves and make decisions in social situations, such as in a group or public can now be done. And the discipline is now being applied to different fields, such as the academe, corporate world, market research, economics, the judicial system, and many more.
Hi, I’m Wayne Imber, a retired professor that has taught psychology for more than 30 years at many schools Arizona, Chicago, and Massachusetts. Subscribe to my blog for more articles about the discipline.