Research Methods Used In Social Psychology

People are social animals, which makes social psychology an interesting branch in the study of the human mind. It is focused on learning how interaction with other people affects one’s thoughts, emotions, and behavior, to put it simply. The research methods used in studies are the following:

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Descriptive research

The type of research method most commonly used by social psychologists is descriptive research. It seeks to narrate the details surrounding a phenomenon, usually without trying to establish a causal relationship with some other variables.

Descriptive research can be done through surveys, which is a quick and effective, and not to mention, cost-effective way of collecting a huge amount of data. A questionnaire will be handed out to select samples, which will provide insight into the possible characteristic of the population.

Laboratory research

Also called experimental research, this method aims to uncover causal relationships between variables by running experiments or social facilitation on test subjects, who are divided into two groups: control and experimental. The former will serve as the baseline for the experiment. The latter will be subjected to manipulation of variables, which would then be analyzed and compared to the results coming from the control group.

Field research

Field or observational research is the preferred method of many researchers, even if it is more difficult to conduct because it allows them to collect data on people while in their normal social setting. Unlike in laboratory research, subjects do not know they are participants of a research so that they would not act out of the norm. Usually, unsuspecting are observed by researchers from a distance, and certain experimental parameters can be manipulated.

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With the progress of mobile technology, it has become easier to study people in their social context, as data from smartphone or computer apps can be gathered and used for social psychology.

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Understanding Social Psychology And Its Relevance To Society

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.

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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.

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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.