Looking at society from a psychological perspective can provide tremendous insight into our place in the world. Certainly, I knew coming into this course that culture has an effect on society. Beliefs, traditions and even certain types of food all represented my understanding of how society functioned; however, through the lens of social psychology I realized that people function in patterns much more complex than I had previously realized. One of the most important things I have learned from this psychological perspective is that every human being has innate motivations to pursue in his/her life. In many ways, this has informed my understanding of real world problems.
When the motivations of an individual clash with their group, a conflict is realized (Kirschner & Martin, 2010). When motivations of two sociological groups clash, even bigger conflict can result. Take, for example instances of terrorism such as the destruction the United States incurred during 911. The root of terrorism such as this is a social clash in how two cultures think and what motivates them (Fiske & Taylor, 2013). While this can sometimes be determined by religion, it is much deeper than just religious or cultural beliefs. Terrorism involves invoking psychological fear on people who have different motivations (Kirschner & Martin, 2010). That is precisely why it is so powerful. It may be a difficult task, but the more we understand this reality, the more we can combat it and learn how to better communicate our intentions and motivations to people with different social realities.
It is important to pursue research in the area of social psychology so that it can be better applied in a real world context. Politics, religion, education, volunteer efforts, hospitals and almost every other institution in society creates its own ripple in social psychology and research should explore as many of these areas and others as possible (Kirschner & Martin, 2010). We have an ethical guideline in place to keep participants involved in research safe both emotionally and physically. Any research that is performed should understand this and make efforts to develop research methods that are perfectly safe for individuals who participate. Social understanding can be a sensitive topic and people working within this field must understand the delicate work for which they are responsible.
Reading my classmates blog entries has been a unique comparison and an opportunity to better understand social psychology itself by considering it from multiple perspectives. One student described social psychology as a “tool to unearth the presumptuous behavior of human beings.” Little did I know when first reading his post that it would perfectly describe my thinking about this course. Reading others definitions of social psychology helped to inform my own. Additionally, some students addressed areas I would have never thought to link to this topic such as intelligence testing. When other students give their perspective, I can better understand a wide range of dynamic social groups. This is extremely important to me. I want to be an understanding person who is compassionate about a wide variety of social issues. And, postings such as these highlighted the many ways in which social psychology can adapt to meet the needs of the world around us (Beadle & Tranel, 2011). It can be applied to almost any area or problem to determine viable solutions. However, the important thing to remember in this field is that it takes many many perspectives to effectively understand issues in their entirety. Even from reading blog posts this semester, it is evident that one individual can hold so many different opinions and thoughts about the nuances of social psychology. As such, it is important professionally to remember that these differences exist and can be a palpable phenomenon.
- Beadle, J. & Tranel, D. (2011). Social neuroscience: a neuropsychological perspective, Oxford Handbook Online, 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195342161.013.0005.
- Fiske, S. T., & Taylor, S. E. (2013). Social cognition: From brains to culture. Sage.
- Kirschner S. R. & Martin, J. (2010). The sociocultural turn in psychology, Columbia University Press.