What is Social Psychology? Early Philosophers and Early Experiments When one considers what social psychology entails, it becomes a complex question. Social psychology can be loosely defined as the study of individual behavior in a social context, (McLeod, 2007). Social psychology has evolved from a recognized behavior that exists, to a studied behavior that exists and is understood scientifically.

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How long has social psychology been recognized? Early philosophers…
The recognition that social psychology exists came as early as the ancient Greeks. Aristotle and Plato disagreed about the nature of social psychology, however, both believed that social psychology existed. One interesting take on the manner that humans exist in a social manner comes from Aristotle who deemed humans as necessarily social creatures, (McLeod, 2007). Plato felt that social responsibility was encouraged by the government and that social psychology was a manipulated event, thus differing from Aristotle’s naturalistic approach. Then, much later, Hegel (1770-1831) introduced the notion of the group mind. This philosophical recognition has given science a foothold to base research upon. Hegel’s philosophy of the social mind brought Aristotle and Plato’s views together, and brought the views up to date given our modern society.

How long has social psychology been a scientific study? Early experiments…
Triplett in 1898 may have conducted the first actual scientific study of social psychology with school children, (McLeod, 2007). Then, in 1935, Sherif conducted a scientific study about how individuals behave according to the rules of society, (McLeod, 2007). In 1939, Lewin conducted leadership studies. After WWII, social psychology came an intensely studied field because of the psychological effects of war. Milgram’s Electric Shock Study (1963) and Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment (1973) are the most notable studies that define early social psychology scientific experimentation.

Social psychology is the study of social behavior. Social psychology has been recognized since ancient times, but has only recently become a subject of scientific study.

  • McLeod, S. (2007). What is social psychology? Simply Psychology. Retrieved from: http://www.simplypsychology.org/