Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Life Sciences - Department of Psychology

Subject matters of social psychology

Our behaviour and experience are determined by other persons to a great extent. These other persons do not always have to be physically present to influence us. Their virtual presence is often enough. Expectations of others can affect us as social norms. On the other hand expectations might have been internalized, having already changed our opinions and values. It is, among others, a question of social psychology to ask, whether and under which circumstances our opinions determine our behaviour or the other way round

The expectations of others can be expressed very directly by the usage of power which can lead to obedience or reactance. They can affect us indirectly, too, e.g. in terms of influence or manipulation. Sometimes, the expectations of others are communicated by their roles, which also have an impact on our self-concept.

Especially in groups, other people have a great influence on us. The performance of groups can exceed the performance of individuals. Still, this is often prevented by group processes that intervene in the critical thinking of the individual, e.g. by conformity pressure, and by this lead to wrong decisions.

Social psychology deals with the following questions among others: How is the decision making process in groups influenced? How can communication in and between groups be improved? What leads to conflicts between groups? How do stereotypes and prejudices relate to these in these processes?

Other subjects with social psychological interest are: What are the consequences of interpersonal action, i.e. cooperation, competition, aggression or help, and by what is such behaviour caused? The perception of other persons seems to play an important role here. Consequently, other questions of social psychology become obvious: How do people percept each other? Which reasons do they assign to the behaviour of others ?(attribution) And why are these perceptions and attributions often distorted?