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Social Psychology

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Perspectives on Social Psychology

Overview

Social Psychology is a complex field—one that investigates how social contexts affect people’s actions, thoughts, and attitudes. It brings the scientific method into our everyday lives by addressing questions relevant to interactions amongst individuals near and far or even over the internet. For example, the video about ostracism details an approach to induce feelings of exclusion without direct face-to-face contact.

These videos are meant to show the wide reactionary nature of human beings, which also makes the experimental process more complicated. By providing students and scientists a transparent look at the intricate research methods behind classic experiments, this collection strengthens their understanding into just how researchers manipulate contexts to elicit behaviors—some that we are not even aware of harboring. For instance, the video "Implicit Association Test" explores how to measure unconscious attitudes for sensitive topics, like racial prejudice.

This collection in Social Psychology provides the perfect introduction to this subject and insight into future directions, such as integration with neuroscience and big data collected via social media outlets.

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The field of social psychology really gets to the heart of our nature, which is that humans are social animals. We study how the social context affects our actions and thoughts and behavior, and we do it through a number of lenses. We study everything from real interpersonal interactions in the lab all the way to the behavior of tens or hundreds of thousands of people who interact simultaneously online, and this gives us insight into why people engage in the things that they do. 

Students in social psychology tend to love the course. They really love seeing the scientific method applied to the important questions that dominate their own lives. The challenge is in understanding the intricacies of the scientific method and analysis. And one of the things that these videos will do is make that more transparent to students in classes around the country and around the world. A final challenge is that we are studying ourselves, and humans react to the experimental situation. This fact makes social psychology one of the hardest sciences. 

This collection of videos is a really powerful tool for overcoming some of these teaching challenges. The first thing it does is it makes the methods that are behind the textbook lesson that you get very transparent, so you can see how exactly people manipulated the social context to elicit a certain behavior. The other thing is it makes it transparent for researchers who wanna run similar studies in the future, and so for students and researchers who are coming to the field for the first time or even who've been in the field for many years, this collection of videos is a really important resource, not only for students, but also for researchers who wanna understand more about how the research and science was conducted. 

The field of social psychology continues to address some of the most important questions facing humanity today. From how to maintain a positive relationship with someone we love to reducing intractable inter-group conflict between two powerful nations, and ultimately even reducing things close to us, like prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination. The field actually is evolving in many ways. We are using more complex and powerful methods than ever before, including tools from psychophysiology and neuroscience as well as fields like genetics, and finally, including big data techniques, like analyzing social media behavior of hundreds of thousands of people in real time. 

One question that I am asked is about the rigor of the science behind social psychology. How much can we trust our findings and the literature on these important issues? I am actually incredibly optimistic about the field of social psychology. Social psychologists are actually at the forefront of improving not only our own science, but scientific practices in other fields. We understand an incredible amount about human social behavior, our own biases and fallacies, and we have the technology to fix them. 

Well, there's a number of important advances. One is obviously our methodological toolbox. We have more methods than ever to understand the human social animal. Another major advance is our capacity to use technology to improve and share science. This is one reason why I'm really excited to be involved in this series of Jove videos, because we're using cutting-edge technology to film and share a lot of the science behind the headlines that you read in classes or in the news. We can now take a video, post it on our website, and tweet it to thousands of followers immediately and give the public insight into how the research was conducted. 

The future of social psychology is brighter than ever. We now have the capacity to analyze the actions of billions of people every day as they log in to social media and engage in social interactions online. We have never had access to so much data before, and what this can do is not only help us understand why people engage in certain social behaviors, but it can help us engineer better interventions to improve their quality of life and improve humanity.

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