The rising complexity in a global society generates a new dimension in perpetual ponderings about how to understand the self in relation to others. Continuously facing dynamically shifting cultural environments, we may wonder: Why are others different or the same? Why do people say what they say and do what they do? Are behaviors the consequences of our own decisions or unseen forces?
Although answers discovered by social psychologists often seem like common knowledge, social psychology offers a distinctive set of ideas about the individual in a social context. To understand ourselves in context with others, let's do the following:
- Explore the history, theoretical frameworks, research methods, competing theories, and social psychology controversies.
- Synthesize learning from the field for applications and interventions on social issues in our own workplaces and lives.
With the lack of a unified definition and a confusing assortment of contrasting ideologies (Aronson, 2008; Jex, 2002), social psychology can seem more like a mix of competing philosophies than a science. This contributes to criticisms of and conflicts within social psychology, some of which will be covered in this section, as follows:
- Review key arguments surrounding criticisms that social psychology documents the obvious and that discoveries in the field are no different from the conventional wisdom drawn from philosophy, religion, history, and experience.
- Consider ethical issues about research practices that continue to cause controversy, even after Phillip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment and Milgram’s shocking obedience studies contributed to the establishment of ethical standards for psychological research.
- Ethical debates surrounding the misuse and abuse of research findings.
- Social psychology condemns and builds on conventional wisdom
- Does social psychology document the obvious?
- Escalation of commitment to a social psychology failure builds generations of "conceited fools"
- Milgram's shocking obedience experiments
- Tyranny in a university basement: The Stanford Prison Experiment