Social Psychology Perspective

Psychology is the study of human behavioral changes that are influenced by societal circumstances (Myers, 1999). A human being behaves and reacts in a particular and specific way due to the environment where he or she lives. This paper will discuss two human behaviors that shape our lives. The two behaviors that will be examined in this paper are Self Concept, and Attitude. This paper will extensively examine these human behaviors from a social psychology perspective to establish the fundamental concepts of the two human interactions.

To begin with, self-concept is a term used in social psychology to refer to the way an individual perceives himself or herself. This concept examines the causes and reasons that influence individuals to think about themselves in a particular approach. In social psychology, being aware of one’s self is described as having a concept of one’s self, which is commonly known as self-realization in common terms. The self-concept also entails an individual’s belief about themselves and their personalities or personal attributes (Myers, 1999). According to social philosophers, the development of a self-concept can be split into two stages, the Existential self, and the Categorical self (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2007).

The existential self begins to form when a child is very young around two to three months. This occurs when he or she begins to form relationships with the existing surroundings. For instance, a child begins to notice that when he or she smiles at a person they smile back (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2007). That is when the child begins to develop the existential self by relating to the surrounding, which later transforms him or her into a specific individual with distinct personal attributes. After realizing the existential self, the child develops the categorical self, which enables him or her to identify his or her position in the environment he or she lives in. Children begin to see themselves as objects and categorize themselves into different social categories including age, gender, size, and skills (Myers, 1999).

The self-concept also puts into consideration things such as self-image, which is how an individual sees himself or herself. Self-image is not always the reality of what one’s self is worth and it is possible for an individual to have a wrong perception of him or herself. An individual’s self-image can be influenced by a number of factors among them parental influence, friends, media to mention but a few (Myers, 1999). Social psychologists tell patients to ask themselves whom they are. When people ask themselves the question, ‘who am I?’ there are two categories of responses given according to social psychology. Responses are based on either social roles, which are external factors, or personality traits, which are internal aspects (Myers, 1999).

The responses given are based on either:

  1. Physical description such as I am slender and light skinned.
  2. Social roles such as I am a lawyer, I have a wife and two children, I am a student, I am a footballer.
  3. Personal traits such as I am an honest person, I am polite, I am charming, among other traits.
  4. Existential statements such as I am a human being or I am a man.

These are some of the categories that human responses to the question ‘who am I?’ are based upon from a social psychology point of view (Myers, 1999). However, these responses vary according to the age where young people feel best defined by their character traits while the older people love defining themselves according to their social roles. (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2007)

The other human behavior that shapes our personalities is the Attitude. In social psychology, it is defined as an acquired tendency to evaluate certain things in a specific way (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). Human beings evaluate people, issue’s events, objects and other aspects of life in unique and distinct ways, which can either be positive or negative (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2007). Attitudes are also made up by other three components, which are emotional components, cognitive components, and behavioral components. Emotional components include how an aspect of life influences one’s feelings. The cognitive component on the other hand is about one’s thoughts and beliefs about the aspects of life (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2007). Lastly, the behavioral component is how one’s attitude influences his or her behavior (Kowalski & Westen, 2011).

Experience is the major factor that influences attitude. This can be acquired through direct contact with a situation or by observation (Smith & Mackie, 2007). Other factors that influence the formation of attitude include social roles and social norms (Smith & Mackie, 2007). Social norms are rules set by the society that stipulate the acceptable and appropriate code of conduct. Social roles on the other hand are ways in which people are expected to behave in a particular category of the social settings (Myers, 1999). Attitudes can also be influenced through the media by advertising, which is designed to influence people’s attitudes towards a certain product. Positive feedback from the surrounding environment builds a positive attitude towards a particular object, person, or event. Negative publicity similarly sparks a negative attitude towards things.

Attitude is a human behavior that can also be influenced by observation. As children grow, they are bombarded with negative attitudes towards certain practices; hence, they carry these approaches to their adulthood.

Parents are responsible primarily for shaping the attitudes of their children since children grow watching and learning from them. What parents see as immoral will mostly be approached as such by their children. People behave according to their attitudes under specific circumstances which include personal experience, expertise in a particular subject, expectance of positive results, and if the person risks losing or stands a chance of winning something. To change certain behaviors, psychologists have found that changing one’s attitude towards something may help. Some behaviors are directly influenced by attitudes therefore to make a change the attitude must be changed as well.

Attitude can be changed just the same way as it is formed. A number of theories are used in influencing attitude change. They include the learning theory of attitude change, the elaboration likelihood theory of attitude change, and the dissonance theory of attitude change (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). Behavioral change can take one of these two turns, one can choose to change their attitude towards something, or alternatively, they can stop doing that action. In both situations, a change of behavior is achieved. The two human behaviors presented in this essay are fundamental components of human character that plays a very vital role in establishing human relationships and interactions. These are the main elements used by the society to create what can be termed as group thinking and general beliefs.

References

Hockenbury, D., & Hockenbury, S. E. (2007). Discovering Psychology. New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

Kowalski, R., & Westen, D. (2011). Psychology (6th Ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Myers, D. G. (1999). Social Psychology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill College.

Smith, E. R. & Mackie, D. M. (2007). Social Psychology. London, UK: Psychology Press.