Principles of Social Psychology

Life demands that individuals should interact with the environment around them. For this to happen successfully, individuals need to understand themselves as well as others. This forms the basis of the following discussions.

Discovering the Self

Self concept refers to the way we think or perceive ourselves. This is in regard to various aspects such as moral, family, physical as well as social situation dimension.

Self-schemas are mental structures that organize information about an individual. The things individuals tend to notice or remember are dictated by the self-schemas. People, therefore, tend to remember something that is related to themselves while easily forgetting those that are not related to them. For istance, a person who loves movies will easily remember scenes in that movie as opposed to someone who likes reading.

Self-awareness involves contemplating about ourselves so as to understand who we are. The acting self is the total sum of self-identity and self-entity. The self-identity branch motivates the self-entity to act. Without either of the branches, no meaningful action can take place.

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Self-esteem also known as self-worth refers to the overall emotional evaluation of an individual’s own worth. It is the personal worth of an individual (Hogg, 2005). It is an attitude and judgment towards the self. If an individual thinks highly of himself or herself and has a positive attitude towards oneself, it leads to high self-esteem. Conversely, if individuals think lowly of themselves after the self-evaluation, they will have low self-esteem.

Self-esteem influences how individuals act the degree of their achievement. Those with high self-esteem achieve more unlike those whose self-esteem is low.

Bad childhood experiences, violence, loss of a close family member, and emotional neglect could lead to low self-esteem.


This is the belief in ones ability to succeed in specific situations. It is the measure of ones ability to complete tasks and reach goals. It, therefore, affects every aspect of an individual’s life. Self-efficacy influences the choices of an individual as well as the power an individual posses to face difficult situations. It affects an individual’s motivation, choices on behavior, health behaviours, academic productivity, and thought patterns and responses. Various factors affect self efficacy; they include social persuasion – this is the direct encouragement or discouragement from another person. Encouragement increases self-efficacy while discouragement decreases it.

Experience – this raises an individual’s self-efficacy, while failure lowers it.

Modeling – a process when individuals see others succeeding, it raises their self-efficacy and when they see other people failing, it decreases their self efficacy.

Physiological factors – this is an individual’s belief in the implication of a physiological response which either increasers or decreases self efficacy.

Thinking about Others


This is a social psychology concept that addresses the processes by which individuals explain the causes of behavior and events.

Explanatory attribution – this is one of the categories of attribution theory. People make explanations in order to try and understand what is happening or has happened around them or make attempts to find reasons behind a particular event or situation. For istance, a commercial vehicle owner could attribute the breakdown of his/her vehicle to careless driving by the driver, while, in fact, it could have been as a result of lack of servicing the vehicle. Attributing the occurrence of an event to something or someone the individual feels settled and comfortable.

Internal attribution – This is also called dispositional attribution; in this case, an individual blames the occurrence of an event on factors, forces or agents that are within his or her control. This could be the individual’s attitude, character or personality.

External attribution –In this case an individual blames an external factor for an event that has happened. For example, an employee could attribute his failure to meet a project’s deadline to poor performance by his co-workers, claiming that he had to redo all the work the co-workers handed in.

Attitudes and Behaviour

An attitude is a learned tendency to evaluate objects, people issues or events in a certain way. Though such evaluations can be uncertain, they are often, either positive or negative. An attitude has three components; these include the emotional component, involving how people, objects or events make an individual feel; the cognitive component, an individual’s thoughts and beliefs about the subject; and the behavioral component, which includes how individual’s attitude influences the individual’s behaviour. Attitude can be implicit or explicit. Explicit attitudes are the ones that an individual is aware of and they affect his/her behavior and beliefs.   Implicit attitudes are those that an individual is not aware of, they are unconscious, but nevertheless influence an individual’s beliefs and behaviours.

Human Behavior

This refers to a range of behaviors portrayed by humans who are influenced by an individual’s culture, values and emotions.

Relationship Between Attitude and Behavior

An individual who has strong attitude towards an attitude object is most likely going to have strong intensions to act on their attitudes. The intention to engage in an activity strongly predicts the behavior of an individual, thus attitudes influence behavior.

Prejudice, Stereotypes and Discrimination

Prejudice refers to the unjustifiable attitude towards members of a certain group. This negative attitude can not be justified through logical thinking. Prejudice makes people treat others in a certain way.

Stereotype refers to the beliefs, positive or negative, that individuals hold towards objects or other social groups. Such beliefs influence their actions and interactions towards people from that group. For istance, if an individual holds a stereotype that members of a certain community engage in witchcraft, it will affect the extent to which the individual will interact with members of that community.

Discrimination refers to the unjustifiable negative behaviour towards members of certain groups. Prejudice and stereotype lead to discrimination.

These three things influence people’s lives in a number of ways. For istance, stereotypes influence individual’s academic performance where individuals think that certain subjects are too hard to understand and excel in.

Influencing Others

Persuasion Techniques

Persuasion involves influencing an individual or a group of individuals to act or behave in a certain way. Persuasion is common in every day life as people try to make others see things from a different point of view.

These are the various tools that are used to achieve persuasion:

 i. Create a need. This involves the persuader trying to create a need of what he/she is championing for in the person who is being persuaded. They include the following:

 ii. Appealing to social needs. This involves associating a product or an idea with something or someone who is widely respected and accepted. As a result, the target group will be persuaded as they want to associate with a particular brand or celebrity.

iii. Use of loaded words and images. This involves the use of persuasive words and images that will have an appealing effect to the person being persuaded. This is mostly used in advertisements.

iv. Moral appeal. This involves linking the product or the idea that is being championed for to widely accepted values.

v. Emotional appeal. This involves making the person who is being persuaded to be aroused emotionally by showing them that they need what one is talking about for completeness.

Characteristics of the Persuader

i. Knowledge. A good persuader must have the entire information o what he/she is talking about. They must have the required facts, figures and statistics to make their case.

ii. Enthusiasm. In order to persuade somebody, the persuader needs to believe in what he/she is talking about and speak about it with passion and energy.

 iii. Belief. An effective persuader believes in himself/herself and what he/she is talking about.

i.  Empathy. A good persuader should put himself/herself in the situation and circumstances of the one being persuaded.

ii.  Consistency. A good persuader is the one who is consistent in what he/she says does and promises to do.

iii. Persistence. A good persuader does not give up easily. He/she comes up with new ways of handling objections until achieves his/her objective.

Characteristics of a Persuasive Message

For a message to be persuasive it should have the following properties: it should have emotional and rational appeal, it should motivate the listener/reader to take action, have facts to support it, be objective, and display good intentions.

Characteristics of a Good Audience

Among others, a good audience does not distract the speaker, pays attention to the speaker and what is being said, asks appropriate questions, and provides helpful feedback.

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Influencing Others – Obedience and Conformity

Obedience is the change in behavior as a result of commands of authority (Brehm, Kassin, & Fein,1999).

Factors that lead to obedience

Authority figure. Physical presence influences the degree of obedience.

Escalation of harm. If levels of potential harm of disobeying go up, individuals tend to obey more.

Personal responsibility. If individuals are made to take personal responsibility of their actions, levels of obedience tend to drop.

Conformity. This is the tendency to change our perception, opinions or behavior in a manner that is consistent with group norms (Brehm, Kassin, & Fein, 1999)

Factors that Lead to Conformity

There are several forces that lead to conformity. These include informational influence awareness on norms, presence of a friend and normative influence – conforming for fear of negative social implications if they don’t conform.

Aggressive Behavior

Aggression refers to the behavior that is intended to harm other individual who does not want to be harmed. Intent is a very important component for behavior to be qualified as aggressive. Aggressive behavior may be exhibited by emotional abuse, verbal threats, shouting, and harassment among others. Various theories try to explain aggressive behavior. There is one that proposes that aggression is a learned behaviour. This theory suggests that aggression is learned through direct experience or observation. The second theory associates aggression with frustration. Proponents of this theory argue that individuals are more likely to result in aggression if they are frustrated in achieving their goals. The third theory takes aggression as an instinct, arguing that individuals are born with aggression instinct.

Aggression Cues

These include emotional arousal – threat, use of alcohol, time pressure, and watching aggressive models.

Pro Social Behavior

These are human behaviors that are intended to help other people. Such behaviors are characterised by an individual’s concern on beliefs, rights and welfare of others by behaving in such a way that other people are going to benefit.

Relationship Building, Love and Attraction

In order to build relationship, two or more individuals have to be involved. Individuals must start by respecting and appreciating each other. For people to successfully build relationships, they must focus on each other’s interest as well as try to expand their mutual interest. Love and attraction play a very important role in relationship building.

Elements of a Group

A group refers to two or more individuals who are connected to one another by social relationship (Hart, 1994), which makes them independent to a certain degree.

Types of Groups

Groups are classified according to structure or purpose. The following are the common types of groups.

Primary groups –these are formed by people who are very close to one another physically such as family members and friends.

Secondary groupsare formed by people who rarely come into contact with each other. They are basically formal in nature and their members only meet once in a while. Example is trade unions for employees. Groups can also be categorized as either planned or emergent. Planned groups are specifically formed to pursue a specific purpose. Emergent groups come into being somehow spontaneously without prior arrangement. In this case, individuals come to form a group as a result of unplanned interactions which make members to socialize and know each other.

Consequences of Groupthink

Groupthink may occur when a group takes a faulty decision as a result of group pressures leading to deterioration of reality testing, mental efficiency and moral judgment (Irving, 1972).The following are some of the consequences of group think:

i. Low likelihood of successful income

ii. Poor information search

iii. Failure to work out contingency plans

iv. Failure to examine the risks involved in the preferred choice

v. Selective bias in information processing.

Dilemmas Arising From Groupthink

i. Potential cost to social role – losing personal identity

ii. Deindividualization – people become less accountable which increases obedience to group norms.

Future of Social Psycholog

Information processing, social identity and self-classification are more likely to receive research attention as we move forward, partially because of their ability to order seemingly incongruent findings. Changes in social dynamics and technology are expected to change and, therefore, to trigger researches on those areas.


From the above discussions, it is evident that human behaviour is a complex field which is also greatly affected by life’s dynamics. It should be the endeavor of every individual to understand themselves and others to promote productive human interactions.