Social Psychology - Theory

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Social psychology is a branch of study that focuses on the behavior and interactions of people in a group. The psychological aspect of the study deals with thoughts, feelings, behaviors, attitudes, etc. laying specific emphasis on interactions between individuals and different situations.


A group gives each of its members an identity and a role. Group identity gives an individual improved self-esteem, confidence level and sense of belonging. The individual is also socially and culturally influenced by the group.
This study was conducted in 1971 by Philip Zimbardo of Stanford University, California, along with a group of researchers. It was a dramatic simulation of prison life conducted to study the behavior of good people when placed in an evil setting, to learn if humanity would prevail over evil or vice versa, etc. (Zimbardo). The independent variable in the study was the conditions the participants were assigned, the dependent variable being their consequent behavior (Haney, Banks and Zimbardo). The study was stopped halfway through due to the grim effects seen in the participants where the "guards" had become sadistic and the "prisoners" extremely depressed.
The experiment was funded by the US Navy with a view to study the causes of conflict between the guards and prisoners in the naval prisons. Up until then, there was a belief that the guards entered their jobs with a "guard mentality" and were basically sadistic and insensitive whereas the prisoners were aggressive people with no respect for law. The study, however, disproved this dispositional hypothesis. ...
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