Social psychology is the scientific study of how people's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others. By this definition, scientific refers to the empirical method of investigation. The terms thoughts, feelings, and behaviors include all of the psychological variables that are measurable in a human being. The statement that others may be imagined or implied suggests that we are prone to social influence even when no other people are present, such as when watching television, or following internalized cultural norms (Maiman, 2007).
Social psychologists typically explain human behavior as a result of the interaction of mental states and immediate social situations. In general, social psychologists have a preference for laboratory based empirical findings. Their theories tend to be specific and focused, rather than global and general (Maiman, 2007).
1. Theory of Planned Behavior; discipline of social psychology as applied to health
The theory of planned behavior states that people's behavior is determined by their intention to perform a given behavior (Janz, 2004). Intentions are the most immediate antecedents to a behavior and represent the convergence of the cognitive, motivational, and affective internal processes associated with a given behavior. Intention is considered the best predictor of a deliberate behavior. The theory of planned behavior postulates that intentions are a function of three factors: attitudes toward the behavior, subjective norms, and perceived control over the behavior. Attitudes refer to beliefs about the outcomes associated with performing a particular behavior. Subjective norms refer to perceptions about how others would judge a person for performing the behavior. Perceived control is the self-assessment of both the capability or skill and the opportunity to perform the behavior. Positive attitudes, social approbation, self-efficacy, and decisional autonomy combine to strengthen the intention and therefore the likelihood of performing a behavior (Janz, 2004). Social psychology is the study of the nature and causes of human social behavior, with an emphasis on how people think towards each other and how they relate to each other. Social Psychology aims to understand how we make sense of social situations. For example, this could involve the influence of others on an individual's behavior (e.g., conformity or persuasion), the perception and understanding of social cues, or the formation of attitudes or stereotypes about other people (Hochbaum, 2006). Social cognition is a common approach and involves a mostly cognitive and scientific approach to understanding social behavior. A related area is community psychology, which examines psychological and mental health issues on the level of the community rather than using the individual as the unit of measurement. "Sense of community" has become its conceptual center (Harrison, 2002).
The theory of planned behavior also provides a model for behavior modification in addition to prediction. Assessing people's attitudes, norms, and perceived control, all of which underpin their intention to perform a given behavior, can reveal information that may be applied to create communication strategies to alter these elements and thereby intention and ...