THE RELEVENT OF SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY TO SOCIAL WORK
In psychology, 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 psychological variables that are measurable in a human being. The statement that others’ presence 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. 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. Social psychology theories tend to be specific and focused, rather than global and general.
Social psychologists therefore deal with the factors that lead us to behave in a given way in the presence of others, and look at the conditions under which certain behavior/actions and feelings occur. Social psychology is concerned with the way these feelings, thoughts, beliefs, intentions and goals are constructed and how such psychological factors, in turn, influence our interactions with others.
Social psychology is an interdisciplinary domain that bridges the gap between psychology and sociology. During the years immediately following World War II, there was frequent collaboration between psychologists and sociologists. However, the two disciplines have become increasingly specialized and isolated from each other in recent years, with sociologists focusing on “macro variables” (e.g., social structure) to a much greater extent. Nevertheless, sociological approaches to social psychology remain an important counterpart to psychological research in this area.
According to psychologist Gordon Allport, social psychology is a discipline that uses scientific methods “to understand and explain how the thought, feeling and behavior of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined or implied presence of other human beings” (1985).
Social psychology looks at a wide range of social topics, including group behavior, social perception, leadership, nonverbal behavior, conformity, aggression, and prejudice. It is important to note that social psychology is not just about looking at social influences. Social perception and social interaction are also vital to understanding social behavior.
Social work is a profession concerned with helping individuals, families, groups and communities to enhance their individual and collective well-being. It aims to help people develop their skills and their ability to use their own resources and those of the community to resolve problems. Social work is concerned with individual and personal problems but also with broader social issues such as poverty, unemployment and domestic violence.
Human rights and social justice are the philosophical underpinnings of social work practice. The uniqueness of social work practice is in the blend of some particular values, knowledge and skills, including the use of relationship as the basis of all interventions and respect for the client’s choice and involvement.
In a socio-political-economic context which increasingly generates insecurity and social tensions, social workers play an important and essential role.
Social work has its roots in the social and economic upheaval wrought by the Industrial Revolution, in particular the societal struggle to deal with poverty and its resultant problems. Because poverty was the main focus of early social work, it was intricately linked with the idea of charity work. For instance, it is common for modern social workers to find themselves dealing with consequences arising from other “social problems” such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and discrimination based on age or on physical or mental disability. Social work is an interdisciplinary profession, meaning it draws from a number of areas, such as (but not limited to) psychology, sociology, criminology, economics, ecology, education, health, law, philosophy, anthropology and counselling or colloquially known as psychotherapy. It is not a ‘single model’, such as that of health; followed by medical professional such as nurses and doctors, thus, social work requires study and continued professional development to retain knowledge and skills in practice. As an example, here are some of the social work models (or theories) used within practice:
RELEVNCE OF SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY TO SOCIAL WORK
The discipline of social psychology began in the United States at the dawn of the 20th century. However, the discipline had already developed a significant foundation. Following the 18th century, those in the emerging field of social psychology were concerned with developing concrete explanations for different aspects of human nature. They desired to discover concrete cause and effect relationships that explained the social interactions in the world around them. In order to do so, they believed that the scientific method, an empirically based scientific measure, could be applied to human behavior so relating it to social work is like a profession and academic discipline that seeks to improve the quality of life and subjective well-being of individuals, groups, and communities through research, policy, community organizing, direct practice, crisis intervention, and teaching for the benefit of those affected by social disadvantages such as poverty, mental and physical illness or disability, and social injustice, including violations of their civil liberties and human rights.
A person who practices social work is called a social worker. Social psychology reached a more mature level in both theories and methods during the 1980s and 1990s. Careful ethical standards now regulate research. Pluralistic and multicultural perspectives have emerged. Modern researchers are interested in many phenomena, but attribution, social cognition, and the self-concept are perhaps the greatest areas of growth in recent years. Social psychologists have also maintained their applied interests with contributions in health, environmental, and legal psychology which can be seen as social work or status in terms of academic preference.
In social psychology, social work are defined as learned, global evaluations of a person, object, place, or issue that influence thought and action. Put more simply, social work are basic of expressions for approval or disapproval, favorability or unfavourability, or as Bem put it, likes and dislikes. Examples would include liking chocolate ice cream, being against abortion, or endorsing the values of a particular political party.
Social psychologists have studied social work formation, the structure of attitudes and status in our society, attitude change, the function of attitudes, and the relationship between attitudes and behavior. Because people are influenced by the situation, general attitudes are not always good predictors of specific behavior. For a variety of reasons, a person may value the environment but not recycle a can on a particular day. Attitudes that are well remembered and central to our self-concept, however, are more likely to lead to behaviors, and measures of general attitudes do predict patterns of behavior over time.
In recent times, research on attitudes has examined the distinction between traditional, self-reported attitude measures and “implicit” or unconscious attitudes. For example, experiments using the Implicit Association Test have found that people often demonstrate implicit bias against other races, even when their explicit responses reveal equal mindedness. One study found that explicit attitudes correlate with verbal behavior in interracial interactions, whereas implicit attitudes correlate with nonverbal behavior.
One hypothesis on how attitudes are formed, first advanced by Abraham Tesser in 1983, is that strong likes and dislikes are rooted in our genetic make-up. Tesser speculates that individuals are disposed to hold certain strong attitudes as a result of inborn physical, sensory, and cognitive skills, temperament, and personality traits. Whatever disposition nature elects to give us, our most treasured attitudes are often formed as a result of exposure to attitude objects; our history of rewards and punishments; the attitude that our parents, friends, and enemies express; the social and cultural context in which we live; and other types of experiences we have. Obviously, attitudes are formed through the basic process of learning. Numerous studies have shown that people can form strong positive and negative attitudes toward neutral objects that are in some way linked to emotionally charged stimuli.
Social psychology is an empirical science that attempts to answer questions about human behavior by testing hypotheses, both in the laboratory and in the field. Careful attention to sampling, research design, and statistical analysis is important; results are published in peer reviewed journals such as the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin and the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Social psychology studies also appear in general science journals such as Psychological Science and Science.
Experimental methods involve the researcher altering a variable in the environment and measuring the effect on another variable. An example would be allowing two groups of children to play violent or nonviolent videogames, and then observing their subsequent level of aggression during free-play period. A valid experiment is controlled and uses random assignment
Social psychology has recently found itself at the center of a “replication crisis” due to some research findings proving difficult to replicate. Replication failures are not unique to social psychology and are found in all fields of science. However, several factors have combined to put social psychology at the center of the current controversy.
Firstly, questionable researcher practices (QRP) have been identified as common in the field. Such practices, while not intentionally fraudulent, involve converting undesired statistical outcomes into desired outcomes via the manipulation of statistical analyses, sample size or data management, typically to convert non-significant findings into significant ones. Some studies have suggested that at least mild versions of QRP are highly prevalent. One of the critics of Daryl Bem in the feeling the future controversy has suggested that the evidence for precognition in this study could (at least in part) be attributed to QRP.
Secondly, social psychology has found itself at the center of several recent scandals involving outright fraudulent research. Most notably the admitted data fabrication by Diederik Stapel as well as allegations against others. However, most scholars acknowledge that fraud is, perhaps, the lesser contribution to replication crises.
Third, several effects in social psychology have been found to be difficult to replicate even before the current replication crisis. For example the scientific journal Judgment and Decision Making has published several studies over the years that fail to provide support for the unconscious thought theory. Replications appear particularly difficult when research trials are pre-registered and conducted by research groups not highly invested in the theory under questioning.
These three elements together have resulted in renewed attention for replication supported by Kahneman. Scrutiny of many effects has shown that several core beliefs are hard to replicate. A recent special edition of the journal Social Psychology focused on replication studies and a number of previously held beliefs were found to be difficult to replicate. A 2012 special edition of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science also focused on issues ranging from publication bias to null-aversion that contribute to the replication crises in psychology.
It is important to note that this replication crisis does not mean that social psychology is unscientific. Rather this process is a healthy if sometimes acrimonious part of the scientific process in which old ideas or those that cannot withstand careful scrutiny are pruned. The consequence is that some areas of social psychology once considered solid, such as social priming, have come under increased scrutiny due to failed replications.
Currently, social work is known for its critical and holistic approach to understanding and intervening in social problems. This has led, for example, to the recognition of poverty as having a social and economic basis rooted in social policies rather than representing a personal moral defect. This trend also points to another historical development in the evolution of social work: once a profession engages in social control, it is directed at social and personal empowerment. This is not to say that modern social workers do not engage in social control (consider, for example, child protection workers), and many, if not most, social workers likely would agree that there is an ongoing tension between these forces within the profession. For example, see the debate between structural social work and humanistic social work.
What is it that shapes our attitudes? Why are some people such great leaders? How does prejudice develop and how can we overcome it? These are just a few of the big questions of interest in the field of social psychology. What exactly is social psychology and what do social psychologists do? The goal of social psychology as well as it relevance to social work is to understand cognition and behavior as they naturally occur in a social context, but the very act of observing people can influence and alter their behavior. For this reason, many social psychology experiments utilize deception to conceal or distort certain aspects of the study. Deception may include false cover stories, false participants (known as confederates or stooges), false feedback given to the participants, and so on.
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