Psychology, Social Essay

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Social Psychology Social psychology (or the social approach) is interested in studying individuals in a social context, such as family, friends, institutions, and wider society. Social behaviour may involve activity within a group or between groups. According to social psychologists our behaviour is influenced by the actual, imagined or implied presence of others. One of the debates in psychology is whether an individual's behaviour is a result of their personality or their social context. As you will see from looking at the three core studies in this section of the course, the authors of the studies emphasise the importance of the social context in shaping behaviour. Reicher and Haslam carried out this experimental case study to examine the consequences of randomly dividing men into groups of prisoners and guards within a specially constructed institution over a period of 8 days. Unlike the prisoners, the guards failed to identify with their role. This made the guards reluctant to impose their authority and they were eventually overcome by the prisoners. Participants then established an egalitarian social system. When this proved unsustainable, moves to impose a tyrannical regime met with weakening resistance. Haslam and Reicher suggest that it is powerlessness and the failure of groups that makes tyranny psychologically acceptable. Background Stephen Reicher and Alexander Haslam set out to outline a theoretical framework for understanding tyranny. Reicher and Haslam define tyranny as an unequal social system involving the arbitrary or oppressive use of power by one group or its agents over another. Stephen Reicher and Alexander Haslam carried out this ambitious social psychological experiment in conjunction with the BBC in December 2001. In part the study was aiming to revisit some of the issues raised by a study carried out nearly 30 years

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