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  1. Applications of Social Psychology in Health & Law |
  2. Health Services
  3. Chapter 1: The Problem of Scientific Laws in Modern Social Psychology
  4. Social Psychology

Although personality psychology has traditionally focused on aspects of the individual, and social psychology on aspects of the situation, the two perspectives are tightly interwoven in psychological explanations of human behavior. How do they study them? At some level, we are all personality and social psychologists, observing our social worlds and trying to understand why people behave, think, and feel as they do. In the aftermath of schoolyard shootings we can hardly help but hypothesize why it happened. We do the same thing when we encounter less dramatic events in our everyday lives: Why is that person smiling at me?

Will my professor be a hard grader? How might I persuade my neighbor to keep his cats off my car? But personality and social psychologists go beyond pondering such questions and their possible answers.

Applications of Social Psychology in Health & Law |

If the lives of individuals and social groups are full of mystery, then personality and social psychologists are the detectives investigating these mysteries. Systematically observing and describing people's actions, measuring or manipulating aspects of social situations, these sleuths use the methods of science to reveal the answers to the kinds of puzzling questions we each encounter every day. Scientists in all fields distinguish between basic and applied research. Basic research in personality and social psychology tends to focus on fundamental questions about people and their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Where does an individual's personality come from? What causes us to fall in love, hate our neighbor, or join with others to clean our neighborhoods?

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How are the psychologies of being male and female similar, how are they different, and why? How does culture shape who we become and how we interact with one another? Questions such as these aim at the very heart of human nature. Applied research in personality and social psychology focuses on more narrow arenas of human life, such as health, business, and law. By employing the lessons learned from basic research, and by searching for insights specific to particular domains, applied research often seeks to enhance the quality of our everyday lives.

Personality and social psychologists contribute to areas as diverse as health, business, law, the environment, education, and politics. For example, personality and social psychologists have designed, implemented, and evaluated programs to help employers hire and train better workers; to make it easier for people with cancer to cope successfully with their challenge; to increase the likelihood that people will reduce pollution by relying on public transportation; to reduce prejudices and intergroup conflict in the classroom and in international negotiations; to make computers and other technologies more user-friendly; and to make many other societal contributions as well.

Of course, the distinction between basic and applied research is often a fuzzy one. One can certainly perform basic research in applied domains, and the findings from each type of research enrich the other. Indeed, it would be fair to say that most personality and social psychologists have both basic and applied interests.

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How do you become a personality or social psychologist? Although some personality and social psychologists go to graduate school to earn a terminal masters degree M. For some careers, a masters degree may be sufficient.

Social Psychology Key Figures

Generally, however, the doctorate is preferred by employers and is usually necessary for employment as a professor at a university or college. Most Ph. The goal of most programs is similar: To prepare each student to become an independent, professional researcher. As a result, most programs teach the conceptual foundations and knowledge of the discipline, develop the student's ability to think theoretically, and train the student in research methodology, data analysis, and research writing and presentation.

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Programs differ, however, in the areas of research they focus on and in their emphasis on training students for academic versus nonacademic careers. Because graduate training revolves around research, it is important that students pay particular attention to the specific faculty members with whom they are likely to work.

Prospective students should give full consideration not only to the perspectives and research activities of a potential graduate program on the whole, but also to those of their probable faculty mentors.

Chapter 1: The Problem of Scientific Laws in Modern Social Psychology

Admission to graduate programs in personality and social psychology is very competitive; there are far more applicants than openings most programs enroll just a few new students each year. As a result, entry qualifications are rigorous: Most admitted students have earned high undergraduate grades and a bachelor's degree from an accredited university or college; many have been undergraduate psychology majors, although this isn't a requirement in many programs; most have had experience doing psychology research; most have demonstrated strong quantitative, verbal, and analytical abilities, as revealed in their scores on the Graduate Record Exam GRE ; and most have been evaluated by their undergraduate teachers in confidential letters of recommendation as being smart, talented, creative, hard-working, and conscientious.

Psychology 101: Psychology and the Law

Of course, different programs have different standards and criteria for admission, and the prospective student should explore those articulated by programs of interest. Most personality and social psychology programs provide financial assistance to their graduate students in the form of teaching or research assistantships, and many schools waive tuition and fees at the graduate level.

This, too, varies from school to school. Because personality and social psychologists combine an understanding of human behavior with training in sophisticated research methods, they have many opportunities for employment. Search within my subject: Select Politics Urban Studies U. History Law Linguistics Literature. Music Neuroscience Philosophy Physical Sciences. Social Psychology and the Law.

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  8. Search within In This Article 7. Abstract and Keywords Research in psychological science, specifically social psychology, has challenged many of the law's assumptions about human behaviour. All rights reserved. Sign in to annotate. Delete Cancel Save.