This list of social psychology topics performs two functions. One, the headings alone describe, at a broad level, the kinds of topics covered in the field of social psychology. Looking at the overarching categories, one can see that social psychology studies cognition (thought) and action, helpful and hurtful behaviors, emotions and decisions, culture and evolution, the self and social relationships, as well as health and problematic behaviors. That’s quite a range of topics! The second purpose of the list of social psychology research topics is related to the first in that it helps readers who are already interested in a topic find new topics that may be of interest. In this way, the list provides links among topics.
Social Psychology Research Topics List
Social psychology is the scientific study of how people think about, influence, and relate to one another. By studying social thinking, social psychologists examine how, and how accurately, we view ourselves and others. By studying social influence, social psychologists examine subtle forces related to conformity, persuasion, and group influence that pull our strings. By studying social relations, social psychologists examine what leads people to hate and hurt one another, or to love and help one another.
Social psychology as a field lies between personality psychology and sociology. Metaphorically speaking, personality psychologists study boats, sociologists study the ocean, and social psychologists study how those boats float. When a person (boat) arrives in an environment (ocean), social psychologists want to understand how they move on the winds and currents.
Social psychology considers many of the same questions as those sociology considers but favors answers that focus on the individual actors (such as the way they perceive their situations) rather than on answers that apply to the group level (such as poverty or family cohesion). It is also distinct from personality psychology, being less interested in individual differences (such as in aggressiveness or unhappiness), though it often considers individual differences that interact with situations (such as when a person with high self-esteem responds to a relationship threat by liking his or her partner more).
Social psychological work has been applied to a great many real-world settings. Researchers have brought it to the study of health behaviors, such as smoking and use of condoms, and in doing so have offered practical advances. They have spearheaded, for example, graphic pictures of decayed teeth and lungs on boxes of cigarettes in Canada. Political psychologists have, likewise, been interested in models of persuasion and attitude formation and change. Organizational psychologists have applied social psychological theories of group processes, satisfaction, and enjoyment to the context of the work place.
Law is another area that has seen widespread application of social psychological research. Psychological work has revealed that eyewitness identification, long a linchpin of legal evidence, is often flawed. It is often very difficult for people to accurately identify even those at whom they have had a good long look. Research has been used to improve identification lineup procedures to produce fairer results with fewer false positives, for example by instructing witnesses that the suspect may or may not be in the lineup. Social psychologists have also been involved in great controversies over the accuracy of “recovered memories”—recollections of past abuse that people believe they have rediscovered later in life. Research shows that, though some such cases may be genuine, some are almost certainly not, as it is not difficult to create false memories in people.