Glossary - Social Psychology

30-Second Psychology: The 50 Most Thought-provoking Psychology Theories, Each Explained in Half a Minute - Christian Jarrett 2011

Social Psychology

dehumanize A process whereby a person or a group of people is regarded as subhuman and therefore not deserving of the same rights accorded to other people. The process is usually triggered by a difference in skin colour, religion or intelligence. The classic example is the treatment of Jews by the Nazis, but more recent examples include the relationship between Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda and between the Serbs and other groups in the former Yugoslavia.

group polarization The tendency of a group of like-minded people to adopt views that are more extreme than they would be expected to adopt as individuals. This happens when the group is highly energized, dissent is suppressed, and events appear to take on a life of their own. The result of this group dynamic can affect the decision of juries and lead to extreme action, such as mob lynchings.

hypothesis A theoretical explanation of a phenomenon, often predicting the outcome given a certain set of circumstances. Most scientific theories start off as hypotheses and, once they are proved, become theories.

individuality The sum of the characteristics of a person or thing that distinguishes them from others in the same group. Societies can be characterized as individualistic or collective, with most Western countries placing greater emphasis on individuality, while Asian countries encourage collectivism.

intergroup Taking place between two or more social groups. Intergroup relations play an important part in understanding social conflict, such as in black-Latino neighbourhoods in the United States. How people behave within a group can differ significantly from how they behave as individuals outside the group.

outgroup A group which is not part of one’s own social grouping. An ingroup is a group of which one is either a member, or of which one aspires to be a member. All other groups are outgroups and are usually regarded with varying degrees of disdain or suspicion. The concept comes from social identity theory, which was developed by the sociologist Henri Tajfel and others in the 1970s to explain the origins of racial prejudice.

pathological Literally, something relating to pathology, or the study of disease. In psychology, it refers to behaviour caused by or indicating mental illness. Colloquially, it usually refers to behaviour that is considered excessive or well beyond the norm.

personality profile Summary of a person’s personality usually conducted through some form of psychological testing. The results are matched to certain established types that are intended to predict a person’s behaviour.

prototypical Relating to a prototype, or something that is most representative of a certain category. Thus, a hammer might be a prototypical tool. Other objects within that category can then be arranged according to their relationship to the prototype, for example, a screwdriver is smaller and lighter.

schizophrenia A psychiatric diagnosis associated with abnormalities in several of the brain’s neurotransmitters. Typically, the condition is marked by a distorted view of reality, an inability to function socially, withdrawal from society, hearing voices and delusions of grandeur. Sub-categories include: paranoid, disorganized, catatonic, undifferentiated and residual schizophrenia.

self-esteem How people regard themselves. Someone with good self-esteem has a high sense of their own worth, whereas someone with poor self-esteem has a low sense of their own worth. Self-esteem has powerful impact on a person’s behaviour.

social identity The ways in which a person categorizes themselves and others. There are four main strands: self-identity (a person’s religious belief, their job), group identity (following a football team, joining a political party), comparison (comparing themselves with other groups), and psychological distinctiveness (their personal characteristics). A combination of these form a person’s social identity. The theory was developed by Henri Tajfel in the 1970s.

systemic Being part of a larger system, rather than an isolated occurrence. Systemic psychology considers that people develop partly through their individual consciousness and partly through communication with others, giving them contact with the wider ’system’. The theory is an offshoot of systems theory and was developed by Gregory Bateson in the 1970s.