What goes on in the mind when people get together?

Man is a social animal, and as such, it is very important to understand the psychology of how we interact with each other, or act as a group rather than as an individual.

Social psychology is concerned with studying the way people interact within groups. Given that most people work with other people, social interaction is natural at work. Some of this is informal, such as conversations with colleagues. Other contacts are more formal, such as the interaction of a working group carrying out a specific task in an organisation.

Social psychology can also involve interactions in other groups as well (e.g. social, clubs, societies, associations, churches, families, etc); though the main focus of this lesson should be interactions in a work situation.

Work groups are different in that they are compulsory groups, and the individual does not have much opportunity to choose whether to participate or not in the group.

Individuals differ from each other in many ways -physically, mentally, and psychologically -but just as individuals differ so within a group. They differ according to the physical work which the group is performing as a whole, or according to the mentality and psychological make up of the members. A group can be called a collection of people, but no two collections of people are the same. The differences between some groups may be very large (e.g. the difference between a temporary group and a permanent highly organised group.

Study Social Psychology Concepts

  • Explore how people interact with each other
  • Understanding the interactions between individuals and groups of individuals can provide very helpful insights into managing people at work, home and play.


There are ten lessons in this module as follows:
  1. Social cognition
  2. The self
  3. Attribution and perception of others
  4. Attitudes and attitude change
  5. Prejudice, discrimination and stereotypes
  6. Interpersonal attraction
  7. Helping behaviour
  8. Aggression
  9. Groups
  10. Cultural influences


Duration: 100 hours



  • To determine how physical characteristics and non-verbal behaviour affect our formation of impressions of others, and how that information is processed;
  • To understand the sociological perspective of the self and how we relate to others;
  • To discuss attribution theory, the internal and external causes, and its role in self-perception and the perception of others;
  • To understand the emergence of attitudes, changes in attitude, and the effect of attitudes upon behaviour and use as predictors of behaviour;
  • To discuss the emergence of prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination from the perspective of social psychology and attitudes;
  • To understand the influence of physicality, similarity, familiarity and proximity on interpersonal relationships;
  • To understand helping behaviour through the influences of conformity, compliance, obedience and diffusion of responsibility;
  • To define social psychological theories of aggression and to apply those theories;
  • To understand the nature of group behaviour and to demonstrate awareness of group cognition;
  • To understand the effect of culture on behaviour of individuals and groups.



  • Define 'social cognition';
  • Determine the possible impression a jury might have of defendants and the social basis of those impressions;
  • List the three general biases that may affect the jury's "attributions and explanations" and briefly describe each one;
  • Different types of schema;
  • Explain why people are motivated to justify their own actions belief and feelings;
  • Explain 'cognitive dissonance';
  • Explain how can the desire for self-consistency influences our self-perception;
  • Determine the purposes served by dissonance -reducing behaviour;
  • Identify factors that form self-concept;
  • Describe attribution theory;
  • Describe how discounting principles relate to our perception of others;
  • Identify the fundamental attribution error;
  • Discuss how we use attribution to protect our self esteem;
  • Discuss how consistency, consensus and distinctiveness help to form our explanations of another person's behaviour;
  • Explain how attitudes develop;
  • Discuss how attitudes affect behaviour;
  • Explain what makes people prejudiced;
  • Explain how physicality influences our behaviour;
  • Discuss the principle of similarity;
  • Explain how familiarity and proximity influence the development of friendship;
  • Explain why people conform;
  • Discuss Millgram's experiment on obedience;
  • Explain why is a lone person more likely to help than a person in a group;
  • Discuss how conformity, compliance, obedience and diffusion of responsibility influence helping behaviour;
  • List the causes of aggression;
  • Explain the concept of group polarization;
  • Discuss how group decision-making influences conformity;
  • Examine the influence of culture and society on each other.

Do You Understand the Role of Prejudice in Social Psychology?

Prejudice is an attitude that we hold toward a person, group or thing based on our evaluation of them. We develop prejudices because we tend to judge, usually, with limited information. Such behaviour can have distinct survival value, encouraging us to make quick decisions when faced with something out of the ordinary or different from us as to whether it is safe or unsafe, and whether we should run, fight, or remain still. 

If we come face to face with a large man during our evening walk, and pre-judge (which is what prejudice causes us to do) this person based on his clothing, haircut and facial expression as potentially dangerous, we might take action that will save us from a robbery, or from being attacked. If we never formed such pre-judgments based on equally skimpy information, we might find ourselves in frequent trouble and danger.

Most prejudice, however, has little to do with responses to real danger, though it can and does cause us to imagine all sorts of dangers from those against whom we have formed a prejudice. Racism is one form of prejudice that is nurtured by people’s real (though often baseless) fears of people of other races, including the fear that they will take jobs, make property values fall, kidnap children (as gypsies were alleged to do), or corrupt women or youth, or both. 

The reason that prejudice allows us to make quick judgement is that it is based on a limited number of selected traits: skin colour, gender, type of clothing worn, level of education, sexual orientation, religion, age, physical size, place of residence, lifestyle, even simply eye colour. These traits are taken as representative of the whole group, and as a basis for making particular judgments about all members of the group. Because the selection of representative traits is essentially arbitrary (it really doesn’t matter which are selected) several people who are prejudiced against the same group of people might select quite different traits as the justification for their attitude. One person might find the religion most offensive, another, the food they eat, and yet another, how they dress and look.

Functions of Prejudice

A prejudice is a negative belief or feeling about a particular group or individual. Prejudices can often be passed on from one generation to the next. Prejudice is such a pervasive and destructive phenomena, because it serves so many social, economic and psychological functions.  
  • Prejudice allows people to avoid fear and doubt. 
  • It gives people scapegoats in times of trouble. An example of this was the abuse of the Jewish people, people with disabilities, people with mental health issues, the Romany people and other groups within German society prior to World War II. Germany had undergone a period of economic recession and these groups were scapegoated (or blamed) for this recession.  
  • Prejudice can boost self-esteem.  
  • In the late nineteenth century, poor White farmers were allowed to feel superior about their own poor existence, because they felt superior to the African-American slaves they owned. 
  • Prejudice legitimizes discrimination as it apparently justifies the dominance of one group over another.
  • For example, supposedly “scientific” arguments suggesting the mental inferiority of African-American slaves, “allowed” white owners to feel “justified” about owning the slaves.
    Evolutionary psychologists suggest that prejudice allows people to bond with their own group by contrasting their own group with outsider groups. 
  • For example, many religious and ethnic groups hold some prejudices against other groups, to help their own group appear more “special”. 



Just go to the top of this page for pricing and enrolment options. If you have any questions you can contact us now, by:
Phone (UK) 01384 44272, (International) +44 (0) 1384 442752, or

Email us at [email protected]

More from ACS

Family & Relationships Counselling

The Family and Relationships Counselling ebook is an informative and helpful read for anyone who wants to improve their relationships or even help other people improve or nurture their own relationships.