The combination of words in the term social psychology refers to the specific place which this discipline occupies in the system of scientific knowledge. Social psychology can be defined as “the scientific study of how individuals think and feel about, interact with, and influence one another, individually and in groups.” (Bordens & Horowitz, 2002, p. 3) In that regard, this paper analyzes human interaction from a psychology perspective based on human behaviors’ changes in social situations.
The first example of behavior, which will be called behavior A in this paper, is concerned with changes occurring when attending a funeral, assuming it is not of a relative person, but rather of friends’ acquaintance. Accordingly, this behavior implies the feeling of grief and accordance with the emotions that prevail at the funeral. Thus, it is expected that attendees do not laugh, do not joke, and follow the pace of the funeral as well as a particular dress code.
This behavior can be usually witnessed whenever words of death surface on someone people might know instantly changing the mood of people and the way they act. Additionally, similar behavior can be seen remembering a person who died recently, saying words such as “Rest in Peace” and etc, specifically informal situations it might be asked for a minute of silence.
The second example of behavior, which will be called behavior B in this paper, is concerned with changes occurring when attending a public sports activity and supporting a particular athlete or a team, e.g. basketball, football, boxing or else. This description of this behavior implies the feel of overall compassion for the supported team, excitement, and behavioral arousal. Accordingly, assuming that supporters of the same team are mostly seated nearby, the entire atmosphere shows how the people entirely unknown to each other, seemingly diverse, and with different backgrounds can transform into a single mass, eliminating any differences or diversities.
The unified behaviour of the group can be witnessed through expressions of sympathy, anger, happiness an etc. It should be noted that the changes can be outlined through the elimination of the formal procedures in which people usually get familiar with each other. On the other hand, the process of familiarization usually ends by the end of the game, where people return to their usual common behavior.
This behavior might be preceded with alcohol consumption, and although this is not a rule, usually it is implied that attending such event is associated with such precursors. Sometimes the end of this activity might not end the behavioral changes and last for the rest of the day, where usually it depends on the time of the day and the outcome of the activity.
In both behaviors A and B it can be seen that the changes are influenced socially, so that the behavior was changed following the social group, and in both cases it was the majority social group. In behavior A, it can be stated that the behavior change was driven by established norms, where “people follow norms because they seem right, they are endorsed by the behavior of other group members, they are frequently activated, and they offer solutions to problems.” (Smith & Mackie, 2006, p. 379). In that regard, the behavior B can also be considered as driven by established norms, although with different aspects.
In both case, following norms was a form of conformity, wherein behavior A the norms are rather cultural, violating which the emotional signal might be an embarrassment, e.g. showing up in a white costume, laughing, or showing joyful emotions. In behavior B, the norms are rather situational which might be based on the distortion of action, where following these norms is driven by the desire to look like the others. (Bordens & Horowitz, 2002, p. 244).
Additionally, as the behavior in which the group was followed might represent established norms within a country, religion or a culture, unlike small groups, following such norms, regardless of our position towards the person, might contributes to enhancing one’s self-esteem. This can be explained in terms where the behavior is part of self-presentation, i.e. shaping people’s impressions in order to receive a particular feedback, which in this case is approval. (Smith & Mackie, 2006, p. 133).
In behavior B, on the other hand, the norms of the groups might have the risk to overwhelm any other norms, which might lead to deindividuation. In that regard, an example might be given of blind conformity, where at collective games such as soccer, people might engage in anti-social behavior such as the destruction of property and violence, which in terms might lead to death casualties in some cases. (Smith & Mackie, 2006, p. 384).
Accordingly, as an associated phenomenon, The effect of group identity might play a role, wherein behavior B, it is more likely for a person to cooperate with the team that can be identified as a group he belongs to, which in this case is the group supporting the same team. Additionally, another effect might be witnessed, which is group competition, where the presence of another team or group that are not identified with your own group, leads to cooperation within one group, and at the same time expressions of hostility toward other teams might arise, which accordingly might also lead to negative consequences.
It should be noted that due to the different perceptions of both behaviors, where behavior B is more likely to be associated with negative changes, interventions might be required only in cases where such changes occur, i.e. anti-social behavior, violence and etc. In behavior A, the only consequence for such changes might be only associated with non-conformity, which mostly lead to embarrassment, shame, or guilt. In any case, such consequences do not need any interventions.
It can be concluded that different social situations lead to different behavioral changes, where some follow particular cultural norms, while others are situational. In that regard, such conformity does not always lead to acceptable behaviors, as it was seen in the example of behavior B. For social psychology, it is important to understand how the individual behavior is constantly adapted and corrected through the social environment.
The coordination of actions of each individual can be seen as an important requirement of the social group, which in the presented examples how such coordination might lead to diversified outcomes in different social context. In general, it can be said that people are socially dependable by nature, and thus examining their interactions and behavioral changes is essential to understand the causes and the motives that lead their actions throughout their lives.
Bordens, K. S., & Horowitz, I. A. (2002). Social psychology (2nd ed.). Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Brown, C. (2006). Social psychology (1st ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
McDougall, W. (2003). An introduction to social psychology. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications.
Smith, E. R., & Mackie, D. M. (2006). Social psychology (3rd ed.). New York: Psychology Press.