Why do people like a certain person? Why are people prejudiced? Why are people aggressive and why do they help? Why do people sometimes make correct or wrong decisions? When are people motivated to do something and why? How do feelings affect perception, memory, judgment and behavior? What do people think about others? How can one influence a person? What happens if people think about their own death? Why do people feel closer to members of their ingroup? What factors are likely to prevent intergroup conflict? What happens if one attacks people’s self esteem? How do people communicate? Which kind of information are people likely to remember from a person and which are they likely to forget? Can one enhance creativity in the social context? Do people sometimes act unconsciously? What is free will? How can people control their behavior? These are only a few of the typical issues social psychologists investigate.
Social Psychology is a scientific field that seeks to understand the nature and causes of individual behavior, thought, judgment and emotion in social situations. Social psychologists argue that our feelings, thoughts and behavior are very much influenced by typical contextual factors such as the living environment, the social structure, or the political sphere, just to name a few. Our notion of “context” refers to all kinds of stimuli, feelings and motivations which we perceive together with a person, an object or a situation and we show that this kind of context powerfully influences people.
Rather than explaining people's behavior by fixed and stable personality traits, social psychologists examine the interaction between the personality and the context. They design theories that can predict when and why people behave, feel and think in a certain way. They test their theories in experiments that they conduct with average people to understand what influences people.
Social psychological research simultaneously has a big impact on and is affected by other psychological fields such as clinical psychology, industrial and organizational psychology, applied psychology and cognitive psychology, to name a few.