How is an individual influenced by another and others do so with an individual? What way does an interaction take place among groups and individuals? You affiliate yourself with a particular group and not with ‘anyone else. Prejudice, Attitudes, Stereotypes and numberless such topics concerning social behaviour are the assignments of a social psychologist. Bibb Latani and John Darley in their study of bystander apathy and a series of stimulated emergencies such as accidents, fires, social, catastrophes, and robberies have tried to see whether the witness’s world comes for assistance. The findings were disturbing. Willingness to help was not related to the individual personality traits. Here the “situation” mattered where a really, kind and helpful person could ignore the needy as did any callous person.
It was surprising that the presence of others inhibited the prospective helping response. Social psychologists have found that our behaviour is not always just the result of our personality and predispositions. It is in fact the physical environment especially the presence of others which greatly influences the behaviour. Social Psychologist Irving lames (1972) have indicated that in a small group members are victim to “group think”.
He argues that the pressure for conformity and unanimity can become so powerful that no individual will appraise alternatives realistically. In American universities and colleges many social psychologists as great in number as 37 percent are at work and in government business and nonprofit agencies 33 percent can be found busy. Applied social psychologist uses his knowledge to solve practical problems arising in public relations and advertising. They work in communities consisting of different ethnic back grounds.
Personality psychologist measures and describes through interviews and specially designed tests and formulates theories about its development. Why do we take a person as trustworthy whiles another suspicious? What makes one person honest and the other dishonest? While one is optimistic and another pessimistic?
A self – reliant, assertive person (with ‘masculine’ traits) can be very possibly sensitive, gentle and affectionate or compassionate (though these traits are considered to be ‘feminine’). Even then many people maintain that traits do not mix and find masculinity and femininity at two extreme poles. Sandra Bern’s studies establish on sound evidence that this assumption is wrong. Some men and women are androgynous in the true sense and successful by all means in their life. Androgyny literally means in Greek the combination of men and woman in qualities. In Bern’s opinion such people are more adaptive than those who strictly conform to the stereotype of masculine or feminine.
Personality psychologists explore similar issues as we stated above in Bern’s studies. They are concerned with explaining individual differences in behaviour. How an individual is more than another in different traits namely aggression, manipulation, obedience to authority or being outgoing and sociable. Are we driven by biological forces? Do we inherit personality traits? Are we more influenced by other external factors — as our experiences and personal histories, our culture, the times we live in or the immediate, unique situation — shape our behavioral pattern How does personality develop? How does it change over passage of time — perhaps most important to explore? There are innumerable such quest ions to be answered. Personality psychology is thus a very interesting and vast subfield.
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