Social Psychology (13th Edition)
The goals stated in these quotations are truly impressive ones—producing basic changes in the ways people live, work, and relate to others—or, as Steve Jobs put it, in everything (the universe!). And, as you know, these goals have indeed been met—to “google” something has become a verb in everyday language and Facebook use is almost as common as cell phone use. In fact, just try to imagine life without your iPod, computer, wireless internet access, GPS in your car and on your phone, or the many forms of social media we use practically every day. Probably you cannot, because this technology has become woven into the very fabric of our lives so that we take our electronic gadgets for granted and use them as if they are extensions of ourselves. So the founders of Google, Facebook, Apple Computers, and many other high-tech companies have in fact attained their ambitious goals of changing how people live—all over the globe.
Clearly, then, the world—and the social world that is the primary focus of this book—have changed tremendously in recent years, perhaps more quickly and dramatically than at any time in the past. Further—and a key point we’ll emphasize throughout the book—these changes have important implications for the social side of life, and for social psychology, the branch of psychology that studies all aspects of our behavior with and toward others, our feelings and thoughts about them, and the relationships we develop with them. The central message for social psychology as a field, and for any book that seeks to represent it, is simple: Keep up with these social and technological changes or become irrelevant—or even worse—an obstacle to continued change.
We’re happy to report that as we move deeper into the 21st century, social psychology is in no danger of becoming obsolete or a barrier to continued social change. On the contrary, it continues to be the vibrant, adaptable field it has always been and, we predict, always will be. The scope of social psychological research (and knowledge) has expanded rapidly in the past few years (even, in fact, since publication of the previous edition of this book), and our field, far from blocking or resisting the many change now occurring all over the world, continues to embrace it fully. This commitment to change, and to an optimistic view of human nature, is reflected in comments by Donn Byrne (a well known social psychologist and a former co-author of the first twelve editions of this textbook). When we asked him to explain why he was attracted to social psychology in the first place, here’s how he replied: “When I was a child, I wanted to become a physician . . . but two months before classes as medical school were to begin, my father had a heart attack and I had to change my plans. I . . . decided to pursue graduate studies in psychology . . . Like many psychology majors, I was attracted to the idea of becoming a clinical psychologist, but once I was a student, and began working on research, I found that my interests clearly involved social rather than clinical psychology. My first research project dealt with the way in which friendships are formed in a college classroom. I found that the primary variable was physical proximity and not race, religion, college major, or other seemingly important factors. When seats are assigned randomly (or alphabetically), any two students who sit side-by-side are likely to become acquainted—and subsequently friends. I found it both interesting and surprising that a student’s social life could be determined in part by an instructor’s seating chart. This first attempt at research (and my first publication) should have provided a clue that my future would not be as a clinician, but I stuck to my original plan and earned a Ph.D. degree in clinical psychology. Over the next few years, though, I slowly realized that my true interests, which focused mainly on interpersonal attraction, were in social psychology.
What fascinated me then—and still does—is the fact that social psychology uses scientific methods to investigate such topics as friendship formation, prejudice, sexual behavior, aggression, and attitude formation. Further, it offers the possibility of new discoveries that challenge long-held beliefs. Do opposites attract? Research findings answer “Probably not,” but they do confirm that birds of a feather tend to flock together (similarity is the basis for attraction and friendship). So scientific methods can greatly increase our understanding of the social side of life, just as, in other fields, they have revealed that the sun doesn’t revolve around the earth and that malaria isn’t caused by breathing “bad night air” but by a microbe carried by mosquitoes buzzing through the air. In any event, I hope that this brief sampling of my personal experiences will persuade you to consider two things:
1. You do not need to be overly concerned about choosing a major or agonizing about what you want to be “when you grow up.” Unpredictable and unexpected events can prove to be much more important in determining your future than your best laid plans.
2. Try to sample many different fields when you sign up for college courses and sample asmany job possibilities as you can by means of internships and volunteer work. You might surprise yourself by pursuing an unexpected career that you find both interesting and fulfilling. I know that I did.”
Now, back to our goals for this new edition. In essence, what we tried to accomplish is this: illustrate just how well our field has—and does—adjust to and reflect the changing social world. And changing it truly is! Who, even ten years ago, would have imagined an iPod? Kindles? That your cell phone could become your airline boarding pass? That 700,000,000 people world-wide would be active on Facebook? Or that “smart phones” would be able to do everything from finding a nearby restaurant to taking and sending photos almost instantaneously? And considering the “downside” of this technological revolution, who would have imagined that sending text messages would become so popular that many drivers do it even in heavy traffic, thus putting themselves and other drivers at great risk? Or, that persons jilted by their lovers would seek to “punish” them by sending damaging information or even sexually explicit photos of them, over the Internet? Truly, few, if any would have predicted these trends, because the rate at which technology is currently changing is staggering
to behold, and every year brings a new array of innovative products, services, and hightech “toys.” But technology is not simply changing the way we carry out certain tasks: it is also changing the way we live and—most importantly—the nature of the social side of life. Yes, love, aggression, persuasion, and other basic aspects of social life remain, in essence, unchanged. But the ways in which they are expressed and experienced, have changed drastically. So, how, precisely, did we set out to reflect these major trends while, at the same time, fully and accurately reflecting the core of our field—the knowledge and insights that social psychologists have gathered through decades of systematic research? Below is a summary of the major steps we took to accomplish these important goals.
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