Social Psychology and Political Psychology

Department of Psychology at the Christian-Albrechts-University Kiel

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Social Psychology, Political Psychology, and Evaluation

Head of Department

Prof. Dr. Bernd Simon

Introduction

What is social psychology?
What is political psychology?
What is evaluation?
Focus of research
Focus of teaching
Fields of application/vocational fields

What is social psychology? | (top)

Teaching and research in social psychology is all about human experience and behaviour in the context of social interaction with other individuals at intra- and inter-group levels. Research in the field is conducted using a range of empirical methods, including in particular, laboratory experiments, but also questionnaire and interview based studies. Further to the fundamental research fields in social psychology concerned with topics such as attitude, prejudices, aggression, altruism and group behaviour, applied research is also conducted (e.g. resolving inter-group social conflicts).

What is political psychology? | (top)

Political psychology is concerned with understanding political phenomena from a psychological, in particular from a social psychological perspective. In this sense, political psychology can be understood as a field of applied social psychology. As a relatively recent discipline, political psychology draws upon a number of theories and methods, from beyond the field of social psychology, which include political science, sociology, philosophy, anthropology and history. The work of political psychologists may be either quantitative and statistical, or qualitative and narrative. Central research topics in political psychology include justice, power, conflicts between groups, protest, and public opinion, as well as social and political transformation.

What is evaluation? | (top)

A range of disciplines in psychology are interested in the development and improvement of programs and intervention measures (e.g. the development of social programs to improve living standards in socially disadvantaged districts, development of integration programs for immigrants). The validity of these programs and intervention measures needs to be tested, both during development and after implementation, i.e. evidence must be provided to confirm the fact that measures fulfil the specific goals that the programs set out to achieve (e.g. improving living conditions). Accordingly, evaluation can be defined as checking the effectiveness of programs and intervention measures using scientific research methodology and techniques, therefore enabling evidence-based evaluation and selection of social and psychological intervention measures.

Focus of research | (top)

The preconditions and the consequences of social identification processes (e.g. identification with social groups) are central to our research activities. Social identification processes play an important role in many areas of our lives, and significantly contribute to the way we experience and behave in social situations. The Department for Social Psychology and Political Psychology is currently conducting a third-party funded project entitled, “Collective identity, respect and power”. The aims of this project are to provide a better understanding of intergroup conflicts, and to promote the construction of theories about the struggle for recognition and power from an identity perspective. The project, “Respect within and between groups” systematically examines the role of respect as a social psychological concept. The central aims of this research are to establish the differentiation between equality and performance-based respect, and to consider the question how respect can be effectively communicated beyond the boundaries of existing groups.

Focus of teaching | (top)

In the lecture-based undergraduate course, the students receive an introduction to the central topics of social psychology. These include the formation and impact of prejudices and stereotypes, social influence of minorities and majorities, self and identity, behaviour between individuals (e.g. prosocial behaviour), behaviour within and between groups (e.g. how do social conflicts arise and how can they be resolved). Furthermore, in undergraduate and postgraduate tutorials, the students will have the opportunity to extend their knowledge in chosen areas of social psychology and political psychology and gain an insight into the current research work of the department.

Fields of application/vocational fields | (top)

Apart from providing an extensive understanding of the fundamental fields of research, the teaching and research activities of the Department for Social Psychology and Political Psychology offer a range of connecting points to different fields of practice in the plural and multicultural society. This opens up a range of opportunities to gain practitioner-oriented knowledge for future employment in public administration or in private industry (e.g. integration of minorities, motivation and cooperation in small groups, effective mobilisation of social commitment).