People are pretty fascinating. Sometimes, people surprise us. The ways that we treat other people, form groups, and make decisions doesn’t always make sense, but it is always a good topic of conversation or subject to think about.
But maybe you don’t just want to laugh at the strange things that people do or chat about it with your friends and family. Maybe the interest you have in people and behavior goes deeper. You want to really find out what makes people tick and how we choose our friends, colleagues, and allies.
If this sounds like you, you may want to consider a career in social psychology.
What does a Social Psychologist Do?
Social psychologists study everything about social interactions between humans, from how they begin to how they affect us long-term. They tap into the mind of individuals, partners, teams, and entire populations of people as they identify themselves, form groups, identify others, and try to understand people “in” and “out” of their groups.
As you can guess, the insights shared by social psychologists can be extremely useful as we navigate our own thoughts, judgements, and actions. The most famous theories in social psychology may help you understand the way that you perceive the world and make judgments – and you’re not even a social psychologist!
This is a good career for you if you want to understand how humans work and help people get a better understanding of different phenomena within social psychology (cognitive dissonance, attribution, etc.)
In order to become a social psychologist, you’ll need to complete a few years of school. Psychologists are expected to earn a doctorate degree in a specific field, and social psychologists are no different.
Depending on who you are working with, you may also want to consider board certification. The more certification and education you have, the more likely you will be able to get a job with top consulting firms, research facilities, or with private corporations.
Salary (How Much Do Social Psychologists Make?)
Social psychologists don’t always use the term “social psychologist” to describe their job position: they may call themselves an industrial-organizational psychologist or use their knowledge and experience to become a marketing director or college professor. For this reason, there isn’t a lot of data on how much social psychologists earn. You can, however, expect to earn a comfortable living due to your high level of education and speciality in a field that can be applied to virtually every workplace.
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Schools for Social Psychology Degrees
Whether you want a Harvard education or want to stick to the school closest to your home, you can find a social psychology program. Everybody wants to learn about human nature and social interaction! Keep these programs in mind as you make the next steps in your career:
- The University of Michigan – Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, MI)
- Yale University (New Haven, CT)
- Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)
- University of California – Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA)
- The University of Minnesota – Twin Cities (Twin Cities, MN)
- The University of Texas – Austin (Austin, TX)
- The University of Washington (Seattle, WA)
- Indiana University – Bloomington (Bloomington, IN)
- University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA)
- University of Oregon (Eugene, OR)
Companies That Hire Social Psychologists
Where do social psychologists work? The answers are endless! Again, the insight that social psychologists can provide can elevate team-building efforts, tap into the mind of a consumer, and explain human history’s biggest surprises. Many organizations could use the help of a social psychologist, including:
- Colleges and universities
- Research facilities
- State and local government agencies
- Military institutions
- Market research institutes
- Consulting firms
Interviews from a Social Psychologist
Take a deeper dive into the tasks and everyday lives of social psychologists by listening to them! On YouTube, you can watch Dr. Jennifer L. Eberhardt, 2014 MacArthur Fellow, as she explains the work that she is doing in her field regarding race and crime.
Amy Cuddy speaks about how her work has developed around the ideas of body language and nonverbal communication. In a longer interview, Dr. Robert Sellers (psychology professor and Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion & Chief Diversity Officer at the University of Michigan) talks about recent developments in the world of social psychology.
Famous Social Psychologists
Social psychology is a relatively new field of study, but it has already produced fascinating theories and notable figures in the psychology world. Normon Triplett is considered one of the earliest pioneers in social psychology. His experiments on social facilitation theory showed how performance can be enhanced when tasks are done in the presence of others.
Henri Tajfel did his work on social identity theory, showcasing the ways that people identify themselves, “in groups,” and “out groups.”
Robert Sternberg has developed theories on interpersonal relationships and what must be present in order for two people to experience different forms of love.
Leon Festinger is known for coining the term “cognitive dissonance” and showing just how uncomfortable humans can be when they face different opinions and ideas from different groups or sources.
Fritz Heider is credited as “the father of attribution theory,” being one of the first psychologists to take a look into how we attribute our behaviors and the behaviors of others.
Social Psychology Examples
Want to discover the hottest new theory in social psychology or just learn more about how different groups form? Social psychology may be the career for you. After years of school and training, you might find yourself:
- Teaching classes on recent developments in social psychology
- Conducting research on how different theories apply to recent historical events
- Consulting with a private corporation about team building
- Writing a book based on interviews and data collection regarding in-groups and out-groups
- Talking with military leaders about how certain hazing methods affect the mindset of soldiers
Social psychology is a relatively new but completely fascinating branch of psychology. The work that social psychologists do can also help us understand our world and make it a better, safer, and more enjoyable place for all.