Social psychology is the science of social influence; it is about the way how people’s feelings, thoughts and behaviour is influenced by the real or imagined presence of others. One of the goals of social psychology is to identify universal properties of human nature that make everyone susceptible to social influence, regardless of one’s culture, and to apply the knowledge to understand, predict and improve people’s behaviour and lives. A second goal is to sort out the aspects of human behaviour which are (or which are not) dependent on the context. A third goal is to gain a better understanding of a person’s position in the world looking at her or him as a member of a social group and to consider the context in which this group is situated. This is due to the theoretical assumption that unequal social systems have built in economic and psychological mechanism to perpetuate themselves. Furthermore, every ideology has built-in mechanisms to smooth over its own contradictions. And the clandestine power of dominant discourses in a society is to create an invisible normality. Class, race, and gender are the most basic discourses organizing a society as a whole. A) Persons occupying the same relative economic rank form a social class, with occupation as the most frequently used indicator. Striking difference occur in income; in the European context the gap between the top 1/5 and the bottom 1/5 has been growing ever wider. B) Race is considered to be a socially defined rather than a biological reality. C) Gender systems deny both women and men the full range of human and social possibilities via mechanisms of labor division, role assignment and the allocation of social rewards.

This course covers social psychological theories and research regarding social cognition, social perception, self-knowledge and self-justification, attitude change, conformity and obedience, group dynamics, interpersonal attraction, pro-social and anti-social behavior, and social judgement. It covers also applications of social psychology to work, law, politics, community development and health.