What are the trends in social psychology?

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Jessica Pope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Social psychology is a branch of psychology dealing with the relationship between people. Originally, social psychologists studied mostly relationships between groups. In the mid 1700's and early 1800's, the idea of romanticism heavily influenced European academic life. Romanticism expressed a longing for a primitive past, before industrialism and colonialism. One effect of this nostalgia was to elevate the indigenous cultures of places like Africa and the Americas. In the European imagination, these cultures came to represent a past golden age to which Europe could never return. 

When social psychologists studied different cultures they often used ideas and images from Romanticism to understand non-European cultures. However, post-colonial academic life in former colonies soon challenged that notion. Scholars such as Franz Fanon of Algeria and writers like Chinua Achebe of Nigeria, presented complex, multifaceted images of former colonies, images that debunked the simplistic Romantic notions of these cultures. This trend toward paying greater attention to the complexity of human cultures continues.

Social psychologists have turned their attention to a number of questions that in the past would have been beyond their scope of inquiry. The questions they pose may be scientific, sociological, or philosophical in nature. They study the social nature of emotions, social influences on personality development, and socially constructed notions of ethics and values. These questions assume that emotions, personality development and ethics are not the same for everyone, but rather vary from person to person depending on social and cultural context.