Social Psychology, Essay Example

The field of social psychology is a scientific method for understanding the effects of living in groups. This means that social psychology studies the manner in which living in and relating to groups impacts people in their mental and emotional experience.  The relationship of the individual and the group exists at two distinct levels. One is the objective level of people interact; the other is the subjective level where a person relates in a subjective fashion to the presence of others. The objective level can be considered to be what is indicated by actual events. The subjective level can be viewed as how those events are interpreted or responded to by an individual.  The science of social psychology is based on empirical data and rational study and investigation.

Social psychology is very different from sociology which is a field that studies the history of human society, as well as studying its processes and institutions. For example, while a social phycologist might study personality disorders in relation to social pressures, a sociologist would instead study the origin of a particlar social institution such as marriage.  Social psychology is also very different than clinical psychology, which is the science of treating and preventing psychological illnesses and disorders. The clinical psychologist conducts research in areas of mental illness and also administers treatments for psychological stress or illness.

Social psychology is also very different from philosophy which is a field that studies the nature of existence, morality, consciousness, and logic. A philosopher might examine the nature of learning or the relative value of knowledge, whereas a social psychologist would study institutions of learning and the individual relation to organized religion. One thing that all of the aforementioned fields share is the application of rational thinking and the use of the scientific method to carry out their studies and actions. Te main differences are in regard to the types of problems and ideas that are pursued.

B. Bowins’ article, “Personality Disorders: A Dimensional Defense Mechanism Approach” (2010) uses a scientific approach to study the relationship between mental illness based in personality disorders and the relation of the individual to groups. According to Bowin, personality disorders often reflect “characteristic ways of defending against disturbing emotional input to preserve psychological functioning.” For Bowins, many personality disorders are “extensions of normal defensive processes” (Bowins, 2010) and can be explained by the way

that personality is impacted by the demands of living in a group. I feel that Bowins’ thesis is very strongly supported in the article. I believe that many personality  disorders reflect the way that individuals respond to the pressures, expectations and threats of living in society. The article included a discussion of several types of personality disorders and Bowins offered a solid basis of argument for his ideas.

Reading the article actually helped me to reach my own definition of the concept: personality. For me, personality is the basis of how an individual responds emotionally, mentally, and practically in relation to others. It is also a set of expectations, desires, and self-identifying principles that each person experiences subjectively that are based in their relationship to society. Personality is closely connected to self-identity. It is even of more significance in social identity. The characteristics and “shape” of any given personality is largely based on the way the individual views themselves in relation to society as well as the way the individual believes themselves to be perceived by others.


Bowins, B. (2010). Personality Disorders: A Dimensional Defense Mechanism Approach. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 64(2), 153+.