We live in a society and lead our daily life by making contacts and cooperating, as well as hurting others. We play the role designated to us and achieve goals within an ingroup, whereas we confront and discriminate against outgroups. Social psychology tries to explain these social behaviors which arise as outcomes of living with others. The basic questions are the following. How does the social environment formed by humans, as well as by social habits and culture affect behavior? What form does the structure of the mind behind these activities take?
Social psychology is also a familiar academic subject providing answers to questions about social behaviors and phenomenon experienced by people in their daily lives. Why do people speak words that are prejudiced, without even noticing it? How do people form close relationships with others? Why are people bound by the norms of their own group? We can refer to the findings of social psychology to answer these everyday questions. In this field, most social behaviors might become topics of research, or a variety of social behaviors can be analyzed to expose their mechanisms and other relevant factors.
Knowledge based on the findings of social psychology are categorized and listed by the "variety of social behaviors". Different theories and models exist within each category including, person perception, persuasion, helping, aggression, and intergroup behavior. However, there is no grand theory integrating them all; social psychology does not have theories or rules to explain the principles of social behaviors as a whole.
If so, is social psychology just "piecemeal knowledge" that is a mere list of the explanations of various social behaviors? In responding to such criticism, this book attempts to reconstruct social psychology as a comprehensive knowledge of the mind and society by categorizing behaviors in two ways. One is by redefining social psychology as multilayered knowledge of variables related to mind and society from the micro to the macro level, such as biological processes, affect and cognition, interpersonal relationships, group processes, and cultures. The other is to attend to core variables concerning different types of social behaviors and reconstitute empirical knowledge regarding their roles and mechanisms.
This book naturally covers knowledge compiled through past research. Therefore, it serves as a "textbook" for those who are not very familiar with social psychology and introduces noteworthy research of social psychologists. However, those who are familiar with the subject might consider the book as a "radical theory of social psychology" that attempts to re-systematize the subject and show an integrated knowledge of humans and the society.
(Written by Kaori Karasawa, Professor of Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology / 2017)