From morning to night, we live our daily lives in connection with society. When we wake up, we may immediately reach for our smartphone to learn about the latest events happening in the world. We have our first conversation of the day, perhaps with a family member or via SNS. We weave through crowds of strangers on our daily commute. We collaborate with friends and colleagues at school or work. We may experience trouble in relationships with others, participate in organizational decision-making processes in meetings, and more. Many of our daily experiences are shaped by our interactions with others, both direct and indirect.
Even when we are alone, our minds are inseparable from society. We may feel relaxed, thinking we can escape from the eyes of others; or we may feel lonely, missing the feeling of a connection with others. Both emotions are the result of living in a social relationship. This is why humans are called “social animals.”
The field of social psychology explores the minds of human beings as social animals. All human social behaviors are potential topics of social psychological research, and a variety of approaches are available. Social psychology has broad contact with neuroscience and cognitive science in that it attempts to unravel the basic processes of individuals’ brains. It also has strong connections with the social sciences, focusing on politics, the economy, education, organizations, and many other social environmental issues. Altogether, social psychology sits at the intersection of basic research on the mechanisms of the mind and social implementation research on people’s activities in the real world, offering rich results. The field is, so to speak, “the ocean area where the Kuroshio and Oyashio meet” (preface, p. iii).
In this book, we aim to provide a clear overview of the metaphorical sea of social psychology, at the same time to convey its richness and diversity. Rather than simply presenting a list of topics, we paid attention to the overall story permeating the text. For almost four years after the start to the project, all four authors regularly gathered for discussion at the publisher’s office and exchanged nearly 400 emails. Now, nine years since the publication of the first edition in 2010, we have sent out a revised and partially updated version.
The introductory chapter of this book closes as follows: “The sea of social psychology may be an archipelago, blessed with diversity. We are sure that, when you row to the sea, you will love what you find and obtain there. May you be blessed with a smooth wind”(introduction, p. 10). We hope that if you have an interest in social psychology, this book may serve as your first map of the archipelago, and that you will find the island that interests you and continue your journey there.
(Written by MURAMOTO Yukiko, Professor, Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology / 2019)