There’s never been a greater need to understand social psychology than in modern times.
People are changing and ideas are evolving because of three factors: consumerism, social media and access to the world’s information.
Because of this there’s never been a greater need to understand the human condition.
Social psychology can help. It helps explain why people do the things they do and can also help you understand your own habits and thought patterns.
Below are six types of social psychology you should know in modern times.
I guarantee you will be able to see some traits of people you know among them. If you’re honest with yourself you’ll see some of your own traits among them too.
1. People are driven by social status
Why do you do the things you do, buy the things you buy and have the career you have?
Is it because it’s exactly what you want to do in life? Or are you doing them because they will provide you with higher social status?
People often buy the nice cars, expensive watches and other material items as a way to status signal. They’re signalling their higher status by the items they own.
They choose careers that help elevate them as people. For example, a doctor has more status than a chemical engineer or a lawyer has more status than a veterinarian.
In social psychology having a higher status can benefit you in many ways. It can open new doors in the social hierarchy and get you in front of people with a higher social status than you.
Being famous can increase your social status. Modern society is celebrity obsessed so if you have some form of fame your social status will usually increase.
The social status game is just that. A game. And an expensive game if the rule is your status is increased by the things you own.
Chasing status is so ingrained in Western society people are unaware they’re doing it.
I’ve done it my whole adult life with cars, clothes and lifestyle. Even my career. When I put myself through university I chose PR because I thought it would be a cool profession to work in. In reality I had no clue on what it was about.
With social media, raising social status has gone to a new level. People constantly signal their perceived epic life on Facebook and especially Instagram.
Status signalling and buying things for status is not always bad. As long as you know why you’re doing it. It can help you get a better mate, increase your social circle, get a better job and earn more money.
If you’re doing it mindlessly to keep up with the Joneses or to make people like you then you’re doing it wrong. In this case it’s more about your self-esteem than creating status for any strategic reasons.
Question yourself why you’re buying those items. It’s probably for status. Most of the time you won’t be aware you’re doing it.
2. Most people conform to the group
Conforming to social norms is normal. Knowing how to act among certain groups helps us navigate life. It makes things easier.
Most people don’t want to be outspoken. They don’t want to stick their head above the parapet and say what they really think. Instead they prefer to blend in with the group. They fear being different, fear rejection and desire approval.
Most people don’t say exactly what they think if it differs from the majority. They prefer to tow the party line for fear of being kicked out of said group.
It’s often a wise decision to make. In Robert Green’s 48 Laws of Power, law 38 states: Think As You Like But Behave Like Others.
“If you make a show of going against the times, flaunting your unconventional ideas and unorthodox ways, people will think that you want attention and that you look down upon them. They will find a way to punish you for making them feel inferior. It is far safer to blend in and nurture the common touch. Share your originality only with the tolerant friends and those who are sure to appreciate your uniqueness.”
Most people do this. At work they publicly agree with the group even if secretly they don’t. Their politics, in public at least, is that of the majority. They conform because they want to be liked by the group.
Again, look at social media and especially Twitter to see people tweeting their so called opinions based on what they think the community want to hear. They are conforming virtue signalling sheep. Baah. Understanding social psychology allows you to see this happening.
3. Confirmation bias is prevalent
Again, thank social media for this one. People are lead to believe they are victims of some kind. Usually this is through social media.
When people believe they’re victims they join groups and connect with similar ‘victims’. This reaffirms their beliefs. “They feel the same as I do which means we must all be victims!”
They share and retweet each other’s content to reaffirm their victim status.
It’s not just social media that’s too blame. If a ‘victim’ uses a search engine to seek out what they already believe then it’s likely that the search results will confirm it.
If you search ‘[insert here] are oppressed” then chances are you’ll receive search results confirming that statement. That doesn’t mean it’s true.
Confirmation bias in the information age is prevalent because there is information to confirm any belief. When people believe something to be true and then they find evidence that reaffirms that belief then it creates a LOT of victim groups.
4. When people conform groupthink happens
Groupthink is the type of thinking that occurs when group members would rather not argue with the group during group decision-making activities.
Groupthink is when everyone conforms with each other in the group and on one stops to think about and offer other perspectives.
Even if some group members have a different perspective or beliefs than those of the group they will set them aside (see group conformity above) to maintain the consensus.
As a result they make bad decisions. The most recent one would be Trump’s presidential victory. All the national news media believed Clinton had won it by a long stretch.
They published stories of how the polls showed Clinton’s chance of becoming the first female US president to be around 90 percent. The couldn’t have been more wrong but it was groupthink mentality that allowed them to believe that.
Likewise with Brexit. Most people on Twitter thought there wasn’t a chance that the UK would vote to leave the EU based on their Twitter feed. But Twitter is an echo chamber of a certain demographic (affluent middle class liberal) which is not representative of the wider country.
5. People get wrapped up in the trivial
I covered it in an earlier blog post. People get caught up in the trivialities of life. Parkinson’s law of triviality is prevalent in today’s society.
People are more concerned with the latest celebrity news as opposed to the direction their life is headed. They are more concerned with America’s Got Talent than increasing their knowledge and understanding of the world. They place a filter over their Facebook profile picture during times of terrorist attacks and believe they’re helping.
It’s just trivial.
6. People are suffering cognitive dissonance as they begin ‘waking up’
The internet has given us access to unlimited information. We now have access to alternative views and perspectives that previously weren’t available.
This is causing people to question the world and their position in it. They are questioning the social constructs in which they were born into.
The narrative they were given in movies and by the media was false. The way they were told in how a life should be lived was wrong.
Couple this with changes taking place both culturally and politically and people are suffering from cognitive dissonance. Their view of the world is being shattered by the reality that is presented to them.
Many people these days are going through some kind of spiritual awakening. Some are awakening more than others. Not only is it causing them cognitive dissonance but in some cases people are having a full existential crisis.
Understanding the basics of social psychology can help you navigate the complexities of people.
Throughout most of my life I’ve never given much thought to the psychology behind why people do what they do. In hindsight this had caused me problems when I didn’t understand why someone might tell you one thing in private and say the opposite in public. Or if someone flips out at you for no reason.
Humans are complex. The human mind is complex. But there are basic patterns in human nature that, if you understand, can help you navigate these complexities. Knowing them can help you in all kinds of situations. Settling arguments, understanding apposing viewpoints or even just knowing when to walk away from a situation person.
Social psychology takes the emotion out of a situation and allows you to see it rationally and dispassionately. That’s an invaluable skill to have.