Welcome back to another Ask Dr. B. Today we’re talking about social psychology—that is, how your thoughts, beliefs, and actions are changed by interacting with others (and I don’t just mean things you do by yourself that you would be embarrassed to do in front of other people—like singing into your stethoscope in front of a mirror! Not that I do that….). Let’s get out of our heads and into the questions.
Let's take a look at how we’re affected by what others are thinking and feeling (or what we assume they’re feeling). This science, called social psychology, is the study of how our interactions with other people change the way we act and think. People have been writing about social psychology as far back as the ancient Greeks (and likely even further), but it was William McDougall who published An Introduction to Social Psychology in 1908, the first notable work on the subject written in English. Since then, psychologists have been studying and naming various ways the speech, actions, and presence of other people affect our own - in obvious and in not-so-obvious ways.
Our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are all deeply connected. So connected, in fact, it’s sometimes hard to tell them apart. For instance, “I feel like I’m not good at math,” and “I feel like she doesn’t like me” are both thoughts, even though they use the word “feel.” Kind of confusing, right? Let’s take a closer look.
There’s no denying that humans are emotional beings. Everything we see, hear, or experience incites an emotional reaction, even if that reaction is sheer boredom. Sometimes this can feel exhausting, but it’s not without good reason -- emotions inform decision-making, and help us assess risk and prioritize needs. Emotions also help us communicate with and care for others, allowing us to create friendships and build communities.