Social Psychology: The Psychological Explanations of Social Phenomena

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The various aspects of social psychology could be examined within the wide concepts of intelligence, gender, advertising, consumer culture, stress and psychological issues that define society. Considering consumer behaviour, social psychology uses convincing theories to explain addictive consumption, the influence of advertising and the phenomenon of purchasing. Advertising is seen as a subtle psychological manipulation as it creates desires and anxiety in the potential consumers (, 2006). Advertising can have both psychological and commercial aspects including misattribution, bias, suggestibility, and could be studied from global or local perspectives. Organisational consumption is seen as different from individual consumption although generic psychological theories of human motivation such as that of Maslow and Freud can explain consumer behaviour. However consumer behaviour can also be studied in terms of the notion of quality and its relation to customer satisfaction (Silva et al, 2005). The objective measures of customer needs, pricing and expectations of the customers may have to be analysed within Service Quality or Expectations models. Hogg and Garrow (2003) highlighted on the psychological aspects of gender and the influence on consumption of advertising. Advertising has been found to be processed and interpreted differently according to gender schemas and perceptions. This would in turn relate to psychological theories of gender such as the theory of biological determinism, Freudian theory of personality development, cognitive-developmental theory, and feminist theories. Bridging the gap between gender studies and gender differences in consumption could provide us with new insights on social and psychological aspects of consumer behavior. Orth (2005) indicated that consumer behaviour largely depends on consumer personality and susceptibility to interpersonal influence, consumer situational disposition such as risk taking and curiosity, purchasing behaviour and purchasing frequency and demographic variables such as age and gender. Contemporary consumer culture could be studied in relation to an excessive emphasis on beauty and appearance and an obsession with youth, a phenomenon that has seen an increased dependence on cosmetic surgery. The increased importance of the body in the consumer culture could be studied along with the significance of appearance in modern society, the role of marketing and advertising images, and the psychological need for self-expression (, 2006).

Social psychology is however focused not just on consumption and public attitudes on advertising, but also on group behaviour, general individual and collective attitudes towards various social issues including war, work, violence and quality of life. This would in turn explain how individuals deal with stress, and focus on the psychological consequences of stress. Although psychological disorders may in some cases be a direct result of social stress, deviant behaviour in society could be explained with the help of several theories such as the theory of subcultures by Parker, the structural strain theory by Merton, or the theory of conformity. Social psychology is thus focused on explaining a wide range of issues from advertising and consumer behavior to public attitudes on social issues and antisocial behaviour.


Hogg M.K.; Garrow J. (2003) Gender, identity and the consumption of advertising Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, Volume 6, Number 3, June, pp. 160-174(15)

Orth, Ulrich R.(2005) Consumer personality and other factors in situational brand choice variation The Journal of Brand Management, Volume 13, Number 2, November, pp. 115-133(19)

Papers For You (2006) "P/M/510. Advertising: means of psychological manipulation", Available from [22/06/2006]

Papers For You (2006) "P/M/646. Causes of addictive consumption in modern society", Available from [21/06/2006]

Silva Jr, Nelson da; LĂ­rio, Daniel Rodrigues (2005) The postmodern re-codification of perversion: On the production of consumer behavior and its libidinal grammar International Forum of Psychoanalysis, Volume 14, Numbers 3-4, Number 3-4/December, pp. 217-223(7)

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