When we read the newspaper, listen to the TV news, or browse an online news site, we see hundreds of examples of how people affect others. The media tells us which Hollywood actors are beautiful. The public reacts when a fifty-six-year-old woman gives birth to twins. A former janitor amasses a fortune and leaves it to the school where he worked.
Social psychologists try to explain how other people influence our thoughts, feelings, and behavior; how we form impressions of other people; and why stereotypes and prejudice flourish. They study how people manage to persuade, influence, and attract us. Obedience to authorities, group functioning, and helpfulness are part of social psychology as well. Social psychology acknowledges that we move in and out of one another’s lives, directly and indirectly, and all parties are, in some way, affected.