Research on social interaction has played a key role in the discipline from the very beginning. In the 1970s, new research topics included socialisation and moral socialisation, ethnic identities and inter-group relations, as well as the social psychology of health. Over the following decades, the research expanded to encompass the social psychology of knowledge as well as social representations. Subsequently, entrepreneurship, working life, digital interaction and nationalism have been active focuses of research.
The current focuses of the social psychological research are intergroup relations, cultural and social diversity, identities, everyday thinking and arguing, group processes in organisations, entrepreneurship, and health and well-being.
Both basic and applied research on the relations between ethnic groups is conducted in the discipline. The focus is on ethnic minorities (immigrants as well as linguistic and cultural minorities), as well as the majority population and multicultural society. Research topics include ethnic identities, integration and wellbeing of immigrants, and the prejudices and stereotypes of the majority population.
The ways in which people construct and structure the world creates the framework for their observations, attitudes and activities. Through argumentation we create new knowledge as well as maintain current knowledge. Research topics in social psychology have included conceptions and constructions of equality, European integration, violence, security, technology, human rights, citizenship, feminism, nationalism and history. Research has also increasingly focused on discursive and visual expression.
In the social psychology of entrepreneurship examinations deal with psychological factors, social relations and interactions associated with entrepreneurship, as well as entrepreneurial orientation and the construction and conditions of the entrepreneurial agent who implements this orientation. Analyses in the discipline are on the psychological elements that define the entrepreneurial agent (such as identity, the self, and the cognitions, values and skills concerning the self as agent) and social communication (such as the presentation of the self, framing and argumentation), as well as transaction relations (such as the client, the competitor and society), through which the entrepreneurial agent is incorporated into the social, cultural and political environment.
Social psychology investigates many phenomena that we encounter every day, for example in the workplace: leadership styles, intra-group communication, decision-making and influencing others. Recent research has concentrated on workplace wellbeing and perceived justice in the workplace. Perceived justice affects organisational identification and commitment, resignation plans, inter-group relations in organisations, and fair treatment in the workplace. Also of interest is the connection between the personal values of employees and perceived justice.
The social psychology of health
Human behaviour plays a key role in several societal problems affecting well-being of people and the planet, such as climate change, many chronic diseases and pandemics. Solutions can therefore be found in influencing behaviour. Change in attitudes and behaviour is one of the classic research topics of social psychology. Research in the field of social psychology of health aims to understand how different psychological (including emotions and their regulation) and social factors affect behaviour and its change in different population groups. A key research focus is also the effects of behaviour change interventions and the dynamic processes underlying the change. When developing interventions, target groups are involved and different theoretical approaches are integrated. Currently under investigation are e.g. promotion of sustainable and healthy eating, communication of genomic information and its effect on health behaviour, and mechanisms of successful lifestyle change.
Some of the project names are only in Finnish.
The discipline of social psychology was established at the Faculty of Social Sciences in 1962. It is Finland’s oldest and most extensive unit providing education in social psychology. Graduates from social psychology have found employment in a wide variety of fields: as researchers and educators, in the social and healthcare sector, in administrative positions in central or local government or non-governmental organisations as well as in the private sector as independent entrepreneurs and corporate HR officers.
Social psychology has traditionally emphasised student-centred learning and experimented with new forms of active learning. In 1989 the University of Helsinki Student Union granted the Department of the Year award to social psychology. The Department of Social Psychology was also designated a Finnish centre of excellence in teaching in 1999–2000. The University of Helsinki granted the Department a quality award for teaching in 2006 and selected it as a centre of excellence in teaching for 2007–2009. From 2015 to 2016, the discipline of social psychology served as one of the host units for developing the Teachers’ Academy of the University of Helsinki.
Social psychology researchers have extensive international networks and increasingly work in international comparative settings.
Because social psychologists explore human interaction and people in their social environments, social changes (e.g., immigration, new technologies, genetic health information, and changes in production and the job market) are inextricably linked to research in social psychology.
The public engagement of researchers primarily takes place in cooperation with the public (national and local) sector.
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