Actions, interactions and reactions

16 April 2010

How would you respond if a homeless person picked up the leftovers on your plate as you dined in a foodcourt, or people criticised what you’d put in your supermarket trolley?

Social psychologists study situations like these as they try to understand the relations between people and groups and how societies and culture shape people’s lives.

Waikato University’s associate professors Darrin Hodgetts and Linda Waimaire Nikora, and Dr Ottilie Stolte have got together with Australian academics to write an accessible text on social psychology to help explain why we behave the way we do. As lead author of Social Psychology and Everyday Life, Dr Hodgetts says they’ve used common experiences to explain how societies and culture shape lives.

“So each chapter begins with a story, for example, characters in a speed dating situation, taking a taxi ride, or visiting the supermarket; then having set the scene we apply different concepts and theories to explain human interactions and relationships. The aim is to inform our understandings of everyday life in increasingly diverse societies.”

The book has been produced for a global market.  Dr Hodgetts says it is already being used as a set text by the London School of Economics and is being considered for translation into Chinese. “We also look at bigger issues like migration and how it impacts the movers and hosts. You can’t ignore the fact that social psychology has a political dimension.”

Dr Ottilie Stolte says while the book’s target market is undergraduate students, she thinks health and community workers will get a lot of use from it too. “Each chapter presents practical suggestions on how social psychologists can get involved and improve the human condition. We cover media, health and issues like obesity, justice, place, indigeneity, immigration and social change. I think we’ve managed to be broad, coherent and stimulating at the same time.”

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