Social Psychology and Instructional Technology

Social Psychology and Instructional Technology

Robert A. Bartsch (University of Houston - Clear Lake, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-503-2.ch508
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This chapter examines how principles in social psychology can be applied to instructional technology. Two areas are discussed to explain why individuals would have a positive attitude towards instructional technology but not engage in consistent behaviors. Social psychological research demonstrates attitudes do not necessarily correlate with behaviors. Factors that moderate this relationship include attitude extremity, attitude importance, attitude accessibility, direct experience, attitude specificity, habits, and social norms. Additionally, if individuals cannot comprehend messages, they cannot develop their knowledge of instructional technology even if they wanted. To comprehend messages, individuals have to have the ability (i.e., both knowledge and time) to thoroughly process them. Examples are provided illustrating each of these concepts. The author hopes by examining the field of social psychology, new ideas, new understanding, and new areas of research can emerge in the field of instructional technology.
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Social psychology is defined as “the scientific attempt to understand and explain how the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of other human beings” (Fiske, 2004, p. 4). A typical social psychology textbook includes chapters on social cognition, person perception, self, attitudes, prejudice, social influence, relationships, helping, and aggression. Issues relating to gender and culture are examined in each chapter. Theories and research from social psychology have helped create and expand the areas of industrial/organizational psychology, health psychology, forensic psychology, and political psychology.

Given that a main theoretical perspective in social psychology is sociocultural (Taylor, 1998), the theoretical paradigm in instructional technology that social psychology would most closely relate to is situated learning theory (Reiser & Dempsey, 2002). In addition, along with the rest of psychology, social psychology underwent a cognitive revolution in the 1970s with social cognition emerging as a main theoretical perspective (Taylor, 1998). Therefore, social psychology may also have applications to instructional technology that have its roots in information processing.

As the definition and the main topics illustrate, social psychology examines how people interact with other people. However, information technology often examines how individuals will interact with objects, and there are differences in how individuals relate to people versus objects (Fiske & Taylor, 1991). As an individual perceives and interacts with others, others perceive, judge, and respond in return. Although objects may interact with people and respond to their actions, objects do not richly interact, are less likely to change, and are not perceived as causal agents. Nevertheless, there are several areas of psychology, especially ones focusing on intra-individual processes such as social cognition and attitudes that would be most relevant to instructional technology.

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