Social Psychology Research Topics

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Choosing topics for social psychology research papers or projects can be challenging. It is a broad and fascinating field, which can make it challenging to figure out what you want to investigate in your research.

What Is Social Psychology?

Social psychology explores how individual thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are affected by social influences. It explores how each person's behavior is affected by their social environment.

This article explores a few different social psychology topics and research questions you might want to study in greater depth. It covers how to start your search for a topic as well as specific ideas you might choose to explore.

How to Find a Social Psychology Research Topic

As you begin your search, think about the questions that you have. What topics interest you? Following your own interests and curiosities can often inspire great research questions.

Choose a Sub-Topic

Social psychologists are interested in all aspects of social behavior. Some of the main areas of interest within the field include:

  • Social cognition: How do we process and use information about social experiences? What kinds of biases influence how we engage with other people?
  • Social influence: How do our attitudes and behavior change in response to other people?
  • Social relationships: What are the different types of social relationships? How do they develop and change over time?
  • Group dynamics: What are the patterns of behavior in groups? How do groups influence our attitudes and behavior?
  • Attitudes and persuasion: How do our attitudes develop and change?

To help ensure that you select a topic that is specific enough, it can be helpful to confine your search to one of these main areas.

Browse Past Research

After narrowing down your choices, consider what questions you might have that haven't been fully answered by previous studies. At this point, it can be helpful to spend some time browsing through journal articles or books to see some examples of past findings.

You can also find inspiration and learn more about a topic by searching for keywords related to your topic in psychological databases such as PsycINFO or browsing through some professional psychology journals.

Narrow Down Your Specific Topic

Once you have a general topic, you'll need to narrow down your research. The goal is to choose a research question that is specific, measurable, and testable. An example of a good research topic might be, “Are people more likely to conform when they are in a small group or a large group?” In this case, the topic of your paper would be how group size influences social conformity.

Review the Literature on Your Chosen Topic

After choosing a specific social psychology topic to research, the next step is to do a literature review. A literature review involves reading through the existing research and finding related to a specific topic.

You are likely to encounter a great deal of information on your topic, which can seem overwhelming at times. You may find it helpful to start by reading review articles or meta-analysis studies. These are summaries of previous research on your topic or studies that incorporate a large pool of past research on the topic.

Talk to Your Instructor

Even if you are really excited to dive right in and start working on your project, there are some important preliminary steps you need to take.

Before you decide to tackle a project for your social psychology class, you should always clear your idea with your instructor. This initial step can save you a lot of time and hassle later on.

Your instructor can offer clear feedback on things you should and should not do while conducting your research and might be able to offer some helpful tips. Also, your school might require you to present to and gain permission from an institutional review board.

Recap

Thinking about the questions you have about social psychology can be a great way to discover topics for your own research. Once you have a general idea, explore the literature and refine your research question to make sure it is specific enough.

Examples of Social Psychology Research Topics

The following are some specific examples of different subjects you might want to investigate further as part of a social psychology research paper, experiment, or project:

Implicit Attitudes

How do implicit attitudes influence how people respond to others? This can involve exploring how people's attitudes towards different groups of people (e.g., men, women, ethnic minorities) influence their interactions with those groups. For example, one study found that 75% of people perceive men to be more intelligent than women.

In your own project, you might explore how implicit attitudes impact perceptions of qualities such as kindness, intelligence, leadership skills, or attractiveness.

Prosocial Behavior

You might also choose to focus on prosocial behavior in your research. This can involve investigating the reasons why people help others. Some questions you could explore further include:

  • What motivates people to help others?
  • When are people most likely to help others?
  • How does helping others cause people to feel?
  • What are the benefits of helping other people?

Persuasion

How do people change their attitudes in response to persuasion? What are the different techniques that can be used to persuade someone? What factors make some people who are more susceptible to persuasion than others?

Collect a wide variety of print advertisements and analyze how​ persuasion is used. What types of cognitive and affective techniques are utilized? Do certain types of advertisements tend to use specific kinds of persuasive techniques?

Aggression

Another area of social psychology that you might research is aggression and violence. This can involve exploring the factors that lead to aggression and violence and the consequences of these behaviors. Some questions you might explore further include:

  • When is violence most likely to occur?
  • What factors influence violent behavior?
  • Do traumatic experiences in childhood lead to more aggressive behavior in adulthood?
  • Does viewing violent media content contribute to increased aggressive behavior in real life?

Prejudice

Prejudice and discrimination are areas that present a range of research opportunities. This can involve studying the different forms that prejudice takes (e.g., sexism, racism, ageism), as well as the psychological effects of prejudice and discrimination. You might also want to investigate topics related to how prejudices form or strategies that can be used to reduce such discrimination.

Nonverbal Behavior

How do people respond when nonverbal communication does not match up to verbal behavior (for example, saying you feel great when your facial expressions and tone of voice indicate otherwise). Which signal do people respond to most strongly?

Lying

How good are people at detecting lies? Have participants tell a group of people about themselves, but make sure some of the things are true while others are not. Ask members of the group which statements they thought were true and which they thought were false.

Social Norms

How do people react when social norms are violated? This might involve acting in a way that is outside the norm in a particular situation or enlisting friends to act out the behaviors while you observe.

Some examples that you might try include wearing unusual clothing, applauding inappropriately at the end of a class lecture, cutting in line in front of other people, or some other mildly inappropriate behavior. Keep track of your own thoughts as you perform the experiment and observe how people around you respond.

Online Social Behavior

Does online social networking make people more or less likely to interact with people in face-to-face or other offline settings? Create a questionnaire to assess how often people participate in social networking versus how much time they spend interacting with their friends in real-world settings.

Social Perception

How does our appearance impact how people respond to us? Ask some friends to help you by having two people dress up in dramatically different ways, one in a professional manner and one in a less conventional manner. Have each person engage in a particular action, then observe how they are treated and how other people's responses differ.

Social psychologists have found that attractiveness can produce what is known as a halo effect. Essentially, we tend to assume that people who are physically attractive are also friendly, intelligent, pleasant, and likable.

Have participants look at photographs of people of varying degrees of physical attractiveness, then ask them to rate each person based on a variety of traits, including social competence, kindness, intellect, and overall likability. Think about how this might affect a variety of social situations, including how employees are selected or how jurors in a criminal case might respond.

Recap

Social psychology is a broad field, so there are many different subtopics you might choose to explore in your research. Implicit attitudes, prosocial behavior, aggression, prejudice, and social perception are just a few areas you might want to consider.

A Word From Verywell

Social psychology topics can provide a great deal of inspiration for further research, whether you are writing a psychology paper or conducting your own psychology experiment. In addition to some of the social psychology topics above, you can also draw inspiration by considering your own questions about social behavior or even looking at social issues that you see taking place in the world around you. 

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3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Psychological Association. Frequently asked questions about institutional review boards.

  2. Storage D, Charlesworth TES, Banaji M, Cimpian A. Adults and children implicitly associate brilliance with men more than womenJ Exp Soc Psychol. 2012;90:104020. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2020.104020

  3. Talamas SN, Mavor KI, Perrett DI. Blinded by beauty: Attractiveness bias and accurate perceptions of academic performance. PLoS ONE. 2016;11(2):e0148284. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0148284