Evaluation of Social Approach

An Evaluation of The Social Approach.

Evaluation of Social Approach


  • The Social Approach is considered useful; it has many practical applications. For example, Reicher and Haslam's study has been used to train prison guards so that they better understand the need to be more assertive.
  • This approach helps us understand how behaviour can be influenced by other people, and the situation they find themselves in. It helps us understand that people's behaviour may change if their situation changes. For example, Milgram's study shows that the presence of an authority figure and a prestigous environment can influence people's behaviour - when prodded, they obeyed commands against their own wishes.
  • It helps us understand extreme human behaviours; this is good because if we can understand the causes of behaviour (such as power abuse by prison guards, SPE) then we can take steps to prevent it. For example, Reicher and Haslam's study suggests that tyranny is likely to arise when groups break down and there isn't a clear structure in place.


  • The Social Approach underestimates the influence of individual differences in behaviour - it doesn't explain why some people differ from the norm expected in any given social situation. For example, in Milgram's study, where approximately 1/3 of participants did not continue to 450 volts, obedience to authority could have been influenced by personality factors as well as the demands of the situation. The study doesn't investigate why certain individuals were able to disobey an authority figure.
  • It is often criticised for being ethnocentric, meaning that research from this approach may not generalise across cultures. For example, Piliavin's study took place on the New York subway system, so the findings may not generalise beyone the USA.
  • Another weakness of this approacch is that in order to obtain valid results, social research is often conducted without the participant's knowledge. This is a weakness because it means that many social psychological studies have had ethical problems. For example, the travellers on the subway in Piliavin's study were not aware they were being observed.


Like other approaches, The Social Approach has its uses. However also like other approached, it shares the weakness of often being ethnocentric as well as reductionist. Although shared by many other approaches and therefore not as significant, these are still an issue.


Ibrahim - Team GR


This is exactly what I needed! Thankyou for giving detail in your strengths and weaknesses to the Social approach and giving great examples from core studies! ThankYou.

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