The social nature of being human
The social nature of being human

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Free course

The social nature of being human

The social nature of being human


‘Three is a crowd’, the saying goes. But what, exactly, is a crowd? And what, exactly, is the ‘three’ (i.e. the three individuals) that supposedly already constitutes ‘a crowd’? These are intricate questions for psychologists and other social scientists who have always been fascinated by these questions and come up with widely diverging answers to them. At one end, we have those arguing that crowds are best understood as undifferentiated and amorphous wholes. At another end, we have arguments about individuals themselves being akin to crowds: multi-faceted, fractious and emerging out of social practices.

What this free course, The social nature of being human, will argue is that the social aspect of human existence is inevitable and ever-present. Even when we are seemingly on our own, we are in the presence of imagined others; and even our most private thoughts or desires are formulated against the background of meanings that are necessarily socially constructed.

This course will give you some taste of the research into the social aspect of the human condition, by showing you three examples. First you will be introduced to research on crowds and look at a specific example: pilgrims gathering at the Magh Mela in India. Next, you will look at somewhat smaller social groups as you will be guided through an understanding of a politically inspired interruption of a BBC Proms concert. Lastly, you will turn to the topic of homelessness and charitable giving, and will see how our behaviour and attitudes are socially mediated even in the apparent absence of the group and the crowd.

This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course DD801 Principles of social and psychological inquiry [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . The topics and the general approach of this short course will give you a taster of this Open University course.


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