how we are persuaded and attracted, and
the ways that humans are sometimes
kind and often cruel (Sabates, 2012).
What are we “like” when we’re around
Don’t misunderstand. Social psychology cannot inform Christians about how
we “should” conduct social interactions.
It cannot provide an example to guide
students’ socialization. Naturalistic psychology is amoral.
The Bible teaches that God created us
to be social. Social relationships are a
primary part of His plan. We should be
salt and light. Our social interactions and
relationships should reflect Christ in us.
We should love our neighbor as ourselves
and pray for those who persecute us. We
should not conform to the ways of the
world. Homeschoolers are well-trained
in the “shoulds” and “should nots” of
Social psychology can, however, inform us about how people actually do
conduct social interactions. Social psychology paints an unflattering, but sadly
accurate, portrait of human socialization. Social psychology reminds us that
despite God’s intention, humans can be
mean, aggressive, and self-centered. It
provides important reminders of the
power of social influences and gives students a “heads up” before they arrive on
campus (Sabates, 2012).
For example, in one of social psycholo-
gy’s most famous experiments, Milgram
(1963) demonstrated the power of au-
thority figures and the difficulty resisting
immoral authority. (The study is remark-
able, one in which participants would
obey an “authority” and provide elec-
tric shocks to “victims” who answered
questions incorrectly.) Milgram’s study
provides a chance to talk with students
about authority and morality and is an
object lesson in the importance of keep-
ing God as one’s ultimate authority.
The Bible warns that we should not
think too highly of ourselves, not judge
others unfairly, and love our neighbors.
Social psychology suggests we tend to do
otherwise. We have self-serving biases,
we tend to present ourselves in the best
possible light, and we often misjudge and
distrust others, especially those who are
different from us (Sabates, 2012). Students should recognize it in others and
be alert to it in themselves.
Asch (1956) and others suggest that it
is difficult to stand out from “the group.”
There are social pressures on Christians
to conform their beliefs and behaviors
to those of the group. Students who
understand group dynamics are better
prepared for the experience of group
From the mass shooting incident to
the more prevalent assault, harassment,
and intimidation, violence on campus is
on the rise (Robers, et. al, 2014). Social
psychologists and homeschoolers alike
are interested in keeping students safe on
campus. College violence and risky behaviors demand that we talk to students
about the importance of wise socialization decisions, strategies to avoid violence, and ways they can protect themselves.
When our children were young, we
guarded their socialization. In college,
they must guard themselves. They have
their armor and are ready for battle.
Social psychology provides students a
glimpse of what the battle will be like.
Socialization on campus today reflects
human nature. Group pressures, bias,
conformity, discrimination, and more
are manifestations of sin in socialization.
Understanding lessons from social psychology gives homeschoolers advanced
warning and highlights the importance
of keeping Christ in the center of socialization in college.
Tim Rice, D. Min., LPC, is the author of
Homeschool Psych: Preparing Christian
Homeschool Students for Psychology 101
and Psychology: A Christian Perspective,
High School Edition. Dr. Rice has introduced hundreds of students to psychology
from a Christian perspective in his live online
classes. He is a practicing counselor, conference speaker, and aspiring novelist. His first
work, It’s Not That Simple, Natty Rose is
available today. www.homeschoolpsych.com
Find him on Twitter @homeschoolpsych.
Asch, Solomon E. (1956). Studies of independence
and conformity: I. A minority of one against a
unanimous majority. Psychological Monographs:
General and Applied, Vol. 70( 9).
Medlin, R. G. (2013). Homeschooling and the
Question of Socialization Revisited. Peabody Journal of Education, 88 ( 3), 284-297.
Milgram, Stanley. (1963). Behavioral Study of Obedience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology,
Robers, S., Kemp, J., Rathbun, A., and Morgan,
R.E. (2014). Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2013. National Center for Education Statistics,
Sabates, Angela M. (2012), Social Psychology in
Christian Perspective. InterVarsity Press, Downers
Turner, M., Pratkanis, A. (1998). Twenty-five years
of groupthink theory and research: lessons from the
evaluation of a theory. Organizational Behavior and
Human Decision Processes 73.
The Bible warns that we should not think too highly of
ourselves, not judge others unfairly, and love our neighbors.
Social psychology suggests we tend to do otherwise.
Social psychologists and homeschoolers alike are
interested in keeping students safe on campus.