Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Social Influences on Behavior

         Kowalski and Westen, (2011) “social influence refers to the influence of the presence of other people on thought, feeling, and behavior.” (p. 686). Social influence, regardless from another individual or group of individuals may affect the behavior of individuals but can influence some individuals more than others. Individuals act and behave in particular ways at certain times and in certain places. Whether an individual behaves differently at work and at home, or one behaves like friends, social influences may alter and shape thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (Loop, 2013). In certain social situations individual’s behaviors will change because of obedience and conformity.
         Kowalski and Westen, (2011) “obedience is a social influence process whereby individuals follow the dictates of an authority” (p. 694). When obedience occurs individuals act in response to the direct order given by another individual, such as an authority figure. Therefore, this is obedience to authority. In order for an individual to obey authority, the individual has to accept the legitimacy of the command given (McLeod, 2007). The assumption is that without a direct order an individual may not act or behave in such a way. McLeod, (2007) “obedience is a desirable and necessary phenomenon and without obedience to authority individuals and society may not function” (p. 1).
         Cardwell (2005), “Stanley Milgram’s study of obedience remains one of the most iconic experiments in social psychology” (p. 1). Milgram's experiments demonstrated the power of obedience, and demonstrated that individuals have a tendency of following direct orders of an authority figures (McLeod, 2007). Milgram’s experiment also demonstrated that individuals upon direct orders would give helpless individuals electric shocks without questioning the authority figure in command. Milgram's experiments did not exactly prove that authority is always obeyed because the experiments seemed biased. However, the experiments did show the tendency of obedience to authority, regardless if biased or not. Obedience takes on two forms, such as constructive and destructive obedience.
Constructive Obedience
           Constructive obedience is a form of obedience, beneficial to an individual and to society. Constructive obedience holds survival value. Therefore, this form of obedience adds to the physical and mental well-being of individuals and society. Individuals contribute to themselves and to society and society benefits when individuals obey their doctors, health, and safety personal in reference to their behaviors in certain environments.
Destructive Obedience
           Destructive obedience is a form of obedience, harmful to individuals and to society. Examples of destructive obedience are the Holocaust murders of Jewish people by the German Nazis, The My Lai massacre during the Viet Nam war, the people's temple mass suicide, and the murders of one million Armenians in Turkey during the early 1900s (McLeod, 2007). Acts of destructive obedience justifications occur from higher goals, such as racial purity. As a result of destructive obedience individuals endanger themselves are a danger to society, and society suffers.
            Kowalski and Westen, (2011) “conformity is the process by which people change their attitudes or behavior to accommodate the standards of peers or groups” (p. 694). When an individual changes it is of a response to group pressure imagined or not (McLeod, 2007). The group pressure imagined or not involves the physical presence of others and the pressure of social norms and expectations (McLeod, 2007). When an individual yields to group pressures (conformity) adverse behaviors may follow, such as teasing, bullying, and criticism of others. Persuasion of other individuals also occurs. Conformity occurs when an individual conforms to a position or belief of the majority. Conformity occurs because of either a desire to fit in, or need for acceptance, or the desire to be correct, or to conform to a social role (McLeod, 2007). Crowne and Marlowe (1964), “individuals with low self-esteem and those who are especially motivated by a need for social approval are more likely to conform” (as cited in Kowalski & Westen, 2011, p. 685). 
            Solomon Asch performed one of the more powerful conformity experiments that demonstrated the power of situations in influencing attitudes and behaviors (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). Asch gathered seven to nine groups of college students to participate in an experiment on visual judgment (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). Only one of the college students was an unknowing participant who conformed to group pressure and agreed with the other participants who knowing answered falsely to a particular question. This demonstrated how group pressure can force some individuals to conform. Leon Mann stated that the essence of conformity is yielding to group pressure (McLeod, 2007). Mann identified three types of conformity, which are normative, informational, and ingratiational.
Normative Conformity
            Normative conformity occurs when an individual yields to group pressure to fit into a certain group because of the fear of rejection by that certain group. McLeod (2007), “this type of conformity usually involves compliance – where a person publicly accepts the views of a group but privately rejects them” (p. 1).
Informational Conformity
            Informational conformity occurs when an individual lacks the knowledge of guidance and looks to the group for it or when an individual is in an ambiguous circumstance and socially compares his or her own behavior with the behavior of a group (McLeod, 2007). McLeod (2007), “this type of conformity usually involves internalization – where a person accepts the views of the groups and adopts them as an individual” (p. 1).
Ingratiational Conformity
            Ingratiational conformity occur when an individual conforms to impress or gain favor or acceptance from other individuals (McLeod, 2007). This type of conformity is similar to normative influence, although motivated by a need of social rewards instead of a threat of rejection (McLeod, 2007). Group pressure is not a contributing factor in conforming.
Precursors and Consequences of Obedience and Conformity
            The precursors of obedience whether constructive or destructive obedience are that an individual may change his or her own thoughts and behaviors and looks toward an authority figure to determine acceptable thoughts and behaviors. The consequence is developing co-dependence problems. Destructive obedience also endangers an individual and society. The precursors of conformity are that an individual loses his or her sense of self in relations to his or her own thoughts and behaviors and looks to the group that the individual conforms to for acceptable thoughts and behaviors. The consequence is developing co-dependence problems.
Associated Phenomenon
            Social facilitation may occur in obedience when an individual does not want to disobey authority and have thoughts or behavior adversely to the thoughts and behaviors directed by the authority. Social facilitation occurs in conformity when an individual changes because it is of a response to group pressure imagined or not (McLeod, 2007). Social loafing occurs in conformity when individuals exert less effort in achieving goals when working as a group instead of as an individual. Groupthink occurs in obedience and conformity when individuals of a group do not express their concerns about the dynamics, decisions, or direction of the group, which occurs because of the desire to maintain obedience or conformity.  
Therapeutic Intervention
           Therapeutic intervention is useful in obedience and conformity. When an individual is more concerned about the acceptable thoughts and behaviors of an authority or group one may endanger him or herself and society by becoming less concerned about how the thoughts and behaviors affect him or herself and affect society. Self esteem problems can occur because of this as well. Obedience and conformity influences are beneficial and positively affect an individual and society as well. Only in some instances are therapeutic interventions needed.
            Kowalski and Westen, (2011) “in truth, however, we are all victims of social influence on a daily basis” (p. 692).

Loop, E. (2013). eHow. Retrieved from http://www.ehow.com/info_8510709_social-influences-human-behavior.html
McLeod, S. (2007). SimplyPsychology. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/obedience.html
Cardwell, M. (2005). Obedience and the Real World. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/obedience%20in%20the%20real%20world.pdf
McLeod, S. (2007). SimplyPsychology. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/conformity.html

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