Social influence process in social change

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  • Social influence process in social change
    • The process by which individuals and groups change each other’s attitudes and behaviours.
    • Social change 
      • This occurs when whole societies rather than just individuals, adopt new attitudes, beliefs and ways of doing things.
    • Drawing attention 
      • In 1950`s America, black separation applied to all parts of America. There were black neighbourhoods and in southern states, school and restaurants were exclusive to whites. The civil rights marches of this period drew attention to the situation providing social proof of the problem.
    • Consistency
      • Many marches and many people taking part. Even though they were a minority of the American population, the civil rights activists displayed consistency of the message and intent. 
    • Deeper processing
      • This attention meant that people who had simply accepted the status quo began to think about the unjustness of it.
    • Augmentation principle 
      • There were a number of incidents where individuals risked their lives. “freedom riders” were mixed racial groups who got on buses in the south to challenge that black people still had to sit separately on buses. Many of these were beaten 
    • Snowball effect
      • Civil rights activists such as Martin Luther King continued to press for change that gradually got the attention of the US government. In 1964 the US civil right act was passed, which prohibited discrimination. This represented a change from minority to majority support for civil rights.
    • Social cryptomnesia
      • Social change has occurred and the south is a different place now but people have no memory of events that lead to that change.
    • Evaluation (AO3)
      • Research to support normative social influence 
        • Nolan investigated whether social influence processes reduced energy use in a community. They hung up messages on the front doors of houses in San Diego and California once a week for a month. The key message was that most residents were trying to reduce their energy usage. As a control. Some residents had different messages that asked them to save energy but made no references to other people`s behaviour. Nolan found significant decreases in energy usage in the first group. therefore, this is a strength because it shows that conformity can lead to social change through the operation of normative social influence.
      • Minority influence is only indirectly effective 
        • Social change only happen slowly when they happen. Charles Nemeth argues that the effects of minority influence are likely to be mostly indirect and delayed. They are indirect because the majority is influenced on matters only related to the issue at hand, and not the central issue itself. They are delayed because the effect may not be seen for a while. Therefore, this could be considered a limitation of using minority influence to explain social change because it shows that its effects and it role in social influence is very limited.
      • Role of deeper processing 
        • Moscovici`s conversation explanation of minority influence argues that minority and majority influence involve different cognitive processes. Minority influence causes individuals to think more deeply about an issue than majority influence. Diane Mackie disagrees and presents evidence that it is majority influence that may create deeper processing if you do not share their views and think in the same ways as us. When we find out that the majority believes something different, then we are forced to think long and hard about their arguments and reasoning. Therefore, this means that an important part of the process of minority influence has been challenged and may be incorrect- casting doubt on the validity of Moscovici`s theory.  
      • Methodological issues 
        • Explanations on social influence leads to social change come from Asch, Milgram and Moscovici. All these studies can be evaluated in terms of their methodology. E.g. lacks external validity, unethical. Therefore, the criticisms applied in other areas may apply here. We cannot be sure that social influence processes such as consistency, snowball effect etc have brought about social change as they are based on flawed methodologies.


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