Social Change


Social Change

Social change is when whole societies adopt new attitudes / beliefs / behaviours, for example changing attitudes on issues such as women's suffrage, views on homosexuality and ethnicity, or beliefs about the importance of recycling or environmental issues.

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Role of Minority Influence

Social change can happen if a minority is consistent, committed, and flexible (for example, the actions of the suffragettes). By doing this, the minority draws attention to the issue, causes deeper processing of their arguments amongst the majority, and persuades people to change their views, a process which is accelerated by the snowball effect.

The concept of 'social cryptoamnesia' is the idea that the population does not remember how / why the change has happened - because it has become accepted as 'the norm'.

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Conformity Research

This shows the importance of a dissenter, who encourages other people to not conform and therefore lead to social change. The role of normative influence can also be used to affect social change, for example by suggesting that others are behaving in a certain way.

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Obedience Research

This shows the power of a disobedient individual, for example in Milgram's variation. A real-life example would be Rosa Parks, who was used as a disobedient role model. She encourages many other people to refuse to give up their seat in white-only areas of buses during the era of segregation in the USA, eventually leading to the civil rights movement.

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+ Nolan et al (2008) found that displaying messages encouraging less energy were more effective when they suggested that other people were doing the same thing. This supports that normative social influence can be a factor in effecting social change.

+ Research such as Moscovici, Asch, and Milgram's variations support the potential role of consistency of a minority and the importance of dissenters in changing people's behaviour.

- In reality, social change rarely happens, and if it does, it happens very slowly (often over decades). This suggests that the explanations of social change are limited, as if they were true, social change should happen much more frequently.

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