Social Influence in the Process of Social Change

  • Created by: AliceTori
  • Created on: 07-05-17 16:39

Social Change- Homosexuality

One social change that has occurred in the UK is the acceptance of homosexual relationships.

In 1983, the British Social Attitude Survey found that over 60% of adults who described themselves as 'non-religious' disapproved of same sex relationships, thinking that they were 'wrong'.
By 2010 this figure had dropped to around 20%.
For Catholics, the respective time period showed a decrease from 70% disapproval to 37.5% in 2010.

This change in attitudes has been mirrored by legal change as well as up to 1967, homosexuality was a crime that could lead to prosecution and imprisonment. It was also considered a deviance that required psychological treatment.

The first stage towards equality was the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 and other milestones included the UK Civial Partnership Act (2004), which allowed gay couples to enter relationships recognised in law.

The Civil Marriages Act (2013) allowed gay couples to enter marriage with the same legal benefits as heterosexual couples.

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Social Change

It is often accompanied by social cryptoamnesia which refers to the acceptance of values promoted by the minority such as the womens riight to vote, and is accompanied by an apparent forgetting of the crucial role played by the minority group.

Therefore, changes achieved by minority groups are accepted but the group is not given credit for producing these changes, allowing rejection of the general 'position' of feminist.

By this process, minority groups do not recieve credit for thei successes and may still be viewed negatively or may still be discriminated against.

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Role and Process of Minority influence

1) Drawing attention- to the minority view through marches and protests

2) Consistency- display a consistent messge through each protest

3) Deeper processing- people start to think about the message

4) Augmentation principle- memebers of the minority put themsleves at risk to show commitment

5) Snowball effect- gradually members of the majority start to accept that change the minority view

6) Social cryptoamnesia- people have a memory of the change that has occurred but do not remember how it happened

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Lessons from Conformity Research

In one of his vairables, Asch showed the importance of someone giving an answer that was different from the norm such as a confederate giving the right answer, this is known as dissent.

By acting in a dissentive way it breaks the power of the majority and therefore encourages others to dissent and it is dissent that has the potential to lead to social change.

Environmental and health campaigns increasingly exploit conformity processes by appealing to normative social influence and they manage this by providing information about what other people are doing.

An example of this is an aim to reduce the amount of littering by printing a normative message on bins with a caption of 'bin it- others do'

In this case social change is encouraged by drawing attention to what the majority are actually doing.

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Lessons from Obedience Research

Milgram's research clearly demonstates the importance of disobedient role models.

In a variation where a confederate teacher refuses to give shocks to the learner, the rate of obedience in genuine participants dropped.

Zimbardo (2007) suggests how obedience can be used to create social change through the process of gradual commitment.

Once a small instruction is obeyed, it becomes much more difficult to resist a bigger one so people tend to 'drift' into a new kind of behaviour.

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Research support


There is research support for the role of normtive social influence (NSI) in social change as Nonal et al. (2008) hung messages infront of houses with a key message was that many residents were trying to reduce energy usage.
There were significant decreases in energy use found compared to the control group who just saw a message about saving energy but with no reference to what other people had done or were doing.

Therefore, this means that conformity can lead to social change through the operation of normative social influence.

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Indirectly Effective


The minority influence is indirectly effective in creating social change as Nemeth (1986) suggested that the effects of the minority influence are indirect and delayed,

For example: it too decades for attitudes against drink-driving and smoking to change/shift.

Indirect: the majority is influenced only on matters that are related to the central issue, and not the issue itself.

Delayed: effects are not seen for some time

Therefore using minority influence to explain social change is limited because it shows that the effects are fragile and its role in social influence is narrow.

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Deeper processing has been questioned


The nature of deeper processing has been questioned even though Moscovici suggested that minority influence causes individuals to think deeply- which is a different cognitive process from majority influence.

Makie (1987) disagrees, arguing that majority influence creates deeper processing if you do not share their views.

We believe that others think in the same way as us; when we find that a majority believes differently, we are forced to think about their arguments.

This means that the central element of minority influence is challenged and may be incorrect, casting doubt on the validity of Moscovici's study.

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Important variable overlooked


Identification is an important variable overlooked in minority influence as Bashir et al. (2013) suggest that people are less likely to behave in environmentally ways because they want to avoid being labelled as one of the minority 'environmentalists'.

Participants rated environmental activists negatively.

Minorities wanting social change should avoid behaving in ways that reinforce stereotypes which can be seen as off putting to the majority.

This suggests that being able to identify with the minority group is just as important as agreeing with their views in terms of changing behaviour.

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Methodological issues in research


There are methodological issues in this area of research as explanations of social change rely on studies conducted by Moscovici, Asch and Milgram.

These can be evaluated in terms of methodology, mainly over artifical tasks and whether the group dynamics reflect real-life.

These criticisms apply to the evaluation of explanations for the link between social influence processes and social change.

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