Social influence in everyday life

Social influence in everyday life

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How have the research studies helped us understand why individuals can resist pressures to conform & instead to obey authority?

all the studies such as those in Asch, Milgram & Hofling have indicated that people will conform or obey when put under pressure.

in some instances though individuals have resisted the pressure put on them to conform or else they have totally dfied orders by the authority figure.

  • Asch showed 24% did not conform
  • Milgram showed 35% disobeyed the researcher
  • Hofling showed 1/22 nurses resisted the doctor's orders over the phone

There are many reasons for this incuding:

  • situational factors
  • independent behaviours
  • individual differnces
  • cognitive factors
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there are different forms of non-conformity.

Anti conformity or counter conformity which is when the person acts in opposition to rules or group norms

Independent behaviour which is when the individual does not respond to group norms. although they can see how others are behaving they don't pay attention to this & are not infuenced by it.

Situational factors

less presitgous surroundings, close proximity of the authority figure e.g Police, teacher, researcher all have an effect. alternatively close physical contact hs been shown to lead to higher disobedience.

Gamson 1982 set out to explore these factors.

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Gamson, Fireman and Rytina (1982

Gamson, Fireman and Rytina (1982) aimed to test the hypothesis that a group is more likely to rebel than a lone individual. They set up a situation where it appeared to participants that they were being manipulated into signing statements which would then be used by an oil company in a legal case. In their experiment 16 out of 33 groups totally refused to do what was expected of them and in a further 9 groups the majority of group members refused.

Participants in the study were given plenty of breaks where they were able to mix freely with one another and discuss and clarify the situation for one another.

Having an opportunity for discussion can make a
huge difference to obedience levels.

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The researchers observed that members of the group were having to decide between the urge to obey and the urge to conform to the group norm: many were uncertain at this point, delaying a decision as long as possible. Indeed, some group members went along with the experimenters and signed the statement they were being asked to sign, but then crossed out their signatures or tore up the statement when they realised that others were not going to sign.

It can be concluded that groups are more likely to resist obedience than individuals, provided they have a chance to discuss the implications freely with other group members.

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Methodological issues

  • G's research had a high level of realism. While the situation itself was rather unusual, p's behaviour was likely to be free from demand characteristics as they were unawarre they were participating in a research study
  • it was difficult to seperate the many factors that may have led to disobedience in this study. rebellion could have been influence by a no. of factors including the high costs involved of being seen to lie on film in court as well as the group nature of the decision. both of these are likely to have contributed to the high levels of disobedience shown

Ethical issues

  • a no. of ethical issues were involved in this study. p's were decieved as to the nature of the exercise & did not give their fully informed consent. in addition the experience was exceedinly stressful for those who took part
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why did people disobey in G's study?

Smith & Mackie 2000 have identified 3 key features, which may have led to disobedience in G's study:

  • The importance of a group: a group of people who share a similar view can be used against an authority figure to present an alternative consensus of the correct way to behave. In G's stud, the p's established a strong group identity in which the members agreed that the demands of authority were unreasonable. this could be seen by the way in which they adressed the HR coordinator saying that 'we don't want to go on record, even pretending that we agree with what we're saying. we don't' 'all 3 of us feel the same way'. it is unlikely that the same p's would have felt able to deny authority if they had been alone
  • Reactance: this is the response of individuals to attempts to limit their freedom of choice. many people will react against unjust attempts to make them do something by doing the opposite. in G's study p's rebelled against attempts to control their behaviour
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  • Systematic processing: rebellion is more likely when people are able to take time to think carefully about what they are being asked to do, in G' study p's had sufficient time to consider their actions
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Individual difference in independent behaviour

Personality characterisitcs

Crutchfield argued that the conformers tend to have lower self-esteem in comparison to non-conformers & are often less intelligent & have a greater need for social approval. Those that have a high measure of social responsibility have v.high internal locus of control & will therefore be v.independent in their behaviour

Locus of control

The extent to which people believe they have power over events in their lives. A person with an internal locus of control believes that he or she can influence events and their outcomes, while someone with an external locus of control blames outside forces for everything.

Rutter argued that we measure individ's sense of personal control over events using a scale, when 1 end has strong internal locus of control (your control) & opposite ends (luck etc).

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Developing indepdent behaviour

Nemeth & Chiles 1988 set out to see if p's can be influenced to become more independent using a Moscovici's style slide experiment. exposed 48 p's 2 attempts to alter their views. in the 1st part of the experiment they were in groups of 5, made up of 4 naive p's & a confederate & asked to judge the colour of a series of blue slides.The researchers created 4 conds using consistent confederate & inconsistent (Switch between blue & green) in 2nd part of the experiment they returned p's to the lab this time using red slides but in this con they were exposed to 4 confederates, forming a majority of the group. those that had been exposed to minority 1st part of exp & who gave a diff answer were significantly more likely to stand the majority group in the 2nd part & call slides red defying the majority group who said was orange. this study suffers all the criticisms of lab exps but it strongly implies that exposure to  a model of independent behaviour can influence an individual to stand firm against the minority & resist group pressure

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Using & abusing social pyshcology

Social influence can operate on a personal level e.g when peers try influence us

Social forces (inforcement) such s TV, adverts

Improving group status through process of social change

make attempts to bring about social change through protests, campaigns, strikes

How does this change happen?

tajfel showed how groups formed & he also studied the relationships between social groups especially those that may lead groups into conflict.

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In social identity theory (SIT) tajfel argued that people identity themselves as belonging to a particular social category. the 1st group would want to differentiate themselves & maximize the differences. most people he said wish to have a positive social identity based on their membership of a group & if they are seen to have negative identity e.g asylum seekers then they work hard to increase their status using SOCIAL CHANGE

Hogg & vaughan define social change as the idea that 'a lower status individual can improve their social identity by challenging the legitimacy of the higher status group's position'

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The individual who has low status has 2 choice:

  • Social mobility; involves the individual attempting to leave their own social group & join a groupthat has a higher social status. often seen as the most legitimate strategy in Western democratic world - where group boundaries are relatively permeable
  • Social action; trying to improve the status of the existing group to which the individual's belongs through the process of social action. this is often only available strategy in cultures where group boundaries are inflexible
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The status of a group can be improved in a no.of ways including:

Social creativity

this takes places when the group attempts to redefine their attributes in a away that makes them have a positive value. Lemaine 1974 used young french boys attending a summer comp, divided into teams the boys took part in a building comp. 1 group had inferior materials used social creativity to make garden around hut & won

Social competition

this occurs when a minority group enters into direct comp with the powerful majority group & takes social action to improve the power, status & position of their own group & challenge the social conditions that disadvantages them

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interrogation & false confessions

Social psychological knowledge can be used for social control as well as social change. when an individual or group feels vulnerable they are easily influenced by those around them & Kassin & Kiechel 1996 carried out a study as follows using an expt. to examine the process of false confession

Using college students they were asked to compete in pairs in a reaction time test, their task was to type letters on a keyboard, but they were warned not to touch 'alt' key at any time as the computer would crash & important data would be lost. the comps were set to crash after a timed interval & p's were accused of pressing the key. under the pressurised conditions 69% were prepared to sign a confession document even though they had not done it. interviews after showed 28% had convinced themselves they had done it.

what might happen in real life?

it is likely under real pressure of an interview many innocent suspects end up confessing to crimes they had not done

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in china in the 20's onwards this process was used to change people's political views & beliefs so they accepted the new communist regime.

there was a 3 stage indoctrination programme.

1st stage

students would join a small discussion group of 10 in which they would be encouraged to discuss their own views & hear others talking of their hatred if the old regime in China. they would also be given lecturers on the new ideologies. this would target their ideas at the intellectual level

2nd stage

the techs became personal & emotional, considerable pressure was put on students to adopt & show the 'correct' view. those who did not comply were singled out, threatened & publicly humilated

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3rd stage

the students was made to prepare a 'confession' of between 5000 & 25000 words, which was read out the study group renouncing their old beliefs & embracing the new communist ideologies

Where else have social influences techs been used?

Prisoners of war have been indoctrinated in the Korean war in 50's. men entered the camps & were surprised to find that they were treated as 'political students' with the guards seeing themselves as tutors, they were isolated from the outside world & family & their treatment by the guards depended on how well they could convince the guards that they had embraced the ideas of communism & after the war interviews showed that there were wide individual differences in how the prisoners resisted being brain washed. those with high resistance were sheer 'bloody minded' & those who had strong religious convictions/ belief

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