Social Influence

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SOCIAL INFLUENCE

What is social influence?

The effect other people have on our behaviour. This includes conformity, obedience and social loafing.

CONFORMITY

Conformity is a change in a person's behaviour or opinions as a result of group pressure.

We conform due to two reasons, firstly there is a need to be right, particuarly when in an ambiguous situation, we will see what other people are doing and assume they're correct. This will lead us to copy them. Secondly, there is a need to be liked, when we are in a social situation, we have a strong desire to be accepted by the rest of the group. This means we are more likey to do or say things that make us more popular within the group.

SHERIF

Aim; To discover the effect on judgement of listening to other people.

Method; He asked participants to estimate how far a spot of light moved when they were sitting in an otherwise completely dark room. In fact the light didnt move at all, but owing to an optical illusion called the Autokinetic effect it did appear to.

Results; Individually the participants gave a variety of estimates, which differed quite widely from each other's. However, after being allowed to undertake the same task in groups of three, their estimates became more similar until finally they were very close.

Conclusion; The participants used other people's opinions to help them form a judgement in an ambiguous situation.

ASCH

Aim; Asch wanted to know whether people could be influenced by other people's opinions to give an answer they knew to be wrong. In this way it would be possuble to see if people were conforming.

Method; Participants were shown sets of four lines, for each set, the participant had to say whether line A, B, or C was the same length as the test line. When tested alone, the participants rarely made a mistake (the error rate was less than 1%). However, participants also had to give their answers as a part of a group. The rest of the group was instructed to give incorrect answers for some of the tests.

Results; On 32 percent of the trials where the rest of the group gave the wrong answer, the participants gave the same wrong answer as the rest of the group, rather than the obviously correct answer. In fact 74% of the participants gave at least one wrong answer.

 Conclusion; The only reason for this 32% error rate was hearing the incorrect answers previously given. Those who gave incorrect answers told Asch they knew their answers were wrong but did not want to go against the rest of the group. This clearly shows normative social influence. ("the influence of other people that leads us to conform in order to be liked and accepted by them.")

EVALUATION

  • Both conducted in laboratories, this means it was not a natural situation for the participants and they may not have behaved in a natural way. This may have affected the

Comments

elliemaymartin

great use of personal knowledge

NEPKETA1998

What is social influence?

The effect other people have on our behaviour. This includes conformity, obedience and social loafing.

CONFORMITY

Conformity is a change in a person's behaviour or opinions as a result of group pressure.

We conform due to two reasons, firstly there is a need to be right, particuarly when in an ambiguous situation, we will see what other people are doing and assume they're correct. This will lead us to copy them. Secondly, there is a need to be liked, when we are in a social situation, we have a strong desire to be accepted by the rest of the group. This means we are more likey to do or say things that make us more popular within the group.

SHERIF

Aim; To discover the effect on judgement of listening to other people.

Method; He asked participants to estimate how far a spot of light moved when they were sitting in an otherwise completely dark room. In fact the light didnt move at all, but owing to an optical illusion called the Autokinetic effect it did appear to.

Results; Individually the participants gave a variety of estimates, which differed quite widely from each other's. However, after being allowed to undertake the same task in groups of three, their estimates became more similar until finally they were very close.

Conclusion; The participants used other people's opinions to help them form a judgement in an ambiguous situation.

ASCH

Aim; Asch wanted to know whether people could be influenced by other people's opinions to give an answer they knew to be wrong. In this way it would be possuble to see if people were conforming.

Method; Participants were shown sets of four lines, for each set, the participant had to say whether line A, B, or C was the same length as the test line. When tested alone, the participants rarely made a mistake (the error rate was less than 1%). However, participants also had to give their answers as a part of a group. The rest of the group was instructed to give incorrect answers for some of the tests.

Results; On 32 percent of the trials where the rest of the group gave the wrong answer, the participants gave the same wrong answer as the rest of the group, rather than the obviously correct answer. In fact 74% of the participants gave at least one wrong answer.

Conclusion; The only reason for this 32% error rate was hearing the incorrect answers previously given. Those who gave incorrect answers told Asch they knew their answers were wrong but did not want to go against the rest of the group. This clearly shows normative social influence. ("the influence of other people that leads us to conform in order to be liked and accepted by them.")

EVALUATION

  • Both conducted in laboratories, this means it was not a natural situation for the participants and they may not have behaved in a natural way. This may have affected the results and is known as having low ecological validity.
  • Asch carried out his research in a University on University students, who may not behave in the same way as other people. This too could lead to inaccurate conclusions.
  • Asch uses confederates which could raise ethical issues of deception.

OBEDIENCE

Obedience is following the orders of someone who we believe to have authority.

MILGRAM

Aim; Milgram wanted to see how far people would obey an unreasonable offer.

Method; Forty male participants volunteered to take part in what they belived to be an experiment about memory and learning. In the experiment they were made to believe they were giving an electric shock to a 'learner' every time he got an answer wrong. The learner was an actor and the shocks weren't real. However, the participant, who played the role of the teacher wasn't aware of this. The participant was seated in front of a 'shock generator' that had 30 switches marked from 15 volts up to 450 volts. The learner had to remember pairs of words, and the participant had to deliver a shock that increased in severity with each mistake the learner made. As the shocks increased, the participant heard the learner groan in pain, protest and eventually yell to be released. This made the participant want to stop, so the experimenter would provide verbal prods such as, 'The experiment requires that you continue'.

Results; The consensus was that no more than 1% of them weould deliver a 450volt shock. However, despite the participants suffering a lot of distress (three of them actually had a seizure) they all delivered 300 volts, and 65% of them went all the way to 450 volts.

Conclusion; People are prepared to obey quite extraordinary orders if they think the person giving the orders is in a position of authority.

EVALUATION

  • Distress; unethical
  • Lacking ecological validity
  • It has been repeated in different situations with many variations and similar results have been found.

BICKMAN

Aim; He wanted to know if people would be more likely to obey an order if it came from someone in a uniform.

Method; He had actors dress as either a security guard or just in a casual jacket, he then asked people sitting in a park to pick up some litter.

Results; What he found was that 80% of people obeyed the 'guard' compared to the 40% when the actor wasn't wearing a uniform.

Conclusion; Wearing a uniform will increase the sense that the person is a legitimate authority figure.

EVALUATION

  • Confederates; unethical
  • High ecological validity
  • Lack of informed consent

REASONS FOR OBEDIENCE

  • Socialisation - Throughout our lives and especially when we are young, we are taught to obey authority figures, such as parents and teachers. This means it becomes a normal thing for us to do.
  • Legitimate authority - the experimenter wearing a lab coat and the prestige of Yale University made the participants put faith in the person telling them what to do. In a similar way, we might unquestioningly obey a doctor because we have faith in their superior knowledge.
  • Gradual Commitment - as the shocks in Milgram's study started quite low and increased by such small steps, it was difficult for the participants to know where to draw the line. After all, if you have given someone a shock of 150 volts already, why not 165 volts.
  • Buffers - as the participants could not directly see the victim of their actions, they were shielded from the consequences of what they did. This made it easier for them to deal with.
  • Not feeling responsible - Milgram suggested that the situation he had created caused people to lose their sense of responsibility for their own actions. Normally, we feel responsible for what we do. However, here the participants were acting on behalf of someone else: they were just doing as they were told. This stopped them from feeling they would be blamed for what they did. 

DEINDIVIDUATION

Deindividuation is the state of losing our sense of individuality and becoming less aware of our own responsibility for our actions.

ZIMBARDO (car)

Aim; To see if people in a big city behave in a more antisocial way than people in a small town.

Method; He parked a car in each place with its bonnet up, as if it had broken down, and observed what people did as they passed by.

Results; Immediatley people began stealing parts off the car in New York, and within two weeks there was very little of it left. In Palo Alto, the only time the car was touched was when someone lowered the bonnet to stop the engine getting wet when it was raining.

Conclusion; The deindividuation caused by living in a big city leads to an increase in antisocial behaviour.

ZIMBARDO (electric shocks)

Aim; To see the effect of hiding the identity of participants on the size of electric shock they are prepared to give someone.

Method; Female University students were put into one of two groups when playing the role of the teacher. The first group had to wear laboaory coats with hoods to hide their faces and they weren't introduced to each other. The second group wore their own clothes and name badges.

Results; The shocks given by the first group were twice as great as the shocks given by the second group.

Conclusion; Being able to hide their identity leads people to behave in crueller ways than they otherwise would because the person on the recieving end does not know who they are. This means there are less lkely to be any consequences for what they do.

 EVALUATION

  • This study lacks mundane realism. This means the participants might not behave how they normally would.
  • This study raised several ethical issues; such as deception and psychological harm.

FACTORS AFFECTING DEINDIVIDUATION

  • Being able to hide one's identity; removes the threat of punishment, losing the sense of your own identity.
  • Wearing a uniform; makes us like everyone else, when we belong to a group we are expected to act like the others in the group so we are discouraged from being individuals.
  • Being apart of a gang or clearly identifiable group; if dressed as a football supporter we behave like the group we are in rather than like an individual.

PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS

To prevent situations in which people can remain anonymous. CCTV cameras are being used increasingly to monitor people's behaviour in shopping centres and car parks. Psychologists would agree that being able to identity individuals in a crowd would help reduce antisocial behaviour. If people know they can be identified, they are less likely to engage in aggressive behaviour, theft or vandalism.

PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS

An implication of research into deindividuation is that, when people are wearing uniforms in the workplace, they do not behave like individuals, but as memebers of a buisness or firm. People are made to wear uniforms so that they are easily identifiable and are less likely to try to be different from others in their company. This is one reason why children are required to wear school uniforms. It makes it harder for them to act independently, and so easier to be controlled by a set of rules that apply to everyone.

SOCIAL LOAFING

Social loafing is putting less effort into doing something when you are with others doing the same.

LATANE ET AL

Aim; To see whether being in a group would have an effect on how much ffort participants put into a task.

Method; Researchers asked 84 participants to shout and clap as loudly as they could while they were alone or in groups of up to six. Each participant wore headphones so they coudn't hear the others. 

Results; The larger the group size, the less noise the participants made.

Conclusion; People put less effort into doing something when they know other are contributing effort to the same task than they do when they are the only one.

EARLEY

Aim; To see if culture makes a difference to social loafing.

Method; Participants from the US and China had to complete tasks alone and in groups. The level of social loafing was measured by how much effort was put into the task in each condition by the participants.

Results; The American participants reduced the amount of effort they put in to the task when they were in groups, but the Chinese did not.

Conclusion; Social loafing does not exist in all cultures. In some cultures people are prepared to work just as hard for the good of the whole group even when they do not need to.

EVALUATION

  • Everyone in Latane's study were from the same culture. 
  • Only two cultures compared, people in Africa for instance may behave differently.

BYSTANDER INTERVENTION

Kitty Genovese;

attacked in New York, only a few yards from her home and she was attacked continuously for half an hour before she was eventually killed. Only afterwards did someone call the police, who arrived within four minutes. With the neighbours were questioned, 38 of them were abke to say hat had happened and to give a description of the murderer. This means that any one of them could have prevented the murder by calling the police straight away instead of watching. Yet no one did.

LATANE AND DARLEY

Aim; To see if people are less likely to react in an emergency when there are others present.

Method; They had participants sit in a room either alone or in threes while completing a questionnaire. While participants were doing this, smoke began pouring into the room.

Results; Of the participants, 75% of those sitting alone went to tell someone about the smoke within six minutes. Whereas only 38% of those in groups of three did.

Conclusion; If there are other people around you, it will make it less likely that you will react in an emergency.

EVALUATION

  • Low ecological validity
  • Diffusion of responsibilty
  • Hard to determine if in an emergency

PILAVIN

Aim; To see if the appearance of the victim would influence helping behaviour.

Method; Pilavin had an actor pretend to collapse in a train carriage. His appearance was altered several times and the amount of help he recieved each time was recorded by an observer.

Results; When the actor carried a walking stick he recieved help within 70 seconds, 90% of the time. When he had an ugly facial scar, this dropped to 60%. When he appeared to be drunk, it dropped to 20%.

Conclusion; The appearance of the person needing help will affect whether and how quickly they will get that help.

EVALUATION

  • In a train carriage, so many variables couldnt be controlled so many factors could have affected the results.
  • has high ecological validity
  • Not affected by how many people present as in an everyday situation

IMPLICATIONS OF RESEARCH INTO CONFORMITY

  • Studies show that it is hard for an individual to act differently from the rest of the group. On occasion when the implications of this may be quite serious is in the decsion-making process of a jury. It is highly likely that if 11 people in a jury believe the defendant to be guilty, the final juror will agree with them even if privatley he or she believes otherwise. This is because of the difficulty of having to disagree with a majority.

IMPLICATIONS OF RESEARCH INTO OBEDIENCE

  • Milgram's research has been able to provide an explanation for why the space shuttle Challenger was allowed to explode when it could have been prevented. It has been well docummented that some engineers anticipated the breakage of the part that caused the explosion before the launch, but they were persuaded to say nothing by the authority figures within the organisation. Through his research, Milgram showed that it is easy to do as you are told and quite hard to disobey in such a situation.

IMPLICATIONS OF RESEARCH INTO SOCIAL LOAFING

  • Social loafing has shown us that when people belong to a group they reduce the amount of effort they put into a task. This is because it is not possible to identify an individual's performance. This means that some people will be trying harder than others, and no one can tell who these people are. This may occur when playing team games. Unlike tennis or gold, where and individual competes alone, in hockey or rugby, some people may not do as much running or tackling as others. We can also make predictions about the behaviour of students, based on the research in this area. When students are given presentations to prepare for in groups, some will do most of the work while others will be able to get away with making very little contribution to the group at all.

 IMPLICATIONS INTO RESEARCH OF BYSTANDER INTERVENTION

  •  In 1993 two-year-old James Bulger was abducted, by two boys, from a shopping centre in Bootle. They took him to some waste ground and murdered him. What has research into Bystander Intervention led us to believe bystanders would do if they witnessed the abduction? Nothing! Research has shown us that people, who witnessed a small boy being dragged through the streets crying for his mother, are unlikely to intervene. Lantane and Darley showed that, when lots of people are around, it reduces the chance of someone helping. It is hard to realise that there is an emergency when other people are doing nothing. Even if anyone did realise, diffusion of responsibility would stop people from getting involved. This is indeed what happened to James Bulger - no one helped. 


MrsMacLean

An excellent summary of the key studies which relate to Social Influence (Zimbardo, Bickman etc) - perfect if you need a quick re-cap or a more in-depth look at social influence!

Murdiyah

Excellent quick revision points.

Tom the destroyer

I like NEPKETA1998, he has cerebal-ballsy

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