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Social Influences in Everyday Life

Social Influences in Everyday Life

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Published by: Rebekah Louise Penrice-Randal on May 27, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Social influences in everyday lifeExplain what is meant by the term independent behaviourDemonstrate knowledge and understanding of research studies showing independent behaviourExplain what is meant by locus of controlDescribe explanations of independent behaviour, including locus of control and situationalfactors that may explain how people resist pressures to conform and pressures to obeyauthority.Explain what is meant by minority influence.Demonstrate an understanding of how social influence research helps us to understand socialchange, including the role of minority influence in social change.Concepts
Defining termsYou MUST be able to explain what is meant by the following terms:
Independent behaviour
Locus of control
Minority influenceStudies: You MUST know at least one study to show non-conformity (e.g. Asch
those who did notconform) and at least one study to show disobedience (e.g. Gamson and variations of Milgram.)Explanations of independent behaviour: You MUST know at least two explanations of how peopleresist pressures to conform and illustrate these with research examples.
Desire for individuation
The desire to maintain a sense of individuality sometimes outweighspressure to conform. Asch discovered that many participants whoresponded to majority influence with independence were less concernedwith social norms than those who conformed. 
Synder and Fromkin established that both extreme similarity and extremeuniqueness are unpleasant states and lead to behavioural attempts to re-establish the opposite state. 
Desire to maintain control
Prior commitment
Once people publicly commit themselves to a position, they are less likely tochange their opinions than if they hold this position only in private.
In Deutsch
and Gerard’s 1955 variation of Asch’s procedure, the naïve
participants gave their judgement before the majority gave a unanimousdifferent answer. When offered the chance to reconsider, the participantalmost never did, fearing to appear indecisive. This demonstrated theimportance of prior commitment in resisting subsequent pressures toconform. 
Time to think and find social support.
Zimbardo advises that people should be mindful of how situational factorscan pressurize us to conform, and we should engage critical thinking,
avoiding mindless conformity to the majority. Asking whether the actionconflicts with our moral code helps us consider whether we want tocompromise our opinion of ourselves to gain others approval. Zimbardo alsosuggests taking a future perspective and imagining what we might laterthink of our current conforming action.
The role of allies
Asch discovered that the introduction of a confederate who also wentagainst the majority caused conformity to drop by 10%. Having an allyappeared to build confidence and aid resistance because the participantswas no longer facing a unanimous majority. The fellow dissenter providesthe naïve participant with an assessment of reality, making them moreconfident in their ability to reject the majority decision. 
Asch found conformity levels dropped even when the dissenter gave adifferent wrong answer, which suggests that it is breaking the groupsconsensus that is important in resisting pressures to conform.You COULD know more than two explanations of non-conformity and disobedience.You MUST know at least two explanations of how people resist pressures to obey and illustratethese with research examples.
Disobedient models(e.g. Milgram
90% disobedient when disobedient modelspresent)
Resistance was also increased with disobedient models. In Milgram’s
variations disobedient confederates caused 90% of the naïve participants torebel too.
The presence of disobedient models undermines the experimenter’s
authority and makes it more likely that the individual will have theconfidence to resist subsequent pressures to obey.
Feeling responsible/empathy (e.g. removal of buffers)
In Milgram’s study, some participants disobeyed the experimenter when
they believed the learner was in distress. There was an empathetic responseand a refusal to continue.
When buffers were removed participants were no longer protected, and feltmore responsible.
Questioning motives and status of authority (e.g. run-down office)
Questioning the motives, legitimacy and expertise of authority figures might
increase resistance to automatic obedience. When Milgram’s study was
moved to a rundown office, participants found it easier to question the
legitimacy of the experimenter’s instructions. As a result more participan
tsfelt able to resist the experimenter, and obedience levels dropped to 48%.This suggests that the status of the authority figure and the setting is a keyfactor in obedience and its resistance. 
Individual differences in independent behaviour
Locus of control: You MUST know how locus of control is related to independent behaviour and illustrate this with research. E.g. internal locus of control is associated with independent behaviour.
Rotter’s locus of control refers to individual differences in people’s beliefs and expectations about
what controls events in their lives. There are two extremes
internal and external although mostpeople lie between the two.Internal locus of control
what happens is largely a consequence of their own ability or effort
theycan therefore control events in their life. People high in internality tend to display independencethrough thoughts and behaviour, and as active seekers of information rely less on the opinions of others. This means they are better able to resist social influence.External locus of control
what happens is controlled by external factors, such as the actions of 
others or luck. They have a sense that things ‘just happen to them’ and are largely uncontrollable.
They tend to approach events with a more passive and fatalistic attitude, taking less personalresponsibility for their actions.You MUST be able to evaluate the link between locus of control and independent behaviour bydemonstrating how some research supports the link between internal locus of control andindependent behaviour whilst other research does not.You SHOULD be able to discuss research for and against the link between internal locus of controland both non-conformity and disobedience. For example at least TWO from the following:
Oliner and Oliner
Used the interview method to study two groups of non-Jewish people whohad lived through the holocaust in Nazi Germany. 
They compared 406 people who had protected and rescued Jews from theNazis with 126 who had not done this. 
Oliner and Oliner found that the rescuers scored higher on measures of social responsibility and had scores indicating an internal locus of control. 
Variations of Milgram. 
Comparing obedience levels between internal and external. 
He found no significant relationship between locus of control and obediencelevels. 
Carried out a replication of Holland’s study
Participants with an internal locus of control were more resistant topressures to obey, particularly if they felt pressured or manipulated.
Austrian study 
Participants were instructed to apply increasing levels of ultrasoundstimulation
which they were told could cause skin damage at the highestlevel of a 20 step continuum. 
80% of participants pressed all 20 switches. 

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