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Social influences on human behaviour Essay

Attitudes, or a person’s internal/mental beliefs about a specific situation, object or concept can greatly influence behaviours. From simple, nonharmful situations such as the choice to not wear orange because you do not like the colour to much more destructive attitudes such as racial prejudice, attitudes can lead our thoughts and actions. Social influences can affect human behaviour by changing our attitudes. This can be a positive change, such as opening up a closed-minded individual’s beliefs to include new choices.

On the other hand, social influences on attitudes can be negative and include destructive or coercive concepts leading to poor choices or even criminal behaviours. Teen Peer Pressure Peer pressure is most commonly found in teen or high school society, in which one person or group influences another. Peers, or other people close in age, play a large role in the daily life of the teenager, even more so than that of the teen’s own family. As the teen develops into a more independent person, she may attempt to break away from the family structure, opening herself up to the influences of friends and peers.

Peer pressure comes into play when other teens attempt to influence someone else in social situations. This can be positive, providing good examples of behaviour that pushes the teen into new experiences such as academic clubs or sports. In contrast, many teens succumb to negative peer pressures involving drug use, risky sexual behaviours or even criminal actions. Products and Buying Social pressures and influences can, to some degree, impact human buying behaviours.

Advertisers and marketing professionals often play into this concept by creating commercials and print ads that aim to change purchasing based on what other people do or buy. For example, if you are a new parent and see a happy family on television using a specific product in an ad, you may be more likely to buy that product than a similar product that does not advertise in that way. Close Social Influences From the beginning of our lives, the first social influences that we encounter belong to the family unit. Whether it is your mother, father, a brother or sister, families often provide the closest social influences of any other group.

As we grow into independent thinkers and move toward adulthood, these influences may loosen or change, but it is our families that shape our behaviours and actions from the start. Values, attitudes and morals are all functions of the family social structure and may greatly impact what we do and how we do it. For example, families may dictate our religious beliefs from the time of early childhood, shaping behaviours accordingly. Psychologists have discovered that children’s responses to separation can vary and in most cases a child is either secure or insecure in their relationship with their attachment figure.

Mary Ainsworth developed three styles of attachment to explain her theory regarding children’s responses to their mother’s absence and return: secure attachment, avoidant attachment, ambivalent attachment, and disorganized attachment (Kowalski & Westen, 2005). A child who exhibits welcoming behaviors is displaying secure attachment style. A child who ignores their mother upon her return is displaying avoidant attachment style. Children who are angry or rejecting of their mother while expressing a desire to be close to her are displaying ambivalent attachment style.

However, children who have been mistreated are usually disoriented, engaging in unpredictable behaviors while exhibiting a desire to be close to their mother; they display what is known as disorganized attachment style. “Whereas the other attachment patterns seem organized and predictable, the disorganized child’s behavior is difficult to understand and typically comes in the context of parenting that is itself unpredictable, and hence difficult to understand from the infant’s point of view” (Kowalski & Westen, 2005).

Although secure attachment is the most common style observed worldwide, there are substantial differences of attachment styles experienced within certain cultures. Culture plays a large role in a person’s social development. “For example, infants reared on Israeli kibbutzim (collective living arrangements) are much more likely to have ambivalent attachments to their mothers than infants in the West” (Kowalski & Westen, 2005). In the Israeli culture, children spend most of their days with caregivers that are not their parents.

This exposure to non-parental caregivers aids in the child’s social development which results in their ability to adjust to socialization as they age. A child who spends most of their time with their mother or a caregiver that provides them with a sense of security will develop a different internal working model than a child who is neglected. In which case the neglected child may exhibit unusual behaviors and have difficulty adjusting to social situations throughout their lifetime.

Parenting styles also vary amongst cultures and in some instances; independence for the purpose of socialization is unheard of. “One of the most important ways parents vary across and within cultures is the extent to which they are accepting or rejecting of their children” (Kowalski & Westen, 2005). When a child’s social development is hindered by neglect or abuse, they will oftentimes have difficulty throughout their lives adapting to social settings and viewing them selves as being worthy of love.

Some human behaviors may be considered abnormal to some societies and under certain circumstances; an individual may need some form of therapeutic intervention. The extent to which people are influenced depends on their level of self-esteem and the strength of their self-identity, morals, and values (Velden, 2007) Many of the things people do are done to ensure themselves a place of acceptance and familiarity and to avoid exclusion (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). Relative to individuals’ fundamental human needs is the desire for social acceptance and a sense of belonging.

For Group mentality •many people, the need for acknowledgment and approval exceeds the value of authentic individual identity (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). •To maintain the equilibrium of the group, members value unanimity more than they value their own realistic and personal view of situations and actions. Normative social infleucne • Following fashion trends and daily routines and habits are highly influenced by what people perceive as normal and acceptable (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). •In normative social influence people are motivated to act

and respond according to what is perceived as behavior that will promote others to like and associate with them. The strength of the motivation varies by degree and in its most extreme example, this particular motivation outweighs any sense of authentic self-identity. Precursors and Consequences of Both Social Influences •This type of social influence may prevent an individual from the typical growth and evolution that results from normal social interactions as it limits the individual’s legitimate and authentic involvement in social relations (Kowalski & Westen, 2009).

•From an evolutionary perspective, maintaining the singular focus of a group or relationship is necessary to prevent attacks from an outside force or to maintain a concerted effort to gather or hunt food (Brock, 2010) •Similarly, in the case of normative social influence, a sense of unanimity and consensus must be maintained and people under this influence will renounce their true identity and values to maintain the safety of the relationship (Straker, 2010) •Another consequence of group mentality is deindividuation, which is the loss of personal identity and an ability to judge right from wrong (Quiamzade, 2009).

These individuals develop a sense of anonymity and may no longer hold themselves accountable for their actions (Quiamzade, 2009). Haney, Banks, Zimbardo (1973) – Prison Study Volunteers took part in a simulation where they were randomly assigned the role of a prisoner or guard and taken to a converted university basement resembling a prison environment. There was some basic loss of rights for the prisoners, who were unexpectedly arrested, given a uniform and an identification number (they were therefore deindividuated).

The study showed that conformity to social roles occurred as part of the social interaction, as both groups displayed more negative emotions and hostility and dehumanization became apparent. Prisoners became passive, whilst the guards assumed an active, brutal and dominant role. Although normative and informational social influence had a role to play here, deindividuation/the loss of a sense of identity seemed most likely to lead to conformity.

Milgram (1963) – Shock Experiment Participants were told that they were taking part in a study on learning, but always acted as the teacher when they were then responsible for going over paired associate learning tasks. When the learner (a stooge) got the answer wrong, they were told by a scientist that they had to deliver an electric shock. This did not actually happen, although the participant was unaware of this as they had themselves a sample (real!

) shock at the start of the experiment. They were encouraged to increase the voltage given after each incorrect answer up to a maximum voltage, and it was found that all participants gave shocks up to 300v, with 65 per cent reaching the highest level of 450v. It seems that obedience is most likely to occur in an unfamiliar environment and in the presence of an authority figure, especially when covert pressure is put upon people to obey.

It is also possible that it occurs because the participant felt that someone other than themselves was responsible for their actions. Tajfel (1971) – Social Identity Theory When divided into artificial (minimal) groups, prejudice results simply from the awareness that there is an “out-group” (the other group). When boys were asked to allocate points to others (which might be converted to rewards) who were either part of their own group or the out-group, they displayed a strong in-group preference.

That is, they allocated more points on the set task to boys who they believed to be in the same group as themselves. This can be accounted for by Tajfel & Turner’s social identity theory, which states that individuals need to maintain a positive sense of personal and social identity: this is partly achieved by emphasizing the desirability of one’s own group, focusing on distinctions between other “lesser” groups.

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