Chapter Nine: Social Influence

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University of Massachusetts Amherst
Psychology & Brain Sciences
John Bickford

Social Psychology Chapter Nine: Social Influence What is social influence? Refers to the many ways that people affect one another. Involves changes in attitudes and behaviors that result from the comments, actions or even the presence of others. Conformity is changing one’s behaviors or beliefs in response to some real or imagined pressure from others. Compliance is responding favorably to an explicit request by another person. Obedience occurs when the power relationship is unequal and the more powerful person issues a command rather than a request, to which the less powerful person submits. Conformity: Tends to have a negative connotation but in most situations conformity tendencies are good. Automatic mimicry: We tend to subconsciously mimic others behaviors. Why do we mimic? 1. William James’ ideomotor action or merely thinking about a behavior makes its actual performance more likely. The region of the brain responsible for perception overlap with those responsible for action. 2. To prepare for interaction with the other person, interaction is likely to go more smoothly if we establish some rapport. People tend to lie those who mimic them more than those who do not. Cultural differences in mimicry: Cultures differ in how much they expect mimicry in social interactions and in how much they are thrown off when the people they interact with fail to mimic them.  Example, a Hispanic performed better in a job interview when the interviewer mirrored his actions Informational social influence and Sherif’s conformity experiment: Sherif was interested in how groups influence the behavior of individuals by shaping how reality is perceived. Examined the circumstances in which people serve as a social frame of reference.  Setup: stationary point of light in a completely dark environment is moving.  He put individuals in a darkened room, presented the stationary point of light and had them estimate how far the light “moved” each trial.  Results: people thought the light had moved from 2-8 inches.  Informational social influence is the use of other people’s comments and actions as a source of information about what is likely to be right. Normative social influence and Asch’s conformity experiment: Asch predicted that when there is a clear conflict between a person’s own judgment and the judgments advanced by the group, there will be far less conformity than that observed by Sherif.  Experiment involved people sitting around a table and juking out of three lines which was the longest or shortest. ¾ of participants conformed when the other members of the group purposely gave the wrong answer.  Normative social influence is the desire to avoid the disapproval, criticism, or ostracism that other people might deliver. Factors affecting conformity pressure: Group size,  Conformity increases when the size of the group increases, but only with groups of three or four, then the level of conformity levels off Group unanimity, The presence of an ally weakens both types of conformity. The breaking of unanimity opens up the possibility of free thinking and makes us more tolerable of outlandish outbursts like “The Holocaust never happened.” Expertise and status, Expertise affects informational social influence and status affects normative social influence. Overall, status and expertise does play a monumental role in conformity.  Torrance gave a math problem to a Navy pilot, navigator and a gunmen. As a group they had to come up with one answer. When the pilot (highest ranked) gave the right answer they reported it 91% of the time, the navigator 80% of the time and the low ranked gunmen 63% of the time. This shows the power of the person with the highest status. Culture, Interdependent nations are more likely to conform than independent nations. Tight versus loose cultures: Tight cultures have very strong norms regarding how people should behave and do not tolerate departure from those norms. Tend to have autocratic or dictatorial governments, punish dissent, have sharp controls on the media, more laws and inflict more punishment on those who disobey the laws. If a nation was tight on one aspect it tended to be tight on all. (South Korea, China, Austria, Japan, Portugal, Britain, Turkey, Italy). Loose cultures have less strong norms and their members tolerate more deviance. (Greece, Hungary, Israel, Netherlands, Ukraine, New Zealand and Brazil). Gender, Women conform slightly more than men. Difficulty or ambiguity of the task, When the “right” thing to do is unclear, people are particularly inclined to rely on others for guidance. Anonymity, Internalization is our private acceptance of the position advanced by the majority. The influence of minority opinion on the majority: The minority opinion can influence the majority more often than thought. Obedience to authority: The setup of the Milgram experiments,  Shock experiments, 66% of participants administered the highest shock, 450 volts when the learner pounded on the walls to stop. – 62.5% of participants administered the highest shock even when the learner pleaded, cried that he heard a heart condition and ultimately fell silent. Opposing forces, Dealt with forces of wanting to continue on since they agreed to participate, they were chosen to participate, they had already been paid, they wanted to help advance science, they did not want to cause a scene by leaving and they did not want to face being disliked and getting disapproval. VS. forces of dealing with potentially harming an innocent person, having to be in the learner’s position next, having to walk out with learner and maybe face retaliation, the learner’s death, maybe a lawsuit? Tuning in the learner,  Remote-feedback the teacher (administering the shocks) could neither see nor hear the learner (except for the pounding on the wall)  Voice-feedback the learner was still not in view; but he and his vigorous protests were clearly audibl
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