Social influence refers to the way in which individuals change their behavior to meet the demands of a social environment. It takes many forms and can be seen in conformity, socialization, peer pressure, obedience, leadership, persuasion, sales, and marketing. Typically social influence results from a specific action, command, or request, but people also alter their attitudes and behaviors in response to what they perceive others might do or think.In 1958, Harvard psychologist Herbert Kelman identified three broad varieties of social influence.
Morton Deutsch and Harold Gerard described two psychological needs that lead humans to conform to the expectations of others. These include our need to be right (informational social influence) and our need to be liked (normative social influence).Informational influence (or social proof) is an influence to accept information from another as evidence about reality. Informational influence comes into play when people are uncertain, either because stimuli are intrinsically ambiguous or because there is social disagreement. Normative influence is an influence to conform to the positive expectations of others. In terms of Kelman's typology, normative influence leads to public compliance, whereas informational influence leads to private acceptance.
Social influence is a broad term that relates to many different phenomena. Listed below are some major types of social influence that are being researched in the field of social psychology. For more information, follow the main article links provided.
There are three processes of attitude change as defined by Harvard psychologist Herbert Kelman in a 1958 paper published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution.The purpose of defining these processes was to help determine the effects of social influence: for example, to separate public conformity (behavior) from private acceptance (personal belief).
Compliance is the act of responding favorably to an explicit or implicit request offered by others. Technically, compliance is a change in behavior but not necessarily in attitude; one can comply due to mere obedience or by otherwise opting to withhold private thoughts due to social pressures.According to Kelman's 1958 paper, the satisfaction derived from compliance is due to the social effect of the accepting influence (i.e., people comply for an expected reward or punishment-aversion).
Identification is the changing of attitudes or behaviors due to the influence of someone who is admired. Advertisements that rely upon celebrity endorsements to market their products are taking advantage of this phenomenon. According to Kelman, the desired relationship that the identifier relates to the behavior or attitude change.
Internalization is the process of acceptance of a set of norms established by people or groups that are influential to the individual. The individual accepts the influence because the content of the influence accepted is intrinsically rewarding. It is congruent with the individual's value system, and according to Kelman the "reward" of internalization is "the content of the new behavior".
Conformity is a type of social influence involving a change in behavior, belief, or thinking to align with those of others or with normative standards. It is the most common and pervasive form of social influence. Social psychology research in conformity tends to distinguish between two varieties: informational conformity (also called social proof, or "internalization" in Kelman's terms ) and normative conformity ("compliance" in Kelman's terms).
In the case of peer pressure, a person is convinced to do something that they might not want to do (such as taking illegal drugs) but which they perceive as "necessary" to keep a positive relationship with other people (such as their friends). Conformity from peer pressure generally results from identification with the group members or from compliance of some members to appease others.
Minority influence takes place when a majority is influenced to accept the beliefs or behaviors of a minority. Minority influence can be affected by the sizes of majority and minority groups, the level of consistency of the minority group, and situational factors (such as the affluence or social importance of the minority).Minority influence most often operates through informational social influence (as opposed to normative social influence) because the majority may be indifferent to the liking of the minority.
A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true due to positive feedback between belief and behavior. A prophecy declared as truth (when it is actually false) may sufficiently influence people, either through fear or logical confusion, so that their reactions ultimately fulfill the once-false prophecy. This term is credited to sociologist Robert K. Merton from an article he published in 1948.
Reactance is the adoption of a view contrary to the view that a person is being pressured to accept, perhaps due to a perceived threat to behavioral freedoms. This phenomenon has also been called anticonformity . While the results are the opposite of what the influencer intended, the reactive behavior is a result of social pressure.It is notable that anticonformity does not necessarily mean independence. In many studies, reactance manifests itself in a deliberate rejection of an influence, even if the influence is clearly correct.
Obedience is a form of social influence that derives from an authority figure. The Milgram experiment, Zimbardo's Stanford prison experiment, and the Hofling hospital experiment are three particularly well-known experiments on obedience, and they all conclude that humans are surprisingly obedient in the presence of perceived legitimate authority figures.
Persuasion is the process of guiding oneself or another toward the adoption of an attitude by rational or symbolic means. Robert Cialdini defined six "weapons of influence": reciprocity, commitment, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity. These "weapons of influence" attempt to bring about conformity by directed means. Persuasion can occur through appeals to reason or appeals to emotion.
Psychological manipulation is a type of social influence that aims to change the behavior or perception of others through abusive, deceptive, or underhanded tactics.By advancing the interests of the manipulator, often at another's expense, such methods could be considered exploitative, abusive, devious, and deceptive.
Social influence is not necessarily negative. For example, doctors can try to persuade patients to change unhealthy habits. Social influence is generally perceived to be harmless when it respects the right of the influenced to accept or reject it, and is not unduly coercive. Depending on the context and motivations, social influence may constitute underhanded manipulation.
Controlling abusers use various tactics to exert power and control over their victims. The goal of the abuser is to control and intimidate the victim or to influence them to feel that they do not have an equal voice in the relationship.
Propaganda is information that is not objective and is used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, often by presenting facts selectively to encourage a particular synthesis or perception, or using loaded language to produce an emotional rather than a rational response to the information that is presented.
Hard power is the use of military and economic means to influence the behavior or interests of other political bodies. This form of political power is often aggressive (coercion), and is most effective when imposed by one political body upon another of lesser military and/or economic power.Hard power contrasts with soft power, which comes from diplomacy, culture and history.
Many factors can affect the impact of social influence.
Social impact theory was developed by Bibb Latané in 1981. This theory asserts that there are three factors which increase a person's likelihood to respond to social influence:
Robert Cialdini defines six "weapons of influence" that can contribute to an individual's propensity to be influenced by a persuader:
Social Influence is strongest when the group perpetrating it is consistent and committed. Even a single instance of dissent can greatly wane the strength of an influence. For example, in Milgram's first set of obedience experiments, 65% of participants complied with fake authority figures to administer "maximum shocks" to a confederate. In iterations of the Milgram experiment where three people administered shocks (two of whom were confederates), once one confederate disobeyed, only ten percent of subjects administered the maximum shocks.
Those perceived as experts may exert social influence as a result of their perceived expertise. This involves credibility, a tool of social influence from which one draws upon the notion of trust. People believe an individual to be credible for a variety of reasons, such as perceived experience, attractiveness, knowledge, etc. Additionally, pressure to maintain one's reputation and not be viewed as fringe may increase the tendency to agree with the group. This phenomenon is known as groupthink.Appeals to authority may especially affect norms of obedience. The compliance of normal humans to authority in the famous Milgram experiment demonstrate the power of perceived authority.
Those with access to the media may use this access in an attempt to influence the public. For example, a politician may use speeches to persuade the public to support issues that he or she does not have the power to impose on the public. This is often referred to as using the "bully pulpit." Likewise, celebrities don't usually possess any political power, but they are familiar to many of the world's citizens and, therefore, possess social status.
Power is one of the biggest reasons an individual feels the need to follow through with the suggestions of another. A person who possesses more authority (or is perceived as being more powerful) than others in a group is an icon or is most "popular" within a group. This person has the most influence over others. For example, in a child's school life, people who seem to control the perceptions of the students at school are most powerful in having a social influence over other children.
Culture appears to play a role in the willingness of an individual to conform to the standards of a group. Stanley Milgram found that conformity was higher in Norway than in France.This has been attributed to Norway's longstanding tradition of social responsibility, compared to France's cultural focus on individualism. Japan likewise has a collectivist culture and thus a higher propensity to conformity. However, a 1970 Asch-style study found that when alienated, Japanese students were more susceptible to anticonformity (giving answers that were incorrect even when the group had collaborated on correct answers) one third of the time, significantly higher than has been seen in Asch studies in the past.
While gender does not significantly affect a person's likelihood to conform, under certain conditions gender roles do affect such a likelihood. Studies from the 1950s and 1960s concluded that women were more likely to conform than men. But a 1971 study found that experimenter bias was involved; all of the researchers were male, while all of the research participants were female. Studies thereafter found that the likelihood to conform almost equal between the genders. Furthermore, men conformed more often when faced with traditionally feminine topics, and women conformed more often when presented with masculine topics. In other words, ignorance about a subject can lead a person to defer to "social proof".
Emotion and disposition may affect an individual's likelihood of conformity or anticonformity.In 2009, a study concluded that fear increases the chance of agreeing with a group, while romance or lust increases the chance of going against the group.
A social network is a social structure made up of nodes (representing individuals or organizations) which are connected (through ties, also called edges, connections, or links) by one or more types of interdependency (such as friendship, common interests or beliefs, sexual relations, or kinship). Social network analysis uses the lens of network theory to examine social relationships. Social network analysis as a field has become more prominent since the mid-20th century in determining the channels and effects of social influence. For example, Christakis and Fowler found that social networks transmit states and behaviors such as obesity,smoking, drinking and happiness.
Identifying the extent of social influence, based on large-scale observational data with a latent social network structure, is pertinent to a variety of collective social phenomena including crime, civil unrest, and voting behavior in elections. For example, methodologies for disentangling social influence by peers from external influences—with latent social network structures and large-scale observational data—were applied to US presidential elections,stock markets, and civil unrest.
However, important flaws have been identified in the contagion model for social influence which is assumed and used in many of the above studies.In order to address these flaws, causal inference methods have been proposed instead, to systematically disentangle social influence from other possible confounding causes when using observational data.
As described above, theoretical approaches are in the form of knowledge clusters. A global theory of Influence is missing for an easy understanding and an education to protect from manipulators.
The Milgram experiment(s) on obedience to authority figures was a series of social psychology experiments conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram. They measured the willingness of study participants, men from a diverse range of occupations with varying levels of education, to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts conflicting with their personal conscience. Participants were led to believe that they were assisting an unrelated experiment, in which they had to administer electric shocks to a "learner." These fake electric shocks gradually increased to levels that would have been fatal had they been real.
Social psychology is the scientific study of how people's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the actual, imagined or implied presence of others. In this definition, scientific refers to the empirical investigation using the scientific method. The terms thoughts, feelings, and behaviors refer to psychological variables that can be measured in humans. The statement that others' presence may be imagined or implied suggests that humans are malleable to social influences even when alone, such as when watching videos, sitting on the toilet, or quietly appreciating art. In such situations, people can be influenced to follow internalized cultural norms. Social psychologists typically explain human behavior as a result of the interaction of mental states and social situations.
Stanley Milgram was an American social psychologist, best known for his controversial experiment on obedience conducted in the 1960s during his professorship at Yale.
Obedience, in human behavior, is a form of "social influence in which a person yields to explicit instructions or orders from an authority figure". Obedience is generally distinguished from compliance, which is behavior influenced by peers, and from conformity, which is behavior intended to match that of the majority. Depending on context, obedience can be seen as moral, immoral, or amoral.
In psychology, the Asch conformity experiments or the Asch paradigm were a series of studies directed by Solomon Asch studying if and how individuals yielded to or defied a majority group and the effect of such influences on beliefs and opinions.
Social proof, a term coined by Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book, Influence, is also known as informational social influence. It describes a psychological and social phenomenon wherein people copy the actions of others in an attempt to undertake behavior in a given situation.
Attitudes are associated beliefs and behaviors towards some object. They are not stable, and because of the communication and behavior of other people, are subject to change by social influences, as well as by the individual's motivation to maintain cognitive consistency when cognitive dissonance occurs—when two attitudes or attitude and behavior conflict. Attitudes and attitude objects are functions of affective and cognitive components. It has been suggested that the inter-structural composition of an associative network can be altered by the activation of a single node. Thus, by activating an affective or emotional node, attitude change may be possible, though affective and cognitive components tend to be intertwined.
Under the controversy of person–situation debate, situationism is the theory that changes in human behavior are factors of the situation rather than the traits a person possesses. Behavior is believed to be influenced by external, situational factors rather than internal traits or motivations. Situationism therefore challenges the positions of trait theorists, such as Hans Eysenck or Raymond B. Cattell. This is an ongoing debate that has truth to both sides, psychologists are able to prove each of the view points through human experimentation.
Minority influence, a form of social influence, takes place when a member of a minority group influences the majority to accept the minority's beliefs or behavior. This occurs when a small group or an individual acts as an agent of social change by questioning established societal perceptions, and proposing alternative, original ideas which oppose the existing social norms. There are two types of social influence: majority influence and minority influence. Majority influence refers to the majority trying to produce conformity on the minority, while minority influence is converting the majority to adopt the thinking of the minority group. Unlike other forms of influence, minority influence is often thought of as a more innovative form of social change, because it usually involves a personal shift in private opinion. Examples of minority influence include the Civil Rights Movement in America and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.
Normative social influence is a type of social influence that leads to conformity. It is defined in social psychology as "...the influence of other people that leads us to conform in order to be liked and accepted by them." The power of normative social influence stems from the human identity as a social being, with a need for companionship and association.
Belongingness is the human emotional need to be an accepted member of a group. Whether it is family, friends, co-workers, a religion, or something else, people tend to have an 'inherent' desire to belong and be an important part of something greater than themselves. This implies a relationship that is greater than simple acquaintance or familiarity. The need to belong is the need to give and receive attention to and from others.
Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View is a 1974 book by social psychologist Stanley Milgram concerning a series of experiments on obedience to authority figures he conducted in the early 1960s. This book provides an in-depth look into his methods, theories and conclusions.
Compliance refers to a response—specifically, a submission—made in reaction to a request. The request may be explicit or implicit. The target may or may not recognize that they are being urged to act in a particular way.
Behavioral contagion is a type of social influence. It refers to the propensity for certain behavior exhibited by one person to be copied by others who are either in the vicinity of the original actor, or who have been exposed to the behavior of the original actor. It was originally used by Gustave Le Bon in his 1895 work The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind to explain undesirable aspects of behavior of people in crowds. A variety of behavioral contagion mechanisms were incorporated in models of collective human behavior.
Conformity is the act of matching attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors to group norms, politics or being like minded. Norms are implicit, specific rules, shared by a group of individuals, that guide their interactions with others. People often choose to conform to society rather than to pursue personal desires because it is often easier to follow the path others have made already, rather than creating a new one. This tendency to conform occurs in small groups and/or society as a whole, and may result from subtle unconscious influences, or direct and overt social pressure. Conformity can occur in the presence of others, or when an individual is alone. For example, people tend to follow social norms when eating or watching television, even when alone.
The present study examined whether the degree to which participants engage in memory conformity, which occurs when a person alters their memory report of an event to be consistent with another person, can be predicted by their levels of interrogative suggestibility (IS), which is the degree to which people are susceptible to altering their memory reports during questioning. Memory conformity was introduced by having participant and confederate pairs study words and then complete a social recognition test where they took turns to make judgements to the same items. When the participants responded after the confederate, they tended to conform to confederate's judgements regardless of whether the confederate had made a correct or incorrect response. IS was measured using the Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale 2. This scale allows separate measures of Yield, which is a measure of how susceptible people are to altering their memory reports of events as a result of leading questions, and Shift, which is a measure of how susceptible people are to changing responses to questions when placed under pressure to do so. Only Yield was a significant predictor of memory conformity. Social contamination of false memory can be exemplified in prominent in situations involving social interactions, such as eyewitness testimony. Research on memory conformity has revealed that such suggestibility and errors with source monitoring has far reaching consequences, with important legal and social implications. Memory conformity is closely related to the Mandela effect which surfaces after one learns misleading information following the experience of an event.
Three Degrees of Influence is a theory in the realm of social networks, proposed by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler in 2007. It has since been explored by scientists in numerous disciplines using diverse statistical, psychological, sociological, and biological approaches.
An argument from authority, also called an appeal to authority, or argumentum ad verecundiam, is a form of defeasible argument in which a claimed authority's support is used as evidence for an argument's conclusion. It is well known as a fallacy, though some consider that it is used in a cogent form when all sides of a discussion agree on the reliability of the authority in the given context. Other authors consider it a fallacy to cite an authority on the discussed topic as the primary means of supporting an argument.
Authority bias is the tendency to attribute greater accuracy to the opinion of an authority figure and be more influenced by that opinion. This concept is considered one of the so-called social cognitive biases or collective cognitive biases. The Milgram experiment in 1961 was the classic experiment that established its existence.
Intergroup relations refers to interactions between individuals in different social groups, and to interactions taking place between the groups themselves collectively. It has long been a subject of research in social psychology, political psychology, and organizational behavior.