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Social influence - Attitudes, predudice and discrimination

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Introduction

SOCIAL INFLUENCE ATTITUDES PREJUDICE AND DISCRIMINATION SOCIAL INFLUENCE Social influence could be described as the process by which a person's attitudes, beliefs or behaviours are modified by the presence or actions of others. Some individuals feel that they can only truly be themselves when alone, whilst others are happier when in company. Triplett (1898) carried out one of the first experimental studies on social influence. He asked children to turn a fishing reel as fast as they could and he measured how quickly they did it. Triplett set up the experiment so that a child would either be working alone, with a friend or with another child. He found that when the children were working together they worked faster and even the presence of another person who was not a friend seemed to have a stimulating effect on their behaviour. CONFORMITY Conformity is a type of social influence expressed through exposure to the views of a majority and manifested through our submission to those views. David Myers (1999) describes conformity as 'a change in behaviour or belief as a result of real or imagined group pressure'. Although most people think of themselves as autonomous individuals, they still tend to go along with - ie conform to - the social norms and expectations that their social groups and societies have evolved. According to Deutsch and Gerard (1955) there are two very powerful psychological needs that lead people to conform to social norms. ...read more.

Middle

For example, a person might conform in order to maintain a relationship. INTERNALISATION Internalisation is a social influence process that results in a true and enduring change of views. It is about doing what we believe in. OBEDIENCE Obedience is a type of social influence where a person acts according to the orders of some authority figure. It is normally assumed that without such an order the person would not have carried out that behaviour. Sometimes we are asked to do things that as an individual we regard as morally wrong. For example, if one joins the army then one might be asked to kill someone. In any other circumstances this might seem inconceivable but in the army people are trained to kill. OBEDIENCE STUDY Hofling (1966) conducted a study in a hospital to see if individual nurses would comply with the doctor's instructions even if they went against the hospital's regulations. Whist on duty a nurse received a telephone call from the doctor - a psychiatrist - about a particular patient. The nurse was asked to check that a certain drug - Astroten - was in the drug cabinet. The nurse first had to check that the drug was there and then return to the telephone for the doctor's instructions. The doctor requested that the nurse administer 20 mg of the drug to the patient. The maximum dose of the drug to administer was 10 mg and this instruction was written clearly on the bottle. ...read more.

Conclusion

Stereotypes are frequently unflattering, eg the 'humourless German' or the 'careful Scot'. The social consequences of stereotyping are often negative and they can lead to prejudice and discrimination. THE ABC OF ATTITUDES A - affective - feelings of dislike, superiority, hostility and fear. B - behaviour - insults, avoidance and physical attack. C - cognition - the knowledge based on stereotyping. THE SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY This approach maintains that prejudice is learned through observational learning and reinforcement eg passed down the generations via parents and other relatives. THE PSYCHODYNAMIC THEORY This explanation focuses on the emotional and motivational reasons for stereotyping and prejudice. According to this view prejudice has its roots in the unconscious. THE AUTHORITARIAN PERSONALITY This theory was proposed by Theodore Adorus (1950) in the USA. Adorus interviewed hundreds of people to try to find an explanation for the behaviour of the Nazis during World War Two. Adorus and his colleagues found a pattern of personality characteristics which they called the authoritarian personality. People with these behaviours were found to be: a) hostile to those they perceive to be of inferior status b) obedient and servile to those of higher status c) intolerant of uncertainty and ambiguity d) conventional ie upholding traditional values e) quite rigid in their opinions and beliefs, seeing most things in terms of black and white DISCRIMINATION Discrimination is usually the behavioural expression of prejudice. Discrimination is a way of behaving towards members of a categorized group so that all members of that group are treated in the same, usually unfair, way. Kathy Ashworth 5 October 2004 ...read more.

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