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Social influence, its concepts and ethics

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Introduction

Social influence, its concepts and ethics. What is social influence? It shows up in many different formats, for example there is Audience effects where a person may alter their behaviour due to someone watching them, then there is Co-action effects where sometimes a person will alter their behaviour when they are with different people, for example if you're a mother and a teacher, you would act differently with the two different types of people that you would deal with. One of the first people to look at social influence was Norman Triplett (1898) he did a study in which he had children one a time wind up a fishing reel and timed them, he then brought in more children to the same room and did the same again and timed them once again, he found that children were faster when there was other children around than on their own, to ensure the data was correct he even had them repeat it on their own afterwards. There was debate over if this was just competiveness or the effects of having the other children around making them want to be better. There is also social facilitation, which is where a task would be made easier if there are more people around; this is shown during Triplett's study with the children and the fishing reels. Social loafing is the tendency for people to perform worse on simple tasks, yet better at complex tasks when they are in the presence of others. ...read more.

Middle

The many switches were labelled with terms including "slight shock," "moderate shock" and "danger: severe shock." As the experiment went on and the levels slowly increased with further incorrect answers. Once the 300-volt level had been reached, the learner banged on the wall and demanded to be released. Beyond this point, the learner became completely silent and refused to answer any more questions. The experimenter then instructed the participant to treat this silence as an incorrect response and deliver a further shock. At this stage most of the 'subjects' were then showing signs of stress and looked towards the experimenter for guidance, they were probed to continue and advised that if they didn't that the experiments results would not be valid. Of the 40 participants in the study, 26 delivered the maximum shocks while 14 stopped before reaching the highest levels. It is important to note that many of the subjects became extremely agitated, distraught and angry at the experimenter. Yet they continued to follow orders all the way to the end. So 65% of the participants in Milgram's study delivered the maximum shocks. There were also questions asked regarding the ethics of the study, if we compare it to the British Psychology Society's summary of ethics guidelines (1990) for the conduct of psychological experiments. General Distress - Distress to participants must be avoided but does not seem to be the case in this research with participants concerned they are harming the learner. ...read more.

Conclusion

Even Zimbardo himself said that he began to believe that he was the prison warden not the lead psychologist. Despite the criticism that this study received it is still important in psychology and how a situation can influence behaviour. The study more recently was brought to light when there were questions being asked of soldier's treatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib, and many people and even Zimbardo himself suggested that this may have been the real world example of what he was trying to achieve through research. To conclude there are many things that influence behaviour in people, wither that be their own beliefs and opinions or other people being around them at the time, they way in which people work is very complex and the study although brilliant at the times with the break through that they made into the social side of psychology have raised questions over the ethical issues that are also something to be looked at. Today the studies would not have been able to take place and in some ways this is a shame as we would not may be have had the knowledge that we have now because of them. Yet if they had thought of other ways around to come up with the same type of results then this would have been better for all of the subjects concerned. I think the research that was done was invaluable and that psychologists will always believe this just the questions over the methods leave a small black cloud over something rather brilliant. ...read more.

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