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What has psychological research told us about resisting social influence?

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Introduction

What has psychological research told us about resisting social influence? There have been vast amounts of research into resisting the various social influences that bombard us in our everyday lives. I intend to explore different perspectives and studies regarding resistance, and try to interpret what they tell us about why people do resist in certain circumstances and not in others. There has been a lot of research conducted into resistance but the vast majority of this research centres around three factors. When these factors are relevant it seems our ability to resist is increased. The first of these factors is called Reactance. This as the name suggests is a reaction to some kind of stimuli. The best way to describe reactance in this context is how Baron & Byrne defined it as 'Negative reaction to threats to one's personal freedom. Reactance often increases resistance to persuasion' (Baron & Byrne, 2003: 574). Basically what they meant was that when someone goes out of their way to change your viewpoint, the two opinions get polarised and you will become more stubborn in not changing your mind. ...read more.

Middle

This effect seems to get stronger depending on how important we consider the belief being challenged. Forewarning is sometimes known as the 'inoculation effect'. Inoculation refers to the practice of giving medical injections to protect an individual from various diseases and ailments. Interestingly 'inoculation' involves injecting the individual with a weak dose of the disease which their immune system fights off, then becomes stronger and can fight off a larger dose some at any time after. The point relevant here to the persuasion technique is 'weak dosage' too strong would overwhelm the immune system and make the person ill. But a small dosage serves to make the person stronger. The inoculation effect in psychology is similar. If we want to strengthen existing attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours, inoculation theory suggests that we should present a weak attack on those attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours. Again, the key word here is, 'weak.' If the attack is too strong, it will cause the attitude, belief, or behaviour to get weaker or even move to the opposite position. The attack has to be strong enough to challenge the defences of the individual without overwhelming them. ...read more.

Conclusion

The obvious difference is in Milgram's test on obedience the participants were alone, and in Gamson's they were not. This would suggest that strength in numbers has something to do with resisting authority. However in Milgram's study the person instructing them was seen as more of an authority figure (scientist, white coat) than in Gamson's study. Another flaw in this comparison is that the laboratory environment Milgram's study was conducted in lacks ecological validity as it was not conducted in a true to life environment. This research has taught us many things about resistance but no clear cut assumptions can be drawn on such a complex subject. It would seem that resistance is more likely when in a group than alone, however Zimbardo's study doesn't necessarily back this up. The question of whether 'nice people' can become 'nasty people' in certain circumstances is a complicated one, particularly as in the Milgram study when committing the 'nasty' act the participants believe they are doing the right thing by obeying the authority figure. Resistance is a complicated issue, in which theories cannot be backed up by a paradigm; its questions are that of our social world. Bryn Davies - Psy1003 Social Resistance 1 ...read more.

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