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What has psychological research told us about resisting social influence?

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Essay: What has psychological research told us about resisting social influence? Introduction Social influence can be strong, weak or non-existent and that the factors determining this can be seemingly trivial, unconscious and vary with personality. This is undoubtedly what led to Stainton Rogers' (1995) assertion that "there are no simple answers or scientific laws to be discovered" in respect of questions of social influences. In this paper, however, I show that despite a plethora of unexpected results the research is pointing to possible new theories of social influence. Human social behaviour may be complex but this is made up of a multiplicity of individual simple factors as in all biology, and must at some level obey scientific laws. Examples of research into social influences In 1964 two New York psychologists set out to determine experimentally the basis of an extraordinary killing. Thirty eight neighbours witnessed the chase and multiple stabbing attacks of a young woman over a period of thirty minutes, with not one of them calling the police. ...read more.


The theory of "cultural microrhythms" proposed by Condon (1982) shows that people interacting harmonise their speech, gestures, and physical movements with exquisite precision. People who are powerful at getting others to be drawn into their 'rhythms' are powerful influencers. Hatfield et al (1994) describes that by mimicry we infect each other with our emotions and some people are powerful at inducing mimicry and others are susceptible. It is totally intuitive that when someone smiles the tendency is to smile back and hence feel happier but these workers also showed that much of the mimicry could be imperceptible and the recipient unaware but was still effective. Research into resisting social influence with a practical application An enormous amount of psychological research went into the children's TV program Sesame Street, which had been produced specifically with the deliberate intention of influencing children to read (Wright & Huston,1995). The research showed that small, non-obvious details mattered enormously in overcoming resistance and often contradicted previous educational psychology assumptions. ...read more.


Thus smoking is the mimicry of the imagination's creation of a 'cool person'. This is a natural facility of human beings but is more developed in some than others. In fact there is an interesting theory that the reason human beings have much larger brains is not for greater intellectual capability but rather to deal with greater levels and complexities of social interaction (Dunbar 1992). In fact it has been found that for primates, neocortex relative to brain size correlates most closely with group size of the animal (Dunbar 1992). Research has apparently told us in these examples that social influence may follows the old adage "fake it till you make it" and so long as you both think it and do it will work. More than this, psychological research has told us that the topic of resisting social influence is amenable to research study and can produce interesting, surprising and useful results in a subject of monumental importance. Word count 1025 ...read more.

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