Whether we realize it or not, our behavior and habits are influenced by other individuals in society. The way in which they influence us can be studied under the different types of social influence. In this following article, we will try to shed light on the various types of social influence, the way they work and their distinguishing factors.
Given that man is a social animal and lives as a part of this society, it is safe to assume that there are certain behavioral patterns, habits, feelings and attitudes that come about, or are influenced in either a small or a major way due to other human beings in society (words, actions or the mere presence). Simply put, this concept is known as social influence. Think about it for a minute – from something as simple as learning manners, or the things we buy, to something more complicated like the opinions we form about others; or something like the way we behave in certain social settings, it is all influenced by other individuals (whether we do it consciously or unconsciously). All these habits and behavioral patterns come about due to social influence, and that is exactly what we will be studying in the following sections.
Types of Social Influence on Behavior
The concept of social influence can be broadly classified under three major types. These being:
These concepts will give us a clear idea about why we are influenced by others and the way in which it happens.
|Conformity is the need to conform or fit in. Individuals bring about a change in their thoughts, feelings, behavior and habits in order to conform, belong or fit in with a group or a person whom they look upon as a superior. The need to conform stems from two basic needs – One, we want to be right (Informational Social Influence) and two, we want others to like us (Normative Social Influence).
Informational Social Influence
Normative Social Influence
|In a social setting, we comply or follow others in order to be more like them. This comes about as a form of submission where we either follow their request (implicit or explicit) out of our own free will or we are coerced into submission due to the fear of social rejection or punishment. Therefore, compliance could bring about a change in behavior, but not necessarily in the attitude.
Getting others to comply to our request requires persuasion. Based on this theory, there are 8 techniques or tactics of persuasion that have been observed. Let’s take a brief look at these in the following section.
|Obedience is the quality of bringing about a change in one’s behavior and habits by obeying a command that has been put forth by an authority figure. It is different from compliance and conformity in the way that in both these forms of influence, there is a choice that is available. A person may or may not agree to the terms; however, in obedience, a person feels like he/she has no choice and that he/she has to agree. There are two forms of obedience – Constructive and Destructive.
It was observed that the teacher continued to administer shocks, increasing the intensity of them for every wrong answer that the student gave (taking it to the highest level). This was done even when he knew that the subject was in pain. He did this only because he was ordered to do so by an authority figure who was present there. This experiment showed that the need to obey authority figures was so high that people were willing to hurt innocent people without considering the consequences or feeling guilty about the same, and neither did they do anything to oppose it.
Types of social influence on behavior is a very interesting and an important topic in social psychology. It goes on to show us that even though individuals might consider themselves to possess qualities of uniqueness, when studied, their behavioral patterns are not very different from other individuals.