Introduction to Social Influence

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Imagine this: you’re walking down a busy city street and you see someone collapse. What would you do?

Naturally, you’d like to think that you’d be the sort of person who would stop and help, right? But what if everyone else kept walking and ignored the person? Would their apathy influence you? What if their behaviour was outside of what’s socially acceptable. Like, say, they seemed drunk. Would you help then?

Humans are social animals and as such the power of group pressure has been demonstrated in many different ways in psychological research. This unit will explore some of the ways in which social influences and group dynamics can influence individual behaviour.

This unit focuses on four key areas:

  • Conformity
  • Bystanderism
  • Social Identity Theory
  • Stereotypes

Conformity is the act of altering ones behaviour so it fits with the rest of a group. In this unit conformity will be just one fascinating phenomena related to group behaviour that we’ll be focusing on.

A bystander is someone who is witness to an event. Bystanderism is when people who witness an event do nothing to intervene in a situation, even when they perceive that someone is in danger. We’ll compare bystanderism with conformity to see if there are similar factors underlying these phenomena.

The power of the group on the individual is so strong that it has been the subject of a wealth of research over the past few decades in psychology. Tajfel and Turner spent considerable time researching group dynamics and devised their “Social Identity Theory” to attempt to explain how individual behaviour can change when put into a group.

Stereotypes are common, but where do they come from? There are numerous different theories that attempt to explain the formation of stereotypes and we’ll look at a few of these, including how they may serve important in-group functions (according to SIT).

Check out this introduction to Social Influence by the guys at “Crash Course.”


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