Essay about Social Psychology

The desire to be accepted and belong to a group is an undeniable human need.
We change because we realize that sometimes we are socially different and want to be accepted in society or it is something that we aim to achieve in becoming (Allen & Levine, 1969). The changes that occur have mostly been from the experiences that we see, hear, or feel to make the changes that we do on ourselves (Friedkin, 1998).Social psychologists have conducted numerous experiments and concluded that, through various forms of social influence, groups can change their members’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviour, intentionally or unintentionally, as a result of the way the changed person perceives themselves in relationship to the influencer, other people and society in general (Hogg ;amp; Vaughan, 2008). Hogg and Vaughan (2008) stated that the three areas of social influence are obedience, compliance and conformity.Raven (1992) asserted that it is human nature to obey to rules and regulations set by higher authority, to conform to group norms and to comply with requests. Moghaddam (1998) defines obedience, as an actions carried out by commands, showing that it is requested by authority, or from someone whom is perceived to be of authority (i. e.
, Parents, teachers, authority by appointment, spiritual leaders etc. ). In the most penetrating and incisive social psychological explorations of obedience, a major dilemma revolves around the issue of how far people are willing to obey authority figure (French ;amp; Raven, 1959).It seems that some people are often much more willing to obey orders to harm others than is generally assumed (Cialdini ;amp; Goldstein, 2004). This tendency to underestimate the extent to which people will obey instructions from authority figures to harm others was demonstrated in a well known experiment that shed light to the concept of obedience is Milgram’s (1963) experiment (Vaughan ;amp; Hogg, 2008).The study revealed that obedience to authority is a powerful tool that makes people follow orders blindly without rational thinking or questioning of ambiguous orders to a certain extent that they can even cause harm to others (Moscovici, 1994). Although the participants involved were capable of thinking rationally, that is to cause no harm to others; they subconsciously entered into an “Agentic Mode” (Vaughan ;amp; Hogg, 2008), where the participants transfer their “personal responsibilities to the person giving orders”.

Meaning, the participants blamed the person giving orders for making them harm the other participants in the experiment.According to Milgram (1974), “The essence of obedience consists in the fact that a person comes to view himself as the instrument for carrying out another person’s wishes, and he therefore no longer sees himself as responsible for his actions. Once this critical shift of viewpoint has occurred in the person, all of the essential features of obedience follow. Thus, the major problem for the subject is to recapture control of his own regnant processes once he has committed them to the purposes of the experimenter (Nissani, 1990). Another important factor in obedience is immediacy-social proximity of the victim to the participant.Milgram (1974) altered the visibility and the audibility of the “learner. ” The more immediate or direct the victim, the less the obedience (Bales, 1950).
When the victim is “in your face” it is hard to deny him (Milgram, 1974). The victim’s physical immediacy increased, the participant’s compliance decreased; when the authority’s physical immediacy decreased, the participant’s compliance decreased. For example, where participants received telephonic instructions from the experimenter, compliance decreased; interestingly, some participants deceived the experimenter by pretending to continue the experiment.Milgram, (1974), further stated that close physical proximity to an authority figure enhanced participants’ obedience to that authority. This principle is employed in the military and other government agencies in the world where no one is ever far away from the authority of a higher-ranking person (MIlgram, 1974). The other important study was the one known as the prisoner experiment, performed by Philip Zimbardo (1973) and involved taking at random college students to pretend to be either guards or prisoners in a fake jail. Both sets of students started out equally.
The surprising outcome of this simulation was that it had to be abandoned after only 6 days, well short of the planned 2 weeks, because the treatment of the prisoners by the guards was far more aggressive and dehumanizing than had been expected (Moghaddam, 1998). In our present day contacts, an infamous example to illustrate the concept of obedience will be the “26/11 attack” in 2008 in Mumbai, India, where 166 people were killed. This inhumane act can be due to the fact that the terrorists were definitely following orders blindly, doing what they were told and not considering about the harm they will be causing o the innocent people when they were committing the said act. Cialdini (1993) stated that given an appropriate context, most individuals have the potential to blindly obey commands, even if such obedience leads to harm to others. The study of obedience is of fundamental importance because one must understand the ‘crimes of obedience’ that have persisted in modern times (Moghaddam, 1998). The Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, the terror attack in Mumbai, India, “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia, these are some of the terrifying events made possible by obedience to authority.Studies in tradition of Milgram (1963) and Zimbardo (1973) highlight the power of the situation to shape behaviour in all cultures.
In comparison, compliance is very much similar to obedience. It is complying or yielding to another person’s direct wish, demands, requests, or instructions, but on a completely new different level. The level where there are no authoritative demands, but only the requestor’s agreement and confidence. Compliance happens in everyone’s lives. Simply asking someone to perform a task is a request for compliance.They may choose to comply or not to comply, although the thoughts of social rewards and punishment may lead them to compliance when they really do not want to comply (Freedman & Fraser, 1966). Although asking someone to perform a task, he or she is not asking the person to agree or disagree with the task in question.
The person requesting the performance of the task is not necessarily attempting to change the other’s beliefs, but simply needs or wants the task to be performed (Moscovici, 1994).The request may be explicit, such as a direct request for donations, or implicit, such as an advertisement promoting its products without directly asking for purchase. In all cases, the target recognizes that he or she is being urged to respond in a desired way (Vaughan & Hogg, 2008). Vaughan & Hogg (2008) further expressed that compliance does not reflect internal change. It persists only while behaviour is under surveillance. For example, children may obey parental directives to keep their room tidy, but only if they know that their parents are watching.The source of social influence is perceived by the target of influence to have power; power is the basis of compliance (Michael, 2004).
In contrast to compliance, other form of social influence produces internalization, which is the process of acceptance of a set of norms established by people or groups which are influential to the individual (Meissner, 1981). Wallis and Poulton (2001) stated that the process starts with learning what the norms are, and then the individual goes through a process of understanding why they are of value or why they make sense, until finally they accept the norm as their own viewpoint.Cialdini (1993) stated that there are “six basic weapons that people use to gain compliance. They include “reciprocation, commitment, consistency, social proof, liking, authority and scarcity”. When people reciprocate, they are actually returning favours. As part of compliance tactics, people may do favours’ for their counterparts in return to gain some favours back from their counterparts. There are three types of techniques mentioned by Vaughan & Hogg (2008) that uses multiple request approach to gain compliance.
They include “foot in the door”, “door in the face”, and “low-ball” techniques to gain compliance. The state of being consistent is also a form of aspect that helps people gain compliance. For instance, we tend to observe our parent’s mood before we tend to request for cash or watch midnight movies with friends. Should in any case our parent is in “bad” mood, we tend not to proceed with our request, as we fear that our parent may reject our request. This is an example of consistency – when someone is in good mood they naturally tend to comply to request more readily (Vaughan & Hogg, 2008).In social proof, people tend to take up responsibilities when they are left alone than when they are placed in a group, whereby they wait for one another to response first. As for liking, when someone whom we like makes request, we tend to comply more readily than to request made by someone we dislike.
The terms scarcity is best explained using the “clearance sale” example. Retailers often use words like “while stocks lasts” and “last day for discount”. Lastly, authority, where people tend to comply with orders when requests are made by higher authority. This is so because authority is frequently linked to power (Kelman, 1953).Kelman (1953) further explains of the six bases of social power that make people comply. The six bases of social power include reward power, coercive power, informational power, expert power, legitimate and referent power. In the case of reward power, people tend to promise something (e.
g. , rewards) in return to gain compliance. For instance, in government sectors and private sectors, bosses use to treat the workers with free lunch or dinner to gain compliance from the workers to maintain their job well. On the other side of reward power is coercive power.A form of punishment used to gain compliance from people to refrain themselves in miscellaneous acts. A common example is the use of fines to curb littering and smoking in public. Both informational power and expert power are rather similar in content.
In informational power, the person providing information is deemed to be more knowledgeable than the receiver (Nissani, 1990). For instance, a person buying a guitar depends a lot on the guitar salesperson to provide information regarding a specific guitar. Hence, if the guitar salesperson has additional knowledge of it, he may indeed be able to influence the buyer.On the other hand, expert power involves the person influencing the counterparts to be more knowledgeable in academic point of view. For instances, a senior officer from the government sector, educates new officers, holds more information related to the job. Legitimate power may involve higher authority. The rules and regulation imposed by company on workers.
This is where compliance can be gained mostly on the surface only that is when there is less surveillance, workers tend not to follow the rules and regulations set by the company (Nissani, 1990).Lastly, compliance through means of power is referent power. It involves using a particular subject’s attraction as the target to gain compliance from the person. For instance, if the public is attracted to or admires a particular movie star, the advertising company can use this as a tool to gain compliance from the public to use products given testimonial by the particular movie star. Therefore, to gain compliance, some degree of power is used in the form of social power, which was mentioned earlier as the six bases of social power (Dennis, 2006).Conformity, when compared with obedience and compliance, there is a change in belief; be it if the initial belief or a cognitive process is in line with the conformed belief or otherwise (Festinger, 1957). It is through socialization that people learn to conform to certain norms and to obey certain authority figures, and there is continuous change in what people conform to and whom they obey (Moghaddam, 1998) The Asch’s conformity experiment (Vaughan & Hogg, 2008) showed that people tend to change their opinions, decisions to avoid being the odd one out, as they also fear that they will be laughed at should heir opinion be different from the majority.
Deutsch and Gerard (1955) explained that there are two processes of social influence responsible for conformity: informational influence and normative influence. In other words, informational influence takes place when people are not sure if they are doing the right thing. Hence, they rely on other people’s information and coincide or match their own opinion to be the same with the other people’s opinion. As for normative influence, it takes place when people follow what their own group members are doing in order to feel accepted or to avoid being left out.We can now go about comparing and contrasting the concepts of obedience, compliance and conformity. The concept of obedience is that people yield to orders given to them directly, that they have the tendency to follow the orders given to them “without much reasoning”. The example of Milgrim’s (1963) study of obedience shows people ability to follow orders to an extent that they can cause harm to innocent individuals (Vaughan & Hogg, 2008).
The concept of compliance is more on influencing people to comply to the requests made using various form of tactics like “door in the face”,” foot in the door” and “lowball” (Cialdini, 2001).Other form of influence that increases compliance but does not cause harm to others as in the instance of obedience to authority include the six basic weapon of Cialdini(1993) which are reciprocation, commitment, social proofing, authority, liking and scarcity. (Cialdini, 1993). In the concept of obedience using Milgrim’s experiment (1963) as the example, people tend to push the blame to the person giving them the orders when they follow orders that were not ethical. The concept of compliance does not involve in people pushing blame to others for action that they do.Both the concept of obedience and compliance are similar in the instance where people yield to the influence of power. However, they also tend to vary when the context of power appears (Cialdini, 2001).
In the concept of obedience, power is related to the obeying of orders from the higher authority (Moghaddam, 1998). However, this is not the case with the concept of compliance. In the concept of compliance, power is related to the influences from the six bases of social power Kelman (1953) which are reward power, coercive power, informational power, expert power, legitimate power and referent power.Compliance can be superficial however, obedience is not. Compliance may be increased if there is surveillance but in the concept of obedience and conformity, the need for surveillance is not necessary (Vaughan & Hogg, 2008). In conclusion, people tend to obey commands readily when the orders are from an authoritative figure (Moghaddam, 1998). Due to the fact that there are needs for people to fulfil the orders given to them, they go to the extent of following orders ‘blindly’ that can even cause harm to other people (Meissner, 1981).
How readily the people follow the order given to them depends on the power the authoritative figure holds over the people involved (Cialdini, 1993). Social psychologist studies have demonstrated how even ordinary people can follow orders from an authority figure to do harm to others. Studies of Stanley Milgram, Philip Zimbardo and Solomon E. Asch have helped to demonstrate certain conditions in which obedience, compliance and conformity occur. However, we must keep in mind that not everyone obeys orders to do harm to others and that most people in all culture blame those who do harm

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