How do others influence our behaviour? Discuss with reference to social psychology theory and research.

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How do others influence our behaviour? Discuss with reference to social psychology theory and research. Social influence has many different definitions in psychology, it is mainly used to summarise the field of social psychology. Mainly looking at “how thoughts, feelings and behaviour of individuals are influenced by actual, imagined or implied presence of others” (McGrath, 1970.) Our social life is mainly distinguished by our social influences; influences we are both consciously and subconsciously aware of.

As individuals we occasionally change our behaviour to 'fit in' to social situations, we alter our behaviours as we are unsure of the correct way to feel or act and use others as a resource of information. Our
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Normative influence however usually results in compliance, whereby although a person may be seen to change their opinion, outside of the situation they will revert to their original opinion.

Asch study lacks validity in that it cannot be readily applied to real world situations. Williams and Sogon (1984) studied Japanese students who belonged to a sports club and found that conformity was even higher when the majority influence was people whom the students knew. However it is important to remember this could represent the collectivistic nature of Japanese society and may not be generalisable to other societies. A further study into cultural factors by (Smith and Bond, 1993) showed that conformity within individualist cultures does appear to be higher in societies where group harmony is important.

A study conducted by (Jenness, 1932) involved a jar of beans and students estimating how many beans were inside the jar. After, he grouped the participants together to discuss the contents. When they were separated and asked their opinions again, Jenness found that the estimates had converged around a central figure and 'group norm'. The conclusion suggested that in ambiguous situations, we tend look to others for help, assuming that a majority figure will be more reliable.

(Sherif, 1935) asked participants to sit in a darkened room and had to guess how much an a spot of light
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