Behavior Prejudice and Social Psychology Gender-Based Stereotypes Essay

  • Length: 6 pages
  • Sources: 8
  • Subject: Psychology
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #51784301

Excerpt from Essay :


Prejudice and social psychology

Gender-based stereotypes and influence of society

Cultural impact of host cultures

The contribution of Stanley Milgram has been significant in the field of social psychology. Milgram conducted experiments of human behavior in a laboratory setting and concluded that obedience to authority usually disregards moral or legal normative standards. An individual's behavior is thus shaped by the environment, people around, and his figure of authority. "Because humans are social animals, human behavior is strongly influenced by behavior of other humans; this influence is often very direct"(Aarts & Dijksterhuis, 2003; Pg. 18). The current paper investigates as to what extent the human behavior is influenced by others. The paper adopts an investigative approach and cites peer reviewed articles to substantiate the discussion. Social identity theory is also an important theoretical explanation that explains how and why an individual voluntarily gets influenced from socially constructed relationships.


Stanley Milgram remains one of the early researchers who investigated the risks of obedience in a social setting and the role that authority plays in one's decision making. Social settings and situational factors are more responsible for an individual's behavior as opposed to personal factors, social psychology theory explains. People witnessed brutal causalities being caused in World War II and famous proof in which World War II criminal Adolph Eichmannaffirmed that he was only fulfilling the his commander's instructions. Such positions provoked the interest of Milgram to conduct experiments regarding the role of influence from an authority figure in an individual's decision making. Having conducted his controversial experiments on 40 men, Milgram concluded that 65% of the participants bowed to authority for delivering 'electric shocks' to their subjects, despite orders being morally incorrect (Blass, 2009) .

With Milgram's position regarding role of authority figure in an individual's decision making as background to this discussion, present study will investigate that'How do others influence our behavior-Position will be taken according to leading social psychology theories. Results reported by research of psychologists will be presented to discover the factors of our behavior in context of influence that authority and social environment factors exerts on individuals.

How others shape our behavior?

"Because humans are social animals, human behavior is strongly influenced by behavior of other humans; this influence is often very direct"(Aarts & Dijksterhuis, 2003; Pg. 18). Situational norms are said to have significant impact on an individuals' behavior. These norms are communicated to individual in a group through peer interaction, observation, and direction that flow in from the figures of authority. Milgram (1973) observed that it is an essential element of communal living that chain of authority is established and some figure vested with authority to take and implement decision is established. The author also presents the example of Plato in 'Antigone' arguing the role of respect and obedience in face of opposition from one's own conscience. When human beings find themselves in a situation where they have to obey irrational and immoral commands, compliance with the directives is the usual outcome.The three major findings of the study conducted by Milgram retreated that we tend to abide by the orders and our behavior is significantly shaped when figure of authority is present physically around us.

Another finding was that conflicting authority significantly paralyzes official authority.Milgrams also observed that although his experiment was conducted in a laboratory setting and that no real punishments and incentives were used to enforce and restrict the behavior of participants, it is safe to assume that in social settings where authority figure has punishments and incentives at his discretion, the influence of authority on behavior of an individual may be even higher. Had Milgram used punishments and rewards in the experiment, results of compliance by participants could have been much higher.

The field of consumer behavior also gains much theoretical foundation from social psychology behavior. This implies that marketers influence consumer behavior so that such influence is followed by further influence on other consumers. Although self-esteem and intelligence are also factors that shape our behavior (Bearden, Netemeyer & Teel, 1989), the situational factors are also related to behavioral shaping of individuals. A relatively old study, that conducted by French and Raven (1959) mentioned influence in terms of power that people seek in a social setting. Changes in behavior, opinion, attitudes, goals, and needs are all influenced by the surrounding elements such as power being exercised on individuals and the detailed directions to which each individual is expected to comply with. Since psychological change in defined as the alteration in some state of system over period of time, the time interval that is required for bringing about the desired or undesired change is dependent on an individual's personality factors (French & Raven, 1959; 260). Five powers have been identified as the main power basis that significantly influences the behavior of individuals as well as groups within a society. These are referent power, expert power, reward power, coercive power, and legitimate power (French & Raven, 1959; 268). Our everyday routine is apparent with such examples where assertive people, specifically those belonging from authority related roles, exercise considerable influence on the behavior of members of particular group or society.

The authors also hinted that referent power has the broadest influence as compared to other powers. Coercion and rewards also play an important role in shaping the behavior as both coercive and reward power has been identified as spate set of powers in a social setting. We see the use of these powers mostly in educational institutions and professional settings where desirable outcomes achievement is rewarded by the management of firms. On the other hand, undesired situations are managed by giving punishments to subjects. On a side note, French, et al. (1959) also observed that coercive power does not result in greater motivation on whom power is exercised. The reward power in fact attracts the subject more towards the figure of authority. This is also evidenced in work environment settings (Smith, Organ, & Near, 1983) where management uses cash and non-cash rewards to manage the behavior of employees.

Prejudice and social psychology

"Prejudice is a state of mind, feeling or behavior that involves some disparagement of others on account of the group they belong to." (Brown, 2011; Pg. 1).Lowery, Hardin and Sinclair (2001) argued that according to shared reality theory, it is social tuning that develops an individual's prejudices and stereotypes. Since social tuning is a necessary outcome of positive social interaction and development of social identity on relationship lines further strengthens social tuning. Thus, an individual that has strong positive association with his/her community is likely to develop prejudices widely held in that particular society. Automatic and tacit social influences are responsible for the development of an individual's prejudicial racial attitudes (Lowery, et. al. 2001; Pg. 851).

Gender-based stereotypes and influence of society

Eagly (1983) argued that social influence is most visible in context of gender-based stereotypes that an individual holds. The male and female hierarchical roles that society has developed and the legitimacy that our peers and society members give to social inequalities of power and status enable the development of gender-based stereotypes. After analyzing the argument of Eagly, it can be assumed that stereotypes such as that male gender is better suited to certain cognitive tasks is based on societal influence, rather than on pure rationality. Thus, findings of Lowery, et al. (2001) and Eagly (1983) confirm others have direct and indirect influence in the development of stereotypes and prejudices of an individual in a society.

Cultural impact of host cultures

There are many internal processes that are activated once an immigrant lands in a country other than his/her origin. Acculturation is much debated topic in perspective of change within one's self that occurs in the immigrant. Gender and power relationships are also key determinants in the process of acculturation. Personality and age of the person involved in acculturation process are also determinants of behavior. Since there are many underlying motivations to get influenced by others, mostly in foreign cultures, it is also important to investigate the motivational aspect of one's interaction with others aimed at changing one's own behavior.Although situational constraints are responsible for speeding up or obstructing the process of influence, pragmatic goals are also said to have significant role in determining the level of influence that one gets from other individuals (Padilla & Perez, 2003). Social cognition, cultural competence, and social identity theory (Brewer & Kramer, 1986) also explains that an individual's behavior reflects the larger group of which he/she has become part of. We are also motivated by the notion of maintaining positive self-concept and this aim in the background of our mental processes plays a role in optimizing the influence we absorb from others.It has also been argued by researchers that social identities are socially interpreted categories and a change in social settings also tends to change the resultant social identity as well. Brewer was an eminent scholar that propagated the existence of two main motives of an individual, to be unique as well…

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