Society as We Know Exerts Its Influence Term Paper

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society as we know exerts its influence on the affairs and behavior of human beings. Social influences encompass the changes that occur in attitudes, beliefs, and behavior that often result from interpersonal interactions. Conformity and obedience are key concepts that aid in explaining social influences. Concisely, conformity refers to the influence that the masses or the majority have over an individual (Collins, 2009). On the other hand, obedience is influence exerted by the state or an authority over its subjects. This essay will endeavor to compare and contrast these two forms of social influences and draw conclusions that will candidly show the difference between conformity and obedience.

Conformity and obedience bear some semblance with each other in the fact that they can both persuade, or inspire an individual to change one's behavior, actions and thoughts, as regards a specific situation. Another semblance between conformity and obedience lies in their ability to alter the manner in which person or a group of people views others within an ethnic, cultural, communal or environmental setup. In addition to looking at the differences and similarity between conformity and obedience, the paper will go further and look at the effect of group influence on self using both contemporary and classical literature, and also look at the social influences that lead individuals to deviate from group norms (Collins, 2009).

Comparison and contrast of the concepts of conformity and obedience

The establishment and adherence to the tenets of conformity and obedience is of paramount importance in the society as these confines the members of any group to abide by the set societal norms. Conformity is crucial in a group because it fosters a sense of belonging among the members of a group, while at the same time promoting self-esteem among the members. Conformity is well exemplified when the group exerts its members to say or do something that they would naturally not do or say. The level or degree of one's loyalty to a particular group is measured by the degree by which the person in question is conformed to the beliefs and ideologies of the group. Gender, Culture, and personality are exemplars of factors, which determine or affect one's conformity to a group setting.

Obedience is considered restricted in its operations and influence. This assertion or assumption stems from the fact that its capacity is pegged on the people who are primarily under the submission of authority of sorts. Obedience is well seen as a type of social influence whereby an individual's action is in response to a direct order or command given by an authoritative figure (Bleske-rechek, 1999). In obedience, the place of the authoritarian figure is an important one. Supposing the order from a source of no authority, then it is most probable that the order would not be followed or executed. So, in this instance, authority distinguishes the master from his subjects and inspires execution of orders dispatched.

Analyzing a classical study concerning the effect of group influence on the self

Milgram's studies can best be used to discuss the impact of obedience as a social influence. According to Fiske 2010, Milgram developed a study that show social forces, which influence an individual's behavior by controlling resources and sustaining their commitment to the group as a method of exerting, influence. Accordingly, Milgram came up with an ingenious paradigm aimed at investigating obedience to authority. His studies revealed a striking semblance between the obedience expressed by persons to that explained by the social impact theory. In this regard, the influence imparted on people is dependent on the factors that include proximity, number and direction. In other words, when the authority's proximity is close to the subjects, that authority is obeyed more than that in which the authority is far from the subjects.

Solomon Asch, a Gestalt psychologist of American descent, conducted a classical study on the effect of group influence on individuals. Asch's investigation studied the ability of individuals to resist the influences exerted by group pressures. Asch focused on the study of social influence which was not tied to real interactions. Asch reviewed the issue of misinformation, dissecting it to reveal its impact and usage in garnering military support among the populace in World War II. In this war, misinformation was used to influence and mobilize the Germans and Italians to support the war. Asch's studies concentrated on looking at the factors that caused some people to resist the war propaganda.

In Asch's experiment, eight human subjects were used. The aim of the experiment was to influence the test subjects to agree with an assertion or a set of assertions that was contrary to facts. The set up of the experiment was such that the eight met in a group. Then each of these eight participants was shown lines of varying sizes, and asked to match what they saw with the lines marked on a standard board (Fiske, 2010). Different line stimulus was used yielding a set of results. A general trend showed the majority moving towards a common viewpoint. This result was contrary to the expected outcome.

Analyzing a contemporary example of the effect that group influence has on the self

The effect of group influence on self can be well illustrated in the political beliefs held by different people. Four studies have so far been conducted to illustrate the power behind group influence in persuading individuals and the individuals' inability to see this influence. The studies looked at the impact exerted by group influences on attitude change. One study in particular revealed that if there was missing information concerning the position that the liberals or the conservatives took on a certain matter, then their followers are likely to abandon the long held beliefs and follow the content presented to them. Conversely, if the party had content on the issue under discussion, then the followers of the party will assume the party's position and disregard the position presented to them. The study drew a conclusion, which clearly showed that group information influenced both the behavior and the attitude of the group in question.

It is expected that persons belonging to the same group share some common characteristics. Anybody that deviated from the group norm is thus branded the black sheep of the flock. A person who refuses to tow the line in regards to the guidelines set by the group and instead chooses to deviate expresses the black sheep effect. Persons expressing the black sheep effect are also considered rebels and these have gained notoriety in causing problems for the other compliant group members. Incidentally, the rebels cause more problems to the group that the forces external to the group.

Analyzing individual plus societal influences that lead to deviance from dominant group norm

Deviance by group members breaks the social norms held by the group. Deviance is said to occur when the group members depart from what the group generally considers its norms. The deviance might be leveled against behavior, attitudes, or beliefs (Burger, Neil, Smelser & Paul, 2001). One school of thought attributes social deviance to the workings of evil forces. Another school of thought looks deviance as a rewarding experience (Fiske, 2010). Deviance is considered negative if it is tied to mental illness, criminal tendencies, and alcohol and drug addiction among other negative tendencies (Burger et al., 2001). The deviant person is not ignorant or unaware of the norms that bind the group together. Self-identity is famed for causing people to break away from the group norms; it is self-identity that causes one to deviate from the guidelines of the group. In such a person, self-identity and not group identity informs the person's actions and sets the standards in his or her life. People who deviate from a group appear to learn goals and attitudes that are contra the ones held by the group. Social learning entails learning of values, attitudes and motives that support deviance. When these attitudes become part of an individual, he or she will commit to maintaining and sustaining the new behaviors and attitudes (Myers, 2004).

Learning and socialization that occurs within the group causes individuals to deviate from the conventions of the group. This manner of learning and socialization helps the deviant person to stay away from feelings of guilt that normally accompany deviance. The position taken by an individual and other personal inclinations are the main issues that cause deviant behavior. Group norms are imposed strategically instituted so as to dissuade deviance among the members of the group. These norms are important and care must be taken when imposing them on a group lest it causes widespread deviance (Myers, 2004). Open channels of communication within the group can also dissuade members from tending towards deviance. Individuals who feel valued by the group are less likely to become deviant.

Social influence can thus be analyzed in the context of obedience and conformity. Conformity is that tendency that causes individuals to abandon their values, beliefs and attitudes and embrace the norms set by the…[continue]

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