Social Influence

Social Influence

February 10,  2014

Psychologists study a person’s mind and behavior.  A social psychologist takes the study of a person’s mind and behavior and defines it in a social context.  They study the factors and conditions that lead to a person’s behavior and feelings when in the presence of others (McLeod, 2007).  They look at how feelings, beliefs, and thoughts are developed and how they come into play with the person to person interaction (McLeod, 2007).  Human interaction is vital to develop behavior.  Verbal communication consists of the words we use through speech and writing.   Nonverbal communication includes communication through no use of words: body language, facial expression, and art.  It is not as clear and concise as speech and therefore, may be misinterpreted or misunderstood.  Attitude predicts and influences a person’s actions (Kowalski, 2011).  An attitude can take on a different role through persuasion, or deliberate intent (Kowalski, 2011).  Human interaction is crucial in all aspects of human life.  Through interaction, people are able to grow and develop into their specific individuality.

High profile families appear to have it all.  A more than necessary home, luxury vehicles, and beautiful children.  Those children are gifted the best material possessions and supplied the greatest educational opportunities, but sometimes they want to be like everybody else.  They choose a regular public school and become the star of the football team earning a full scholarship to college as long as they maintain a C average and stay drug free.  Living the dream in college, a family that is proud to say, “He is one of us,” and just enough freedom to feel free.  This is a temporary freedom that lasted just until he inquires how to make the professional football team in his future.  His coaches shattered his dreams when they told him he is just too small to play in the big leagues.  He was a guard and needed to be big.  He was not going to make the professional’s as his dreams showed him, unless he made some changes to his appearance.  Talking with other teammates, a guy recommended steroids as the quickest way.  He began taking one shot a month in the thigh mixed with a heavy weight lifting schedule.  It worked, he began bulking up, feeling stronger, and playing rougher.  No one could escape him on the field, he was playing better than he ever had.  The sudden changes in his appearance and performance caught the attention of the coaches.  Claiming a proper workout and diet with protein supplements made the coaches were skeptical: It was happening too fast.  They requested a drug test. When the test was failed, the student was eliminated from the team as well as the college.  His ejection from the team cause shame to his high profile family, who now thought of him as a failure drug addict.  This incident changed his life forever.

The football player engaged in self-handicapping.  He was told he could not do something, therefore, in an attempt to make guidelines established for his goal, he took an illegal drug and set himself up for failure.  The fact that he did not put effort to get bigger through legal guidelines shows he was protecting his self-esteem by making the drug the cause of his failure avoiding his playing being scrutinized.  This way society could still view him as a good player.  His family identifies with the labeling theory.  This theory believes that a person’s identity and behavior may be influenced by how society views them (Kowalski, 2011).   Within this theory, it is believed that declaring a person as deviant will cause them to take on the behavior and prove the diagnosis true, even if it is inaccurate (Kowalski, 2011).  This brings about a self-fulfilling prophecy within the players mind causing him to begin to act as his family and society now view him (Kowalski, 2011).

A young elementary student has spent ample time working with special needs students within her school.  She was always readily available and happy to help them out.  She maintained a friendly, respectful, and welcoming attitude with all students.  One day, some of her peers viewed by society as “normal” began to ridicule one of the special needs students.  The girl was at a standstill with how to react. The girl had to choose whether she would defend the student or conform to the taunts of her other peers.  The reaction she chose shocked everyone, including herself.  She chose to follow her peers.  She hurt feelings of the special needs child who put all of his trust into her every day.  She risked her integrity and reputation.  Little did she know she had hurt her own feelings just as bad as the special needs child.

This scenario is an example of conformity.  Conformity is defined as “changing attitudes or behavior to accommodate the standards of peers or groups” (Kowalski, 2011, p. 684).  The young girl made a change in how she reacted toward the other students taunts in order to accommodate what her peers thought she should do.  It proves the Asch experiments true by demonstrating that a young girl fell to the pressure of her peers.  She had spent lots of time with special needs children and never let them down.  When faced with a dilemma of being considered “normal” by following the taunts of her peers, she decided her reputation was more important and conformed to the others (Kowalski, 2011).

People deem the importance of how society views them as high priority.  Sometimes, making the proper decision is not enough to be considered normal in society.  Sometimes, making a decision changes the way society views a person.  Society establishes their own idea of a person based on minor details of a person which can lead to negative opinions, which in turn cause the person being viewed feel as if that is whom they are supposed to be.  Believing society is right, the person conforms to what society wants.







Kowalski, R., & Westen, D. (2011). Psychology (6th ed.).Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.


McLeod, S. A. (2007). Social Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/social-psychology.html


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