The basis of psychology from a behavioural standpoint comes down to how an individual thinks, acts, and is perceived by society (HubPages, 2012). There is immense influence of effect of society and social influences on human behaviour. Not only do human interactions affect human behaviour significantly, the latter is also influenced by social situations. People tend to act differently in different situations, relationship and context. Also, society stipulates norms, imposes sanctions and expects certain behaviour from people. Deviation from societal norms can lead to social outcasts, which necessitates people to follow these informal rules. People tend to behave in way that gains them acceptance in their society. Thus, the way societal interactions influences behaviour of individuals is an intriguing area of study. It is important to investigate into the relationship between behaviour and social influence.
The paper aims to examine the basic concepts of human interaction from a psychological perspective, investigate into the originators and impact of these behaviours, and its context, and delve into the need of therapeutic intervention. The paper is divided into five sections. The first section discusses the social influences on human behaviour. The second section describes two specific behaviours to illustrate how human behaviour changes based on social situations and the context in which the behaviours occurred. The third section analyses the precursors and consequences of these behaviours in terms of social psychology concepts. The section also attempts to identify any associated phenomenon with respect to these behaviours, such as social facilitation, social loafing, or groupthink. The fourth section determines if the exhibited behaviours necessitate therapeutic intervention. The fifth section concludes the paper.
Social Influence on Human Behaviour
Social influence on human behaviour can be illustrated through the concepts of normative social influence, group mentality, social loafing and social facilitation.
Normative Social Influence
People tend to behave in a way that is acceptable to certain social situations and in a certain social context. This type of social influence is called normative social influence. Kowalski and Westen define normative social influence as a psychological phenomenon that occurs when a person's behaviour is motivated by the desire to be socially accepted (Stone, 2011). The dominant desire to be part of a group supersedes one’s own thought processes, beliefs and individuality. But, this behaviour may not be displayed in other types of social interactions and in private. According to Straker, this phenomenon often leads to public compliance but not always private acceptance of a relationship's norm (Stone, 2011). Thus, the social need for group acceptability may lead to behavioural changes that may or may not be permanent in nature.
Another aspect of social influence on human behaviour is the concept of group mentality. Quiamzade concludes that human behaviour can change radically in a group situation when the individuals in the group leave their own identity to take on a composite group identity (Stone, 2011). The change is considered radical as it is not necessarily change in the basic value system of a person. It is a change in displayed behaviour to maintain the group identity. Association with the group and maintaining the group identity becomes so important that individuals adopt the ideologies and values of the group, even if they do not fully believe in these values. This type of group mentality is often referred to as ‘group think’, which is a thought process that occurs between members of a cohesive in-group (Stone, 2011). A group think helps in maintain harmony and minimizing conflicts in the group.
According to Cherry (2012), social loafing describes the tendency of individuals to put forth less effort when they are part of a group. In the parlance of collective action and cooperation, this tendency is referred to as the problem of free-riding. The free-riding or social loafing problem arises due to lack of individual accountability in a group. The members of the group work towards achieving a common goal, which means that even if one member does not perform the common goal is likely to be achieved. Also, instead of assuming responsibility for certain tasks, one might simply assume that one of the other group members will take care of it (Cherry, 2012). This encourages individual group members to default on their part of effort and contribution towards the group objectives. This is a common phenomenon and is observed frequently in any group activity.
Allport introduced the notion that the presence of others (the social group) can facilitate certain behaviour (McLeod, 2007). According to Fournier (2009), social facilitation is the tendency for people who are being watched or observed to perform better than they would alone on simple tasks. This can be manifested in the form of higher number of repetitions and time taken in completing these tasks. If tasks are complicated, the tendency to make mistakes when being watched is even higher and people can get nervous and anxious about the work at hand. This phenomenon can produce both favourable and unfavourable results. If this urge to perform better in front of people is channelized productively, it leads to better results. Otherwise, the increased anxiety and nervousness can reduce the performance of a person. This is also a commonly occurring phenomenon in people’s life. An example of the phenomenon of social facilitation given by Normal Triplett is that cyclists in a bicycle race tend to ride faster than when they are alone (Fournier, 2009).
Specific Behaviours Influenced by Social Situations
The section describes two specific behaviours to illustrate how human behaviour changes based on social situations and the context in which the behaviours occurred. The two specific behaviours identified for analysis are:
Rampant incidences of drug and alcohol abuse in teenagers.
Students giving priority to and working sincerely on their individual assignments, but ignoring group assignments in college.
Teenagers, as a group, aspire to appear more mature and grown up than they really are. Cigarette smoking, for example, makes them feel macho and tough. The context for widespread drug and alcohol abuse in teenagers is the need for association within this typical teenager group. It is also helps them avoid being outcast from the group and being the focal point of floating jokes. It can also be associated with the phenomenon of group think where teenagers ignore their individual ideals and follow the group ideologies and values.
The context of the latter is the concept of social loafing, which is the issue of free-riding due to lack of individual accountability. In organisational context, there is a saying that only those objectives that are measured get achieved. In a group assignment, there are no parameters to measure individual contributions and assign scores on them.
Precursors and Consequences of the Specific Behaviours
The precursors and consequences of specific behaviours of people in specific situations are pertaining to various concepts of psychology. The precursor in case of drug abuse is group comparison, boost self-esteem and self-confidence and attempt to cope with the external environment. Group comparison is a precursor because teenagers have a tendency to compare. Drug abuse helps yield positive results in social comparisons. As a result of drug abuse, people apparently feel more confident and macho, become more expressive and mix well with their group.
The precursor for ignoring group assignments is the concept of social loafing and paucity of time. Tendency to free ride encourages students to assign less weightage to performing in groups. Paucity of time also encourages students for social loafing. It is again a coping mechanism to excel in overall performance by relying on others for group assignments, which gives students more time to concentrate on the assignments they are singularly responsible for. The consequence of ignoring group assignment is the increased ability to perform better in tests that are graded on individual performance. However, the reduction in quality of overall group assignment cannot be ignored.
Need for Therapeutic Intervention
Therapeutic intervention is seriously required in the social influence on drug abuse behaviour. The ill-effects of drug and alcohol abuse cannot be ignored in the larger picture. The problem becomes severe as these harmful drugs are addictive and students find it difficult to let go of the habit even when they realise their mistake. Such victims of drug and alcohol addiction need effective therapies to get out of the clutches of this behaviour. The temptations and craving of continuing the abuse is scary and therapeutic intervention helps in bringing these individuals back to normal. The social loafing behaviour does not require any therapeutic intervention. But, a monitoring mechanism to credit individuals for their contribution in group assignments can motivate students to avoid such behaviours. However, correcting this behaviour require careful and close review of each and every group, which may not be practically possible always.
The paper set out to examine the basic concepts of human interaction from a psychological perspective, investigate into the originators and impact of these behaviours, and its context, and delve into the need of therapeutic intervention. The two examples of human behaviours affected by social influence are incidences of drug abuse in teenagers and ignorance of group assignments by students. The context for widespread drug and alcohol abuse in teenagers is the need for association within this typical teenager group. It can also be associated with the phenomenon of group think. The context of the latter is the concept of social loafing, which is the issue of free-riding due to lack of individual accountability.
The precursor in case of drug abuse is group comparison, boost self-esteem and self-confidence and attempt to cope with the external environment. The consequence of this behaviour is apparent feeling of being more confident and macho, more expressive and increased ability to mix within the group. The precursor for ignoring group assignments is the concept of social loafing and paucity of time. The consequence of ignoring group assignment is the increased ability to perform better in tests that are graded on individual performance. Therapeutic intervention is necessary with drug abuse behaviour in teenagers.
Cherry, Kendra (2012). What is Social Loafing? Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/sindex/g/socialloafing.htm
Fournier, Gillian (2009). Social Facilitation. Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/encyclopedia/2009/social-facilitation/
HubPages (2012). Social Influences on Behaviour: Acceptance. Retrieved from http://lilith1980.hubpages.com/hub/Social-Influences-on-Behavior-Acceptance
McLeod, Saul (2007). Social Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/social-psychology.html
Stone, Deborah (2011). Social Influences on Behaviour. Retrieved from http://psychological-musings.blogspot.in/2011/02/social-influences-on-behavior.html