Social Psychology Essay

Social Psychology “Social Psychology’s great lesson is the enormous power of social influence. This influence can be seen in our conformity, our compliance, and our group behavior (Myers 680)”. Social influence relates to conformity and obedience, group influence, and ultimately, the power of individuals. “Social Psychologists explore these connections by scientifically studying how we think about, influence, and relate to one another (Myers 673)”. There are two kinds of social influence: Normative and Informational.

These two influences are the reason why people adjust their behavior to coincide with a group standard. Solomon Asch devised a simple test in order to study conformity. He put six people in a room with one thinking they were being studied on their visual perception. Each person took their turn answering the experimenter’s question: Which of the three comparison lines is identical to the standard line? After everyone answered, another set of lines was shown. The pattern continued until the first five people purposely give the wrong answer.

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The findings showed that more than one-third of the time, the sixth person conformed by going along with the group’s wrong answer. They were “willing to call white black”. Sometimes people succumb to their situations. When we become aware that our attitudes and actions don’t match, we experience cognitive dissonance. In order to assess people’s attitudes before and after they adopt a new role, Philip Zimbardo designed an experiment. He took college students, randomly designated them as guards or prisoners, and ut them in a simulated prison. The prisoners were locked up in barren cells and forced to wear humiliating uniforms. The guards were given uniforms, billy clubs, and whistles and instructed to enforce certain rules. The findings showed that a toxic situation can trigger degrading behaviors due to the fact that, “After a day or two in which the volunteers self-consciously “played” their roles, the simulation became real—too real. Most of the guards developed disparaging attitudes, and some devised cruel and degrading routines.

One-by-one the prisoners broke down, rebelled, or became passively resigned, causing Zimbardo to call off the study after only six days (Myers 677)”. The fundamental attribution error, foot-in-the-door phenomenon, prejudice, and deindividuation are also social influence topics that are going to be explained and discussed in an analysis of 12 Angry Men: The fundamental attribution error occurs when people overestimate the influence of personality in certain situations while underestimating the influence of the situation at hand.

In 12 Angry Men, the juror’s interpretation of the boy on trial’s aggression reflects this fundamental attribution theory. For example, the fact that the boy bought a knife leads juror number two to assume he must be a violent kid, or how juror number three saw the boy’s fight with his father to be indicative of the boy’s constant defiance. The fact is, the boy on trial could very well have bought the knife as a self-defense tactic and had no history of violence. Furthermore, the fight that the boy was heard having with his father could have been a rare occurrence in the household.

Normative social influence occurs when one thinks that the price paid for being different may be severe. It is when people try to avoid rejection and gain approval. Juror number eight never let his self become a victim of this type of social influence because of the obvious fact that he went against the crowd the whole time and never wavered. After casting the first vote, realizing the vote is eleven to one, juror number one announces, “There’s always one. ” Everyone then had to argue why they voted the way they did.

Juror number two answered by saying he just thinks the boy is guilty and it’s obvious. Others argue that there’s no way to depute the facts: He is a wild, angry kid, the neighbor lady saw him do it, his own lawyer even knew he was guilty, he couldn’t remember what show he saw at the theatre, he’s had a miserable eighteen years of life, he was doomed once he was born, the slums breed criminals, under-privileged kids murder, etc. These arguments are examples of informational social influence because they are opinions of reality which each juror can choose to accept or decline.

All of these things influence the twelve juror’s emotions and logic. For example, Juror number three’s emotions are influenced because his son left home at sixteen after they got into a fight, so he can relate to the case. The foot-in-the-door phenomenon begins when juror number eight votes not guilty and tries to prove beyond reasonable doubt. He starts by questioning if the switch-blade knife could really be one-of-kind because he owns one as well now.

Then he questions if the eye witness could have really seen the killing through the passing train, as well as, if the man who heard the boy and father fighting could actually hear them over the noise of the train. The rest of the juror’s think he is crazy, but they eventually, one-by-one start to be influenced by Henry Fonda’s statements and start to prove reasonable doubt themselves. Once they start down the path of questioning the facts and focusing on the process rather than the outcome, there was no turning back, and they ultimately proved the boy was not guilty.

All of the jurors except one were prejudice against the boy on trial. The reason why juror number eight was not prejudice in any way is because he questioned if the boy’s actions were directly due to his situation, didn’t use the boy as an outlet for his anger, and never blamed the boy. The other eleven jurors didn’t give the boy a chance by putting their own beliefs, emotions, and predisposition to act in front of logic. They stereotyped the boy as well, saying that the slums are breeding grounds for criminals and trash.

Juror number ten is a perfect example of overt prejudice because he reveals that he thinks “these people” are born violent and liars. The more subtle prejudice is shown when the old man (juror number nine) is shown “special treatment” simply because of his age and the preconceived notions about old people. Deindividuation can occur only in groups when the presence of others arose and diminish people’s sense of responsibility. Group participation can make people feel anonymous which can be dangerous. On June 15th, 2011, a riot broke out in Vancouver after the Boston Bruins’ win over Vancouver in the seventh game of the

Stanley Cup Finals. “At least 140 people were reported as injured during the incident, one critically; at least four people were stabbed, nine police officers were injured, and 101 people were arrested that night, with 16 further arrests following the event (Wikipedia)”. This is an extreme example of deindividuation and what kind of damage it can cause. When people are put into a group setting together, as shown in 12 Angry Men, all aspects of social psychology are presented, and there is absolutely no way around the presence of social influences.

It is, however, in our own control whether or not we succumb to our situations or follow the crowd when we know the actions are wrong. Every situation and person is different but if we stand by what we believe it can only be of benefit to our society. References Myers, David G. Psychology: Ninth Edition. Ed. Kevin Feyen. New York, NY: Worth Publishers, 2010. Print “2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riot. ” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 19 Sept. 2011.

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