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Flashcards in Social Influence And Social Change Deck (15)
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What is social influence?

The process by which individuals and groups change each other's attitudes and behaviours. Includes conformity, obedience and minority influence.


What is social change?

This occurs when whole societies, rather than just individuals, adopt new attitudes, beliefs and ways of doing things.


Name the five social influence processes that can account for social change

• Drawing attention to an issue

• Cognitive conflict

• Consistency of position

•The augmentation principle

• The snowball effect

(DCCAS -Deaf Cats Can Always See)


Describe 'drawing attention to an issue' and give an example in relation to the suffragette movement

Minorities draw the majority's attention to an issue which may create conflict that the majority are motivated to reduce.

Example: the suffragettes used educational, political, and militant tactics to draw attention to their cause.

Campaigns + protests


Describe cognitive conflict and give an example in relation to the suffragette movement

This conflict does not necessarily mean that majority move to the minority position but it does the make the majority begin to the more deeply about the issue.

Example: the suffragettes created conflict between the existing status quo (only men allowed to vote) and their position (votes for women).


Describe consistency of position and give an example in relation to the suffragette movement

Minorities are more influential when they express their arguments consistently (over time and with each other).

Example: protests and political lobbying continued for years, plus the fact that women played a significant role in WW1, boosted their cause.


Describe the augmentation principle and give an example in relation to the suffragette movement

If a minority appears willing to suffer for their views, they are seen as more commuted and taken more seriously by others.

Example: Suffragettes were willing to risk imprisonment, even death, in fighting for their views.


Describe the snowball effect and give an example in relation to the suffragette movement

Minorities initially have a small effect but then their influence spreads until there is a 'tipping point' and the minority view becomes the new majority view.

Example: universal suffrage (all adult citizens having the vote) was finally accepted by the majority of people in the UK.


Environmental and health campaigns increasingly exploit conformity processes through normative social influence. They do this by providing information on what other people are doing. Examples include reducing litter by printing normative messages on litter bins ('Bin it - others do it'), and preventing young people from taking up smoking (telling them that most other young people do not smoke).

It is also possible that social change may come about as a result of informational social influence. What happens?

As a deviant view become more popular, individuals may become convinced by the arguments advanced by others (internalisation) - especially if they have no clear view on the issue to begin with it the situation is ambiguous.


How can obedience be used to create social change through the process of gradual commitment?

Once a small instruction is obeyed, it becomes much more difficult to resist a bigger one. People essentially 'drift' into new kinds of behaviour.



What research supports influence of normative social influence?

Nolan et al hung messages in the front doors of houses in California every week for a month. The key message was that most residents were trying to reduce their energy usage (normative influence). A control group were simply asked to save energy.

Significant decrease in energy usage was found in the first group showing how NSI can lead to social change.


What is the contradictory evidence for the influence of normal social influence?

DeJong et al conducted surveys across 14 different college campuses at the beginning of a marketing campaign to reduce alcohol consumption amongst students. They repeated the survey three years after the campaign had finished. Despite receiving normative information to challenge their misperception of drinking norms, students did not show lowered perceptions of students' drinking norms, nor did they report lower alcohol consumption themselves as a result of the campaign.

This questions how much effect normative social influence actually has on social change.


How is minorities only having an indirect effect a limitation of the role of minorities in social change?

Social change tends to happen very slowly, for instance, changes in attitudes towards drink driving and smoking have taken decades to shift and some argue that minorities have an indirect and delayed effect.

They are indirect because the majority is only influenced on that one specific issue, and they are delayed because the effects may not be seen for some time. This limits the effectiveness of minorities in bringing about social change.


Explain barriers to social change

Some suggest that people may still resist social change even when they accept it is necessary. Participants are less likely to behave in an environmentally friendly way because they did not want to be associated with stereotypical 'environmentalists' or 'tree huggers'.

Minorities wanting to bring about social change may also have to break down stereotypes that the majority may have of them as 'deviant' groups in society, and this takes time.


Explain the 'boomerang effect' in social change

For those individuals who are already engaging in constructive behaviour (recycling, drinking sensibly, not taking drugs etc.) the mere fact that they are exposed to normative messages may encourage them to engage in more destructive behaviours (as they may interpret those behaviours as appealing and attractive). This is known as the 'boomerang effect'.

Schultz et al demonstrated how an ad campaign was effective in getting heavy users of electricity to use less energy, but it also caused those who used less to increase their usage!