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Social Influences on Behavior

Social Influences on Behavior

This paper will provide a broad overview of the psychological influences and behaviors on a social level. This paper will also discuss conformity, obedience, and trends such as social loafing. People behave differently in social and personal settings in their surroundings, which will be explored in greater depth as the paper progresses.

In many ways, society can influence the behavior of its members. It has the ability to pass laws through its governmental institutions that impose severe penalties for specific antisocial behaviors. It can foster a strong desire for ethics and morals, typically through religious institutions. It can hold its professionals to high ethical standards. It has the ability to educate and inform through its educational systems and media outlets. The inherent psychological need for psychic growth and maturity is the primary reason society can control the behavior of the majority of its citizens (Schueler, 1997, para. 1).

Conformity occurs when people change their personal opinions about a particular aspect of their lives in order to please others in a larger group setting. Some people will bend their will to please others, but few will bend their will solely to make others happy. Mass suicide is an example of conformity gone wrong because people were afraid to be alone. These people would rather die together than live alone. Conformity is demonstrated by people changing their style or clothing during high school in order to fit in with society. Following the crowd is often easier, especially during adolescence.

Obedience is similar to conformity, but it differs in that people do not even question their own opinions, instead blindly following orders. Some people have no problem simply following orders, no matter what they are. The Holocaust is a bad example of obedience because many people died simply because they were following orders. Following the directions given by the instructor for the assignment is a good example of obedience. It is sometimes necessary for people to obey orders, not only for themselves but also for others.

Social loafing occurs when an individual does not give his or her best effort because the individual is a member of a group. Social loafing is the polar opposite of social facilitation in that people believe they can put in the least amount of effort while receiving the most credit for their efforts. People in social facilitation put in the most effort and receive the most credit.

High school is one example of how human behavior changes in social settings. Because of the peer pressure of trying to fit into the conformity of high school, children frequently change who their friend is and what clothes he or she wears during adolescence in high school. Some children try to stand out by refusing to conform to what other children think, which often leads to them being labeled as outcasts. Furthermore, during most adolescent years, drugs and alcohol are commonly found in peer settings.


Alcohol abuse is a serious and widespread problem that necessitates research into the factors that cause or maintain associated addictive behavior, as well as factors that protect against excessive alcohol use or aid in the treatment of established drinking behavior (Anacker & Ryabinin, 2010, para 2).

Another example of how human behavior changes in a social setting is when people are at work. People must adapt to their work persona because their home persona is often quite different. People are not the same during and after work hours. For example, when people are around their coworkers who drink after hours, they often indulge as well to maintain their social standing.

Smoking is another example of how human behavior affects people in various settings. Many people have stated that they would never have started smoking if it had not been for someone else pressuring them to do so in the first place.

According to the article, friends and family have a strong influence on whether or not a person quits smoking. The findings are based on a detailed analysis of smoking behavior in over 12,000 people who volunteered for the study; the doctor followed the participants for 32 years, from 1971 to 2003, as part of the Framingham Heart Study.

The researchers, Drs. Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler published their findings in the May 22 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. It should be noted that this study, shows that decisions to quit smoking frequently reflect changes made by groups of people who are connected to each other, both directly and indirectly.

For example, when a spouse quit smoking, the partner’s chances of smoking decreased by 67%; when friends quit smoking, their chances of smoking decreased by 36%. (Potent social forces influence smoking behavior, 2008 para 1).

The first example, in which children change their behaviors in school, does not necessitate therapeutic intervention, whereas drug or alcohol abuse would undoubtedly necessitate therapeutic intervention. People who frequently find themselves in such situations are often unaware that they require assistance.

Finally, there are many social influences that influence certain behaviors that people exhibit; it is the individual’s choice to be an individual or a conformist. People frequently try to impose their opinions on others, but they are rarely heard unless they are in a large group setting.

“At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice, he is the worst,” a famous philosopher once said. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy,” said another influential man of the time (Martin Luther King Jr.).


Schueler, G. Ph.D. (1997). Social Influences of Behavior. Retrieved from

Potent social forces influence smoking behavior. (2008). Washington, District of Columbia, US: US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Anacker, A., & Ryabinin, A. (2010). Biological contribution to social influences on alcohol drinking: Evidence from animal models. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 7(2), 473-493. Retrieved from


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Provide a real-life example of informational social influences impacting a person’s decision or behavior. Provide a real-life example of normative social influences impacting a person’s decision or behavior.

Social influence and Behavior

Social influence and Behavior

Can the influence of conformity, compliance, or obedience be decreased? How would this impact the situations you identified?

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