Social Influence

Social Influence
"Attitude is greatly shaped by the influence and association"
  • Background 
  • Concept of Social influence
  • Barriers of Social influence
  • Scholarly perspectives
    1. French and Raven
    2. Biff Latane
  • Mechanism of Social influence
    1. Conformity
      • What is conformity?
      • Why do people tend to conform?
      • Factors affecting conformity.
    2. Compliance
      • What is compliance?
      • What are the principles of compliance?
      • What are the techniques of compliance?
    3. Obedience
      • What is obedience?
      • Why do people tend to obey?
      • Concept of 'Destructive Obedience' given by Stanley Milgram and his experiment.
  • Persuasion (One of the technique of social influence)
social influence for ethics

What is Social Influence?
  • The concept of influencing others is known as Social Influence.
Is that a complete meaning of Social Influence.....? The answer is no. But before knowing what is Social Influence. Let's first discuss the background of Social Influence as a topic (Evolution of Social Influence).

During the World War II, Carl Hovland was contacted by US Armed forces to boost the morale of the soldiers to keep continuing fighting against Japan.
        Where the Carl Hovland used the concept of Social Influence to keep them motivated.

After the World War II, Social Influence has became a very significant field of study.
  • The knowledge of Social influence can help in changing people's attitude beliefs, actions, etc.
These influence consultants are sort by political campaign managers to provide strategies. For example - 
  • Abki baar Modi sarkar (आबकी बार मोदी सरकार) tagline.
  • Amitabh Bachchan's Covid callertune
  • Popular Stars campaigns, etc.

Concept of Social Influence 

social influence

Social influence is described as the change in person's behaviour, thought, attitude, etc. that results from the interaction with the other individuals in the society.

Barriers of the social influence are dealt below 

Scholarly Perspective

French and Raven 
  • Social influence can be achieved by the usage of power. French and Raven described 'Social Power' as the potential for influence.

The different types of power used to achieve social influence are as follows:
  1. Reward power ⟶ Offer or deny/fine
  2. Coercive power or Muscle power ⟶ Crating threat
  3. Expert power ⟶ Advices by experts like doctors
  4. Legitimate power ⟶ Provides legitimacy (Judiciary)
  5. Referent power ⟶ by Charismatic personalities
  6. Informational power

For example - If you are in the position to offer or to deny a reward a reward, the reward power can be used. Like parents used reward power wrt their children or the traffic rules violation (which used fine).

"Charismatic authority is the most illogical authority but it is the most powerful authority."
For example - Gandhi ji, Hitler, Indira Gandhi, etc.

The concept of Informational power was added later on. It states that you tends to get socially influenced by those who has the information which you want. It is like an information trading (Wuid-pro-quo).

Biff Latane 
  • According to him, the idea of conforming to social influence depends upon the following factors -
    1. The social status of the group trying to influence us.
    2. Number of people in that group.
    3. The physical and psychological proximity with the group, i.e., how emotionally you are connected with the group.

Question for practice 
How Social Influence can be used for the successful implementation of Swachh Bharat Mission (स्वच्छ भारत अभियान)?

Barriers of Social Influence 
Various barriers in the process of Social influence are as follows -
  1. Semantic barrier
  2. Psychological barrier
  3. Physical barrier

Semantic Barrier - Semantic refers to the science of meaning and it arises due to the following reasons -
  1. The words can have more than one meaning.
  2. They may also occur because of foreign or technical words in the message.
  3. Due to the discrepancy between verbal and non-verbal aspect (body language) of the message.

These barriers can be overcome by -
  • By using the symbols which are receiver friendly.
  • By ensuring that there is no discrepancy between verbal and non-verbal aspect of the message.
  • By making the message more idea centric rather than word centric.
  • By the usage of illustrations and relevant examples to support the verbal message.

Psychological barrier - They arise because of the incompatibility between the attitude and values of the change agent and the target group.

It also arises because of the emotional separateness, power distance and lower level of trust among them.

It can be overcome if a climate of trust and understanding is established.
  • How it is established? - When we have non-judge mental acceptance of others (by providing unconditional positive regards, irrespective of caste, race, gender, status, etc. and by appreciating others).

What is power distance? 
  • When we don't have two way flow of communication and when there is no democratic decision making or participation. That is known as power distance.

Physical barriers - It arises because of the disturbances in the environment which obstructs the flow of communication as well as hinders the process of message delivery.

They can be overcome by redesigning the physical environment (infrastructure).

Manifestation of Social Influence
  1. Conformity
  2. Compliance
  3. Obedience

Conformity - Conformity is the most persuasive form of Social influence in which both the attitude and the behaviour of the target group changes, so that it falls in the line with the existing social norms.

Why do people tend to conform? 
  • People tend to conform because of -
    • Normative social influence.
    • Informational social influence.
    • Self categorization.

What is Normative Social Influence? 
  • People tend to conform because we have a need to be liked by others whose acceptance we desired (due to the fear of being rejected).
What is Informational Social Influence? 
  • People tend to conform in order to be correct in one's own judgement or action.
  • The more you are uncertain or lack the expertise, the more you tend to go with the group.
What is Self Categorisation? 

self categorisation

What is Chauvinism?
  • Chauvinism means believing in the dominance of one group over another.
  • It can be religious chauvinism (which is an evident expression of religious fanaticism), caste chauvinism, status chauvinism, cultural chauvinism (which British East India Company used it against India), Male chauvinism (which is evident from the patriarchy nature of the society), etc.
What are attributional errors?
  • Ingroup heterogeneity - Accepting all people in your group to be similar and have similar VAME (Values, Attitude, Morality and Ethics), yet they may have some dis-similarities.
  • Outgroup homogeneity - Accepting all people in outgroup are similar, i.e., having a generilised beliefs which may results into prejudices against them.
For example - Let us consider an example of two groups Group A and Group B. Group A is in majority and Group B is in minority. Group A has a generalised belief that the people of Group B are terrorist.
    So, if a person from Group B is found to be wrong, then we conform that the all people of the Group B are terrorist but if a person from Group A is found to be wrong, then we say that it is just an exception.

Self Categorisation -
  • People tend to conform in order to get placed themselves in their desired group. It may be social group, caste group, religious group, race group, etc.
  • People have a desire to place themselves in some or the other category.
  • Group membership facilitates this desire.
  • More the importance of the group, more important will be the membership of the group as a tool to promote one's identity, more you tend to be with the group.
  • The stronger the affiliation with the group, the greater are the chances of ingrouping.
For example - Let us consider a situation (How to address the problem of Communal violence?).

So, the following idea can be used -
  • Problem ⟶ Basis of ingrouping, which is Religious (which results in ingroupism and religious chauvinism).
  • So, how to address it. 
  • We must emphasis Nation to be the basis of ingroup rather than religious/local identity. This can be done by proper socialisation..
  • But even if they are tracing their identity from the local religious aspect, we should make efforts that the attributional errors should not be there.

Factors affecting the conformity - Discussed above in Scholarly Perspective (Idea of Biff Latane).

  • It is a form of social influence involving direct request from one person to another.
  • It is technically a change in behaviour not in attitude.
  • Satisfaction derived from compliance is due to the social effect (reward or punishment) of accepting the influence.

Principles of Compliance - According to Robert Cialdini, there are 6 principles of compliance. They are -
  1. Liking
  2. Commitment and Consistency
  3. Scarcity
  4. Reciprocity
  5. Social validation
  6. Authority

Liking - When a friend or a person you like makes a request, we often tend to comply.

Commitment & Consistency - Once we have committed ourself to a position or action, we are more willing to comply with the request for behaviour which is consistent with that position.

Reciprocity - We often tend to comply with the request of a person who has made a favour.

Scarcity - We try to secure the opportunity that is scarce.

Social validation - We comply with the request for action, if this action is in consistent with what we believe person similar to us would be doing and got social validation.

Authority - We show willingness to comply with the request from someone who has a legitimate authority.

Techniques of Compliance - Five commonly used techniques of compliances are given below -
  1. Foot in the door
  2. Door in the face
  3. That's not all
  4. Scarcity (Deadline)
  5. Playing hard to get

Foot in the door - It is the procedure of gaining compliance in which we start with a small request and when it is granted we escalate to the larger one (i.e. start with a lower request and when it is granted, go for the larger one).

Door in the face - Requestors begin with the larger request but when it is refused, retreat to a smaller one (which was the one actually desired), i.e., start with a higher request and lowered it down to the intended request.

That's not all - It means adding some benefits without hampering original cost.
For example - Let a shopkeeper wants to sell cake for Rs. 400/KG, then he can use the following technique.
He offered that the price of the cake is Rs. 500/KG but for the first 100 customers there is an early bird discount of 20%, i.e., he can use the concept of 'Happy Hours'.

Deadline - Targeted person are told that they have only limited time to take the advantage of some offer.

Playing is hard to get - Increasing compliance by suggesting that the person/object is scarce to obtain.

Obedience - It is a form of social influence in which one person obeys direct orders from another person to perform some task or the action.
    We often obey commands from the authority figures even when such person has very little power to enforce their power.

Reason for obedience - There are various reason of Obedience. Some of then are given below - 
  1. Visible badges
  2. Transfer of responsibility (the most important among all)
  3. Gradual increase in the orders of the authority figures
  4. Proximity with the authority figure (emotional, social, psychological influence).

Destructive Obedience

Destructive obedience - It is a concept which means the obedience the destructive orders of the authority which might result into harm of others.

Stanley Milgram's Experiment 
  • In this experiment, subjects were told to ask questions to the confederates. For every wrong answer, subject can give a shock to the confederates (100 V to 440 V). And with each wrong answer, the intensity of the shock will be increased (440 V is the maximum voltage a human can bear).
  • More than 95% subjects give 440 V shock, which is enough for a person to die. But we have been taught that killing someone is the most brutal offence.
  • But only because of the transfer of responsibility, a person may not shy away from committing brutal offence.
Note - There was no actual shock. The subjects were just pretending to get shocked.

stanley milgram experiment

Stanley Milgram Experiment - The deception was used in the experiment where the subjects were asked to give the shock if the confederates make mistake. On the other hand confederates were deliberately asked to make mistakes as per the directions of the experimenters. The shocks given were in the range of 100 to 440 V. 
    Around 100 psychiatrists were asked, if the subjects would go to the extent of 440 V. All of them unanimously say no.
    However, majority of the subjects did go to the level of 440 V.

In this experiment, a person was indirectly asked to kill other person and he did that without thinking what is good or bad, right or wrong.

The reason for such behaviour is that they agreed to the destructive order (i.e., destructive obedience of social influence).

The reason for such destructive obedience is given below -
  1. We have been socialised to always obey the orders of the authority (without questioning).
  2. They knew that they will not be held responsible for their act (i.e., transfer of responsibility).
  3. How important the authority figure is for you? More important the authority figure, more chances of obedience (destructive obedience).

So, in short -
  • Conformity - where group influence is in action.
  • Compliance - by making a request.
  • Obedience - by giving orders.

Scatter diagram (Scattergram) for Mob lynching

Crowd ⟶ becomes Active Crowd (due to the accumulation of energy) ⟶ becomes Mob (due to the submergence of the individual identity within the group identity) ⟶ resulted into the Outgroup Homogeneity ⟶ which results into the Action in direction as incited (mainly usually incited by some third party element).

Reason for the accumulation of energy (i.e., why Crowd becomes an Active Crowd?)
  • Social comparison
  • Feeling of relative deprivation
  • Lack of grievance redressal
  • Apathy of administration, etc.

Previous Article - Attitude Behaviour Consistency
Next Article - Persuasion

Notes on other subjects 

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Optional Subject 

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Note - This is my Vision IAS Notes (Vision IAS Class Notes) and Ashutosh Pandey Sir's Public Administration Class notes. I've also added some of the information on my own. 

Hope! It will help you to achieve your dream of getting selected in Civil Services Examination 👍

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