Describe How Groups Can Influence People in Positive or Negative Ways

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Task 1

Drawing on appropriate evidence from Chapter 5, describe how groups can influence people in positive and negative ways.

Chapter five, it describes a range of social influences on people’s behaviour. In this essay I will look at how groups influence people both in the positive and negative sense. I will describe how group pressure and the ‘in groups’ and ‘out groups’, and conformity influence people in their daily lives.

Group pressure is the demand by group members that individuals in the group conform to the group behaviours or standards. It is caused by people being highly attracted by the security offered by a membership of a group, where friends are seemingly all around you and make one feel safe and cared for. Spoors et al 2007 gave an example of ‘Heaven’s Gate’; this was the Californian doomsday cult which combined Christianity with belief in the existence of UFO’s. In March 1997, thirty-nine members of the group committed suicide in the belief that their souls would be turned into a spaceship hiding behind the Hale-Bopp comet.

Cult groups /bonds often create emotional attachment to the group and fear of powerful leaders making group members feel dependent on the group. Which may explain why, members of the ‘Heaven’s Gate’ had severed all contact with their families and sold all their worldly belongings.

There are two groups, namely the ‘in group’ and the ‘out group’. The first group is people who belong to the group with which we consider to belong to and the second group is people who do not belong to same group as the first. Group identity helps promote a sense of identity and belonging, these identities raise self esteem and sense of status. They also help us to define who we are and others to define us. Group identity also enhances comparison between the two groups such as ‘us’ and ‘them’, which does tend to create conflicts.

An example of the ‘in/out groups is the description of the skateboarder group by Janine Hunter (2006) and the description of the group by one of the skateboarder (Janine Hunter 2006), where one description of the group is by someone who is not part of the group and thus gives a formal description, whereas the group member is very informal as he is describing his team members. You can tell by the description that the member feels a sense of belonging to the group, and is probably friends with all of the group members, hence the use of informal language.

Another example is that of the newspaper article (Smith 2007), which describes Jonathan Ross’ radio show whereby he discusses the failure of the BBC to offer Black employees high paying jobs within the organisation, but instead giving them simple jobs such as cleaning etc ,and only offering good jobs to white people. This clearly shows the ‘us and them’, in this case would be ‘blacks versus whites’.

Norms are the beliefs and expectations and standards of behaviour shared by group members. An example of this shared by group members. Many of the studies on norms were conducted in the 1950’s and 60’s. An example of this is an experiment conducted by Muzafer Sherif et al of a group of boys at summer camp. The boys were divided into two groups, the groups involved norms of behaviour, jokes and secret codes. Later they were set up in a competition, in the form of a tournament, this caused competiveness and hostility between the two groups, even though the groups remained loyal and cooperated very well within their groups. The groups were again manipulated by introducing activities which required active cooperation from both groups. This experiment was very successful. Through this experiment we were able to see how conflict can arise in groups that are in completion with one another. This experiment demonstrates that people will always behave as they are expected or in accordance with their ‘norms’.

Conformity is the tendency of group members...
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