Essay on Human Behaviour and Social Norms

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Running head: HUMAN BEHAVIOUR AND SOCIAL NORMS

Do social norms influence human behaviour?

Human behaviour is the response to given stimuli, which are socially and environmentally affected. This response is something that can easily be influenced and shaped through many personal, situational, social, biological, mental factors. In this essay the case of social norms influencing human behaviour will be analyzed using previous studies. Social norms are part of a larger influential scale generally named as social influence. Social influence is the exercise of power that an individual or a group can use on other individuals or society in order to alter their attitudes, behaviours and lead them to a desired direction. Social influence has as an outcome three different behavioural patterns, which are conformity, compliance and obedience. All of them will be discussed, but especially conformity and compliance, which mainly include the influence of social norms on behaviour (Franzoi, 2009; Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004).

Firstly, conformity in general is the action to adapt with the behaviour of the rest of the people due to perceived group pressure. Practically, this means that the way people dress, entertain themselves, protest, work, eat, go on vacations, disclose themselves and substantially anything an individual can occupy himself, is formed by group’s direction and tendencies because the majority of people, if not all of them, try to socialize and be accepted by their society in any possible way. This phenomenon is called conformity and it is an ambiguous question if independence, which indeed is a reality, exists anyway. This happens because people voluntarily direct their independence towards society’s preferences and tendencies in order to feel that they belong somewhere and they have a particular social identity (Franzoi, 2009).

The second factor of influence is the compliance and it is has to do with the public and clear acceptance of one’s person to act according to given social direction by the indicated social power. However, compliance can be divided into internal and external. This means that a person can comply with a situation either because someone else indirectly forces him or either because he believes he should act like this. For example, if someone asks his friend to lie in order not to have problems with parents (e.g. cover a sneaking out) but he does it in the name of friendship even if he does not really want it, this is a clear example of external force making you to comply. Internal compliance is the opposite state where personal beliefs and attitudes force you to do something without having any external pressure to do something. This issue is very important because in the case of external compliance, social norms are in a great influential position in contrast to internal compliance where personal beliefs mainly take place on the decisional process (Franzoi, 2009).

On the other hand obedience is the total performance of a given order by social power without any resistance against it or trial to sustain independence. Social power is the available social sources through social acceptance and social status that a person or a group of people can have in order to exercise persuasion and give motivation to make people change or fulfill their requests. Consequently, these three parts of social influence represents the levels of personal accordance to social patterns, authoritarian or not. Specifically, it can be noticed that the level of individual’s independence sets if a situation is more about conformity (unconscious but voluntary acceptance of the norms), or compliance (internal or external acceptance) or obedience (total accordance to social power) (Cook et al., as cited in Franzoi, 2009; Franzoi, 2009).

Focusing more one the aspect of conformity and the influence of social norms, there are specific factors that...
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