Social Influence

Topics: Sociology, Social psychology, Milgram experiment Pages: 55 (20671 words) Published: March 17, 2013
Social Influence Essay

Monkey see monkey do, a fair statement regarding Social influence. From the humble ant, through to modern man, social influence has been the driving force for both good and evil, progress and regression. Whether we look at Chen’s experiment with ants or Triplet’s study of cyclists, one thing shines clear, the audience effect is a social stimulus which cannot be denied. Remember the scene in “Pretty Woman” where Julia Roberts’ character, Vivian Ward, is overwhelmed at the prospect of a formal dining and table setting etiquette. Through social influence she survived the meal, got her prince and lived happily ever after. Many of the medal winning British athletes of this summer’s Olympics expressed how the dynamic effect of a patriotic audience pushed them further physically and mentally than they have ever managed to achieve before. British athletes, who were on the periphery of their sport, found themselves in medal contention due to the stimulation of the audience. The influence of a large crowd can spur a person onto achieve a personnel best and glory. Norman Triplett’s noticed that when competitive cyclist had a pacemaker, they covered each mile about five seconds quicker than those without. He suspected that this was not just the effect of slipstreaming, but a psychological effect. He tested his suspicions by using a group of children to see how fast they could wind thread onto a reel. What he found confirmed his theory: the children went faster when in competition. Triplett also noticed that the children went faster even when they were not in direct competition; the mere presence of their peers watching them, spurred them on to go faster. Robert Zajonc investigated the effect of an audience on task performance, but using cockroaches instead of children. In his first experiment, cockroaches were timed to see how long it would take them to escape from a bright light by running down a straight path. They were either alone or accompanied by four other cockroaches that they could see and smell, held in clear plastic boxes. In a second experiment, the task was made more difficult by arranging the apparatus so that the cockroaches needed to make a right turn in order to escape from the light. Zajonc found that with an audience the roaches were faster when they only had to run in a straight line. However, when they had to turn a corner they were slower with an audience (PR1TTYRICKY, 2008) The audience effect can be seen easily these days through the eyes of the media. The audience at a sporting event can influence an athlete or competitor to perform at a higher level. As we witness on too many occasions, footballers can become aggressive to another competitor due to the influence of a partisan crowd or group of supporters. An audience or group of people can also bring the worst out in people. The riots which ravaged London and spread to other parts of the UK in the summer of 2011, brought out in certain people, actions, which they would never do on their own. This was not just a bunch of drunken, unemployed yobs from a council estate that had nothing better to on a summer’s night. Many were privately educated and from a very affluent backgrounds.  As people tried to make sense in the aftermath of the riots, the emerging theme from the riots was the culpability of social media sites like Facebook and twitter. Focusing the blame on social media was akin to killing the messenger and was both naïve and dangerous. (Brown Rutledge, 2011) Chen’s study using ant’s allowed him to theorise about the co-action effect. Chen started by monitoring the progress of one ant as it toiled away. The ant moved as though tired of life, bored with the whole business of excavating earth, perhaps dreaming of a better life elsewhere; but when Chen added a co-worker ant to the study, the first ant’s productivity level increased noticeably. A second ant was added; this further spurred the original ant on to...
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