How We Are Influenced
Social psychology is the “scientific study of how people think about, influence, and relate to one another” (Myers, 2010, p. 4). There are many different “external social forces” (Myers, 2010, p. 8) that influence our thoughts, feelings, behaviors and attitudes, such as our family, peers, culture and gender; all of which persuade us in one direction or another. Any social situation we may encounter can be so powerful that it “leads us to act contrary to our expressed attitudes” (Myers, 2010, p. 7). Society in general will agree that “we are as Aristotle long observed, social animals” (Myers, 2010, p. 7). Animals that have two lives, personal and social; meaning that even though our thoughts and feelings are our very own and make up our self concept, which is unique, we are still “a product of our social and cultural environment” (Bernstein, 2010, p. 549). Society revolves in a world where we are influenced by others due to “we long to connect, to belong, and to be well thought of” (Myers, 2010, p. 7). Often we look to others to help “define the standard by which we define ourselves” (Myers, 2010, p. 40), also known as social comparison. Social comparison is the “evaluating one’s abilities and opinions by comparing oneself with others” (Myers, 2010, p. 40). Individuals are able to determine their weight by getting on a scale or even their height by using a measuring tape. In order to answer the questions of are we smart, attractive, creative or even rich, we look to others to give us our answers; “much of life revolves around social comparisons” (Myers, 2010, p. 41). People also long for others to think highly of them, “when people think well of us, it helps us think well of ourselves” (Myers, 2010, p. 41). It is coined as the looking glass self; “we use our interactions with others as a mirror for our own thoughts and actions, our sense of self depends on how we interpret what others do and say” (Kendall, 2010, p. 113). Once a survival tool to our ancestors, today “it is not how others actually see us, but the way we imagine they see us” (Myers, 2010, p. 41). In order to conform and maintain harmony, individuals react to situations around them “even if it means adjusting our thinking” (Myers, 2010, p. 141). We are easily persuaded by those who are authority figures and the mass media. The best example of how individuals were persuaded beyond their control was during WWII. Germans were persuaded to “accept Nazi ideology” (Myers, 2010, p. 229); hatred towards all Jews. Persuasion is a strong and powerful object that affects all and “without the complicity of millions of people, there would have been no Holocaust” (Myers, 2010, p. 229). As “social animals” (Myers, 2010, p. 7), “our sense of self is not permanently fixed; it is always developing as we interact with others” (Kendall, 2010, p. 113). Interacting with others such as our family and peers, those who we spend most of our time with, influence our attitudes and behavior the most; positive or negative. The family “is the first institution to affect behavior” (Hess, 2009, p. 98), it provides us with our “knowledge of and access to society’s goals, values, and expectations” (Hess, 2009, p. 98). Our behavior and misbehavior is formed by our family structure and the interactions that take place inside the family. Our families provide us with core values, attitudes, and behaviors of our community. Our behavior is molded by the experiences we observe, learn, and imitate through models, our family being our first model. If the behavior observed has a positive reinforcement, the behavior is likely to be duplicated. If we perform a task and receive positive reinforcement, we are more likely to feel better about ourselves. Positive reinforcement by our family, such as praise and attention, help shape our attitude towards ourselves and others, which is a positive impact on our self esteem. Negative...
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