Social Influences on Behavior
November 12, 2012
Dr. Dan Erickson
Social Influences on Behavior
Behaviorism explores ways in which observable behavior is learned and shaped by the environment (McAdams, D. P., 2006). However, social influence refers to the influence of the presence of other people on thought, feeling, and behavior! “The effects of social influence from environments can have both positive and negative consequences. Each individual approaches situations with their own set of personal characteristics” (McAdams, D. P., 2006); still, different aspects of influence determine how an individual may modify their behaviors to react in a given situation. Social Psychology
In the world of psychology social behavior is in everything that we do, oddly enough, even when the time comes that you find yourself alone at home and no one is around. Social psychology is the actions that we take, words we speak, whether with others or not, and knowledge we have. “Kurt Lewin pioneered the work in this area. His field theory proposed that a person is like a piece of iron floating in a world where it is influenced to move in various directions by electromagnetic forces from different sources” (Greathouse, 1997). Lewin says that a persons’ psychological activities occur within a kind of psychological field called, life space. If you happen to be one of the lucky ones, your life space is determined by that of your own individual decisions and actions you take. Life space consists of all our past, present, and future happenings. For example, things we have done, what we do now, and what we will do, all of our emotions, feelings, and knowledge that we have and will learn, and the world experienced through reading books, watching movies, and what other people say; all aid in shaping who we are socially.
Social Impact on Behavior
Social impact theory on behavior was founded by Bibb Latane, he proposed that certain facts determine how impacting a certain social interaction will be. He begins with the number of sources, the number of sources means the amount of people influencing you in a certain direction. For example, if both your parents want you to buy a town car instead of a large truck due to gas mileage and your friends agree you are more likely to buy the town car based on the amount of influences you have compared to if only one person, like maybe your spouse brings the idea up in conversation. Another thing to take under account would be how you feel about a particular person. If you do not have a positive relationship with the influences than you are less likely to do as they recommend, for example, you would take the opinion of a person closer to you than one that you hardly know. Lastly, group setting is less impacting than an individual, one on one situation. For example, when a teacher is giving a lecture and recommends furthering your education past the undergraduate level, his/her influence on you is considerably less than if he/she were to have a sit down, one on one talk with you (“The psychology of Social Impact,” 1981). Social Influences
When speaking of social influences an example could be that of the Harley Davidson bike riding association. When you are a Harley rider you are expected to not only dress, act, and ride a certain way but as well you are expected to ride in groups with other Harley riders. Most of the time you will see that Harley Davidson riders will be covered in dark tattoos, black leather jackets and pants, have their clothing covered in patches and possibly chains, and riding cruisers(kind of motorcycle). Some people assume that these types of riders are trouble makers because of the way they are joined in groups and by the way they appear. Deborah Burger, a Harley Davidson instructor says that while working at Harley Davidson she has come across people that even assume Harley riders are crude in behavior and feel as though if they chose to take the riding class that Harley...
References: Greathouse, J. (1997). Kurt Lewin. Retrieved from
Handwerk, B. (2005). Sports Riots: The Psychology of Fan Mayhem. Retrieved from:
Janis, Irving L. (1982). Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and
Fiascoes. Second Edition. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
Kassin, S. (2005). Psychology. Retrieved from
McAdams, D. P. (2006). The person: A new introduction to personality psychology.
The psychology of Social Impact. (1981, April). Amercian Psychologist, 36(4), 1.
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