Social influence refers to the change in the individual’s feelings, thoughts, behaviors or attitudes resulting from interacting with other people or groups. There are three areas of social influence namely: conformity, obedience to authority and compliance. Conformity involves changing of someone’s behavior in order to be like the other person. This happens due to the need of self esteem and the sense of belonging so that we can get approval and friendship of other people. Compliance happens when a person do something because he has been asked to do by another person. One chooses to comply, or not but sometimes they are compelled to comply by some social reward or the punishment that they may earn due to non compliance.
The difference of compliance and obedience is that obedience involves obeying an order from a person you accept as your authority figure. In obedience, a person does not have a choice because he is just expected to obey. For example, in the field of military, the military officers are only interested in obedience. The main strength of social influence is that it uses real life situations to study human behavior and also offers solutions to the real world. However, this social approach has got shortcomings. It makes generalizations about social behavior although it uses highly restricted samples.
When carrying out some social investigation, some ethical issues arise. Some of them include:
Informed consent-There should be an informed consent from all the participants regarding the aims and all the aspects involved.
Deception-Misleading the participants or hiding some information is unethical in the study of social influence. All the sufficient information should be provided.
Debriefing-Participants should also be briefed on the nature of the study and the results expected.
Withdrawal-They should also be given the right to withdraw from the study any time they want regardless of any payments made or promised.
Protection-It is the duty of those carrying out the study to guarantee the participants protection from mental and physical harm. The risk exposed to participants should not be greater than those encountered in normal lifestyles.
Audience effect is any variation in human behavior that is brought about by someone else watching. This can clearly be demonstrated using an example of an athlete. They tend to perform better under the pressure of the audience. The effect of the audience can make someone nervous and thus unable to perform remarkably well. This is because we care about what others perceive of us to some extent.
Co-action effect is the outcome derived when two or more individuals are involved in the same work simultaneously. It often leads to competitors performing poorly and their spectators to become aggressive. The greater the number of the people engaged, the greater the coactions effect. In some cases, availability of cofactors improves the quality of performance (Dashiell 1935). The effect is also strongest when a person is being watched by an unknown person to him.
A role is a set of actions, behaviors, activities or obligations that one is expected of a person or a group depending on one’s social status. Role can be ascribed or achieved. Achieved role arises where a person assumes a position due to his ability, skills and efforts. Ascribed on the other hand, accrues to a person with no regard of merit (Stark 2007).
A group involves two or more people sharing the similar characteristics and interacting together. A good example of a group is the society which shares the same culture territory, and where its individuals interact together.
In conclusion, social study should be carried out according to the ethics governing the discipline in order to avoid rows and misunderstanding among the participants. It will also minimize the negative effects that may be caused by inappropriate study.