Social influence: weren’t we taught to resist peer pressure?

Social psychology is the scientific study of how people’s feelings and behaviors are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others. Social influence occurs when one’s emotions, beliefs or behaviors are affected by others. Social influence takes many forms and can be seen in persuasion, conformity, obedience and peer pressure.

Persuasion is an active method of influence that attempts to guide people toward the adoption of an attitude, idea or behavior by rational or emotive means. Persuasion relies on ‘appeals’ rather than strong pressure or coercion.

Conformity is a type of social influence involving a change in belief or behavior in order to fit in with a group. Conformity is generally defined as the tendency to act or think like other members of a group. Things such as the similarity of the members and culture help to determine the level of conformity in an individual.

In sociology there are seen as two psychological needs that lead humans to conform to the expectations of others. These include our need to be right (informational social influence), and our need to be liked (normative social influence).

This compliance to the expectation of others is at the heart of Shouldland, and can be dangerously opposed to the common-sense free-will of an individual. Obedience as a form of compliance was dramatically highlighted by the Milgram Study, where people were ready to administer electric shocks to an innocent person in distress on command of an unknown authority figure.

In the case of peer pressure, a person is convinced to do something which they might not want to do, but which they perceive as ‘necessary’ to keep a positive relationship with their tribe. Conformity from peer pressure generally results from identification within the group members, or from compliance of some members to appease others.

What I find most interesting is that when we a young we are taught to resist peer pressure, but then when we get older we learn to follow peer pressure or suffer the consequences. Can you think of some examples of this from your experiences?

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