Social Influences on Behavior

Social Influences on Behavior PSY/300 July 14, 2010 Social Influences on Behavior Several social situations can determine an individual’s behavior. There are phenomena that can facilitate certain behavior’s, like social loafing, groupthink, and social facilitation. These particular phenomena can have either a negative or a positive influence on an individual. We must take into account what the behavior entails and whether or not these behaviors require an intervention. Groupthink Social psychologist Irving Janis (1972) coined the term groupthink (Allyn & Bacon, 1998).

Several factors must be involved to consider a decision as a groupthink behavior. For example, individuals will not examine other avenues of behavior; also, they will not criticize the groups’ behavior. There is usually a negative consequence of this type of behavior. Lack of self-esteem can contribute to an individual’s ability to remain autonomous. This type of individual will succumb to the groups’ behavior. A hypothetical scenario where groupthink might take place would be in a social network like high school.

In high school, where we need to fit in, peer pressure and the like, it is very easy to believe that one group could influence an individual to go along with an activity, even if it is not on their moral compass. Of course, if this groupthink allows an individual to continue with destructive behavior, then a therapeutic intervention may be necessary. An obvious destructive group behavior that encompasses peer pressure is drug abuse. It is hard to separate groupthink from peer pressure, even though peer pressure can involve one individual influencing another; it still follows the same line of thinking.

If a group of the in crowd is doing recreational drugs and they invite an individual into that fold, this particular individual will follow the crowd. Jonestown was a massive groupthink that ended in tragedy. The Peoples Temple took in those that where in search of an identity. Each one of them needed a place to belong. No matter how bizarre the request were from Jones, it was better than not belonging. Being a part of Jim Jones circle seemed as if you were the only one in the world to him. It was part of his charisma and charm. Just as quickly were you brought into the inner sanctuary of his “love”, you were just as quickly discarded.

Not for good mind you, because he needed you to still believe, despite the abuse, the neglect and the verbal lashings. These are the rules that were in play that allowed Jim Jones to take it to such an extreme. The mindset of this group was a “shared illusion of invulnerability” Secondly, is the “direct pressure placed on the individual” Thirdly, is the “pressure of a sanctimonious mindset within the group and the unquestioned belief in the inherent morality of the in-group which inclines the members to ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions” (Canadian Content, 2005).

This mindset was prevalent amongst the followers of the People’s Temple. This is of course the extremes of groupthink. Social Loafing Social loafing is a phenomenon that is seen in a group or team and mostly within a business setting. Social loafing by definition is literally exerting less effort on a project that includes a group, than would be exerted if it were an individual effort (Williams & Karau, 1991). A perfect example of this is online school’s that have teams incorporated into the curriculum. In a team, there will always be an individual or even a set of individuals that do not participate at all.

More often than not, there is an unfair amount of work placed on certain individuals, while others’ do not take up the slack and quite literally slack off. Social loafing is more likely to take place when a team member feels inadequate or what they have to say holds no merit. Another aspect of this phenomenon is that there will always be a dominant personality in the mix. One who feels that it is their duty to do all the work, for fear that it will not be done. This type of dominant personality will do all the work for the team and most will not speak up as long as they receive a grade for the project.

This does not teach an individual team work, nor conflict resolution. Social loafing is a real problem in online settings and can hinder an individuals’ learning. In an online environment, it can be quite difficult to recognize that this phenomenon is taking place and even if it is recognized, it can be quite difficult to manage. That is not to suggest that it cannot be done and that the students involved will be better for learning how to manage such conflicts. Combat Social Loafing • Clarify roles and responsibilities • Make tasks more meaningful for individuals Emphasize the importance of teamwork • Ensure individuals feel they are contributing to the end goal • Establish an “open door” policy • Do not punish individuals for reporting team member’s poor performance • Utilize combination grades • Group project • Participation • Attending group meetings • Discussion board • Chats • Meeting group schedules/deadlines • Require high levels of accountability • Alternate group roles (i. e. , leader, recorder, editor) • Balance group members’ skills and knowledge • Encourage group discussions Ensure individuals/groups receive meaningful and immediate feedback • Provide performance data for comparison with other groups • Make provisions for social validation • Required reading on group cohesion, cooperation techniques, and effective collaboration techniques • Provide opportunities to increase collaborative efforts and publicize results • Avoid even numbered groups and limit small groups to five members • Limit group numbers to the minimum number required to accomplish group goals • Consider group member schedules and time zones when establishing groups • Ensure a strong instructor presence Piezon, S. , & Donaldson, R. , para. 30 2005) Therapeutic Intervention Any behavior that causes a detour from the socially accepted norms can require a therapeutic intervention. An intervention is typically performed when all attempts to get the individual to recognize that their behaviors’ have become unacceptable. This is an especially effective tool for an individual that is addicted to drugs. An intervention usually entails a group of loved ones coming together with a facilitator and in a neutral environment.

A standard dictionary defines intervention as an influencing force or act that occurs in order to modify a given state of affairs. The term is also used to describe a specific process designed to break through denial on the part of persons with serious addictive disorders. Interventions in this sense of the word involve carefully orchestrated confrontations in which friends, family members, and (in many cases) employers confront the person with the negative impact and consequences of his or her addiction (Leaver, J. 2010) When a person’s social behavior borders on socially unacceptable or is even harmful to oneself than an intervention is necessary. In the case of Jonestown and the People’s Temple, many family members tried to intervene. In the documentary that this individual watched, many, many people tried to show that what Jones’s was doing was abusive and harmful, and it did not seem to matter. They wanted a place to belong and they felt this was it. Of course, this is an extreme version of groupthink, but in either case (peer pressure, or a cult), the outcome is not always the best, and an intervention seems inevitable.

Conclusion We are social creatures; it is imbedded in our genetic make-up, it is not just us as humans it is in all species. What defines us as social creatures is not how we act upon it by succumbing to groupthink mentality it is our individuality. It is within our individuality that we can come together to create a cohesive, honorable group, that doesn’t need to belong to a social hierarchy that means to do us harm, but makes us better as individuals. References CanadianContent (2005) Neoconism: The Anatomy of Groupthink Retrieved July 14, 2010 from http://forums. anadiancontent. net/international-politics/41007-neoconism-anatomy- groupthink. html Janis, I. (1972) Victims of Groupthink Retrieved July 13, 2010 from http://www. psysr. org/about/pubs_resources/groupthink%20overview. htm Leaver, J. (n. d) Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders/Intervention Retrieved July 14, 2010 from http://www. minddisorders. com/Flu-Inv/Intervention. html Piezon, S. & Donaldson, R. , (2005) Online Groups and Social Loafing: Understanding Student -Group Interactions Retrieved July 14, 2010 from http://www. westga. edu/~distance/ojdla/winter84/piezon84. htm