➤ Social Influence
Social influence occurs when one's emotions, opinions, or behaviours are affected by others. Social influence takes many forms and can be seen in conformity, socialization, peer pressure, obedience, leadership, persuasion. Social influence can be defined as a change in behaviour caused by real or imagined influence from others. The most effective social influence attempts to succeed in changing a person's attitudes and behaviour. But changing someone's attitude is not necessary for social influence to occur; all that's required is behaviour change. Following are the three broad varieties of social influence.
- Compliance is when people appear to agree with others, but actually keep their dissenting opinions private. It is a change in behaviour but not necessarily attitude.
- Identification is when people are influenced by someone who is liked and respected, such as a politician, guru, celebrity.
- Internalization is when people accept a belief or behaviour and agree both publicly and privately.
Why do we conform or attempt to conform to the expectation of others? There are two psychological needs of human at play - our need to be right and our need to be liked. The former is also called informational social influence and the latter is referred to as normative social influence.
- Informational influence (or social proof)- When a person is in a situation where they are unsure of the correct way to behave, they will often look to others for clues concerning the correct behaviour. We conform because we believe that others' interpretation of an ambiguous situation is more accurate than ours and will help us choose an appropriate course of action. It is an influence to accept information from another as evidence about reality.
- Social proof often leads not only to public compliance (conforming to others' behaviour publicly without necessarily believing it is correct) and private acceptance (conforming out of a genuine belief that others are correct). Social proof is more powerful when being accurate is more important and when others are perceived as especially knowledgeable.
In 2017 a video surfaced from a temple in eastern India where a woman was seemingly taking blessings from a Kangaroo shaped dustbin. She did not know what this 'object' was and saw another woman touching the dustbin. Soon, some more women joined in taking the blessing. Of course, had they known that it was an object meant to dispose waste, their behaviour would have been different. But a lack of knowledge combined with their desire to be right led them to follow a herd mentality and conform to the 'acceptable' behaviour of worshipping the kangaroo shaped dustbin.
Such behaviour is not uncommon even for seemingly more intelligent people. People generally identify themselves with a political ideology, not necessarily knowing its tenets. Criticisms of the government, for example, are mostly simplistic i.e. they tend to portray a very partial picture, but once a political opponent takes a stand, the supporters join in because they believe in the leader, often blindly. The same is true for the party's supporters that forms the government, but often its supporters are in a tough spot because defending all actions of the government is much more difficult.
Normative influence is related with the need of an individual to be liked by others. Human beings, being inherently social, desire companionship or associations. A group or an association consists of people with some common interest. For a successful and healthy atmosphere in the group, people try to blend in. They change their behaviour somewhat so that they are liked.
This is a normative social influence- normative meaning that how things 'should be', for e.g. parents desire that children should stay away from mobile phones. Hence, it is an influence to conform to others' positive expectations.
The goals of social influence can thus be summarized as:
To Choose Correctly
- People often rely on two principles to help them choose correctly: authority and social validation. Thus, they are more willing to be influenced by authority figures, on the one hand, and similar peers on the other.
- One reason authorities are influential is that they are often experts, and, by following an authority's directives, people can usually choose correctly without having to think hard about the issue themselves.
- Just as following an authority is normally a shortcut to choosing correctly, so is following the lead of most of one's peers. These others' choices provide social validation for the correctness of that choice.
- People are most likely to allow themselves to be influenced by others when they are uncertain about how to respond in the situation—because when uncertainty and ambiguity reign, people lose confidence in their own ability to choose well.
- When others share a consensus about the correct way to act, they are especially influential to observers.
- In addition, observers are more likely to be influenced by others who are similar to them and who, therefore, provide better evidence about what the observers should do.
- When choosing accurately is important, only uncertain individuals are more likely to follow the crowd; those who are already sure of the validity of their judgments are less willing to conform.
➤ To Gain Social Approval
- People change to be more accepted and approved by their groups and avoid the social rejection that often comes from resisting group pressure for change.
- Injunctive standards of a group or culture inform people as to the behaviours that are likely to get them accepted or rejected there.
- One such norm is that for reciprocity, which obligates people to give back to those who have given first. Anyone who violates this norm risks social disapproval and rejection, making people more willing to comply with requests of those who have provided an initial favour or concession.
- The desire for social approval and a collective self-definition both increase one's willingness to submit to social influence to gain acceptance. But a tendency to go against conventional norms of behaviour or even rebelliousness decreases one's susceptibility to social influence, especially when the influence is seen as threatening one's freedom to decide.
- Two features of a person's social situation increase the motivation to go along to get along: the appeal of the group or individual pressing for change and the public observability of the person's actions.
- Even strong group norms can be resisted when members feel that they have the ability to withstand group influence or when members don't feel highly identified with the group.
➤ To Manage Self Image
- People can manage their self-images by yielding to requests for action that fits or enhances their identities.
- Influence professionals can increase compliance by linking their requests to the values to which people feel committed, especially when these values are prominent in consciousness.
➤ Emotions and Attitude Change
- Appeal to emotional aspect of person is also used as a tool for attitudinal change. In fact, emotion is a common component in persuasion and social influence. Research on attitude has also highlighted the importance of the message's affective or emotive components.
- The ABC model of attitude emphasises the three components- cognitive (i.e. what we perceive), affective (how we connect emotionally) and behavioural (how we act). Emotion works hand-inhand with the cognitive process, or the way we think, about an issue or situation. Emotional appeals are commonly found in advertising, health campaigns and political messages.
- Recent examples include no-smoking health campaigns and political campaign advertising emphasizing the fear of terrorism. By activating an affective or emotion node, attitude change may be possible, though affective and cognitive components tend to be intertwined. Please note that emotional attitude is different from appealing to emotion for attitudinal change.
- Emotional attitude is merely an attitude developed primarily by emotion, for e.g. attitude of parents towards children. Appeal to emotion is the method to develop a desirable attitude. Emotions such as fear, joy, anger, empathy, ridicule, etc. Instead of facts, persuasive language is used to develop the foundation of an appeal to emotion-based argument.
- For example, to motivate someone to stay fit or to quit smoking, one should not only cite scientific evidence to prove the point but can also convince using the fear of deadly diseases or the joy of a healthy life.
However, if appeal to emotion is made using wishful thinking (i.e. something that is pleasing to imagine but not based on evidence or fact), then it becomes a logical fallacy. Only a temporary change in attitude can be achieved with wishful thinking or appealing to flattery or to hatred. In future this can also lead to development of attitudes counter to what was desired. Hence, appeal to emotion alone cannot be a sustainable basis for attitudinal change. Appreciation of facts gives legitimacy to message and thus is a more enduring way to change attitude.
➤ Consequences of Social Influence or Persuasion
The outcomes of persuasion or social influence could be good, bad or ugly depending on the modes of tactics, motives, and contexts in which they are employed. These are discussed below:
Ugly Face of Persuasion
Ugly influencers push and shove others into decisions. Their style leaves others feeling powerless and resistant to innovation or change. It refers to situation where the motive of persuasion may be utterly selfish. For example, the miss-selling of financial instruments, or duping the customers by making false claims.
Bad influencers might work hard to achieve legitimate and desirable goals, but lack the skills to influence effectively. Their style causes people to feel they are being punished or cutting through red tape, all to please someone who appears ineffective. In this case the motive is genuine but the means are ineffective. For example, promoting family planning with forced sterilisation, as happened during emergency period.
Good influencers get people to focus on an issue that is clearly and simply stated, finds out what the emotional value of the issue is to the people involved, and seeks solutions that satisfy the people who are needed to make the solution work. Good influencers are effective because they create trust, which enables others to take risks. Their habit of communicating, informing and including others builds loyalty among the target population. They effectively use various kinds of appeal- rational, emotional, and fear.
For example, changing attitude against untouchability should include invoking reason, emotional appeal, and law fear.
➤ Persuasion vs. Manipulation
The difference between persuasion and manipulation lies largely in underlying intent and desire to create genuine benefit. The difference between persuasion and manipulation lies in:
- The intent behind your desire to persuade that person,
- The truthfulness and transparency of the process, and
- The net benefit or impact on that person
Manipulation has negative connotation. It implies persuasion with the intent to fool, control or contrive the person on the other side of the conversation into doing something, believing something, or buying into something that leaves them either harmed or without benefit. It may also imply that you are concealing a desire to move them to your point of view in a way that will benefit only you. And if this benefit were disclosed, that revelation would make the other person far less receptive to your message.
Take the case of a salesman in a car showroom. A person walks in with his family of 6 looking to buy a car- a family sized, affordable car. The salesman, with his persuasive abilities is able to convince the person that he shouldn't be buying a mini- van but rather a sports car to reclaim his youth, and in doing so, teach his children how important it is to stay true to their youthful ideals, knowing full well that he would make twice the commission on that car and it was completely unsuitable for them. That's manipulation.
Now, what if that same person came with the motive of just wasting some money? Then the salesman could have used his persuasive abilities to slowly and methodically lay out a conversation and a set of facts that led this person to understand the genuine benefit of purchasing the more affordable and suitable family car. That's persuasion, not manipulation.
Because I used the same set of skills to convince somebody to do something that I genuinely believed was in their best interest, instead of convincing them to do something that I was pretty sure was not in their best interest - and very likely was being less than truthful with at least part of what I was talking about.
- Attitude, as defined earlier, is the enduring predisposition to behave, either favourably or unfavourably, towards something. However, not every perspective is concerned with questions or situations involving morality.
- E.g. a person's liking or disliking towards apples or oranges has no question of morality involved. But one may have moral considerations as far as being a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian is concerned. Similarly, a person may have a favourable attitude towards, say, transacting in cash rather than electronically. There is nothing moral or immoral about it.
- However, if his motive to transact in cash arises from his desire to hide his government's income, then it has moral connotation. Similarly, attitude towards democracy or say towards weaker sections will have moral undertones.
Thus, moral attitudes can be defined as those based on moral convictions of what is "right" and what is "wrong". It implies one's reasoning about morality, his attitude toward moral lapses (both on his part and by others too), and his behaviour when faced with moral issues. Family, society, religion and education play an important role in framing those moral convictions.
How are moral attitudes shaped? The determinants of the attitude are the same- Cognitive, emotional (affective) and behavioural:
- Cognitive: knowledge of ethical rules and judgments of what is good and what is bad.
- Behavioural: the person's actual behaviour, his response to situations involving ethical considerations.
- Emotional: it involves the person's feelings and conduct in reaction to situations that need moral and ethical decisions.
- Society and culture strongly influence moral attitudes. Religious beliefs, traditions, folklore, myths, legends - all have an implicit messaging about what is good and what is bad. As such, they shape moral attitudes of people.
- As such, moral attitudes vary over time and space. Similarly, they can also vary with gender. Men, for example, may have a less negative attitude towards bribery than women. Similarly, women may have more open attitude towards freedom to wear clothes of choice.
- Another interpretation of the term 'moral attitude' is one where we associate value with the term 'moral'. Here 'moral attitude' means attitude of a person which is considered as moral or good or acceptable. Since morality is at a personal level, there are some inherent qualities in a person that determine whether he/she is a moral being or not. Four qualities are generally associated with having a moral attitude:
- Reverence: It means deep respect. Having respect for others, their opinions and behaviour are considered a moral person's hallmark.
- Faithfulness: It means remaining loyal and upholding trust that someone poses in a person.
- Veracity or truthfulness: Being truthful and honest is another quality associated with being moral.
- Goodness: It is a broadly encompassing character of a person consisting of qualities like generosity, love, care, empathy, etc.
Significance or impacts of moral attitudes
- Human beings have a desire to be right and a desire to be liked. As such, attitudes towards moral issues tend to be strong and are also expressed strongly. For example, a person may have a very strongly negative attitude towards dishonesty or telling lies, so much so that he/she is ready to risk personal relations for sake of being truthful.
- Moral attitudes can be both facilitative and prohibitive. They facilitate actions such as helping someone in need (altruism), social service, etc.
- Also, actions that are considered immoral are discouraged such as adultery, stalking, cheating, etc. As attitudes are closely linked to a person's behaviour, moral attitudes help in facilitation of moral behaviour as they help in arriving at morally correct decisions.
Political attitude is the predisposition or liking/disliking towards a political issue. The way in which we define an issue to be political can be diverse.
- In a simpler sense, political attitude refers to attitude of people towards the political system, parties or their ideology. A person may identify himself to be conservative, liberal, centrist, or so on. Similarly, a political party may identify itself as such. However, these attitudes are too vague to be analysed. Having a positive or negative attitude towards, say presidential system or parliamentary system or dictatorship is too broad a category, and thus vague.
- In a wider sense, political attitude means attitude towards specific issues of public life. It is better to delineate attitudes towards specific issues such as economy, employment, women, inequality, caste system, voting pattern, etc. rather than combining them into one broad category. For example, a person associating himself/herself with a so called conservative party may well have a tolerant attitude towards people of differing ideology.
- In fact, political parties, especially in India, cannot be compartmentalised into right or left based on western construct. No political party in India can take the position which is, even perceptibly, anti-farmer or anti-labour. Hence, it is better to study political attitudes with regards to specific issues rather than broad categories.
- Political attitudes determine how people participate in the political process, whom they vote for, and what political parties they support. Many factors including - family, religion, caste, ethnicity, and region - all contribute to the political attitudes and behaviour.
- It has been argued that the development of political judgment represents a part of moral development and that political and moral education is largely identical, especially when seen from wider perspective. From this perspective, political culture determines the system of values in the society. Whereas, from narrow connotation, political culture is a subjective psychological phenomenon that appears in the process of interaction between individuals and the political system.
➤ Political Attitude and Agents of Socialization
- Specific groups that carry out socialization are called agents of socialization. Our society relies on four major agents of socialization: family, media, school, and peers. Agents of socialization represent society and act on its behalf.
- Although socialization can occur outside of these agents' realms, society relies on them to do most of the socialization. Totalitarian regimes may attempt to establish official agents of socialization to promote their political agenda.
- Thus, regardless of whether agents of socialization function in democratic, totalitarian, or other political and economic systems, each agent plays a role in the individual's moulding personality.
Aristotle's Idea of State: " A political society exists for the sake of noble actions".
- It is the highest kind of community and aims at the highest good . It is an organism that has evolved from the institutions of family and the village community. He who founded the state, says Aristotle, was the greatest of benefactors; for without law man is the worst of animals. The end [purpose] of the state is good life. The relationship between ethics and politics is built within a mutually supportive state framework.
- For Aristotle, a political society or state is not merely an aggregate of individuals; rather it is a largely self-sufficient community arising because of the bare necessities of life and continuing for the sake of a good life, common to all its members. In so far as the state is a proper extension of simpler social relationships, such as the family, to provide necessities and achieve a good life, it is a natural, not an artificial, entity; and in so far as individual persons are not entirely self-sufficient in themselves, human beings are by nature political animals.
- To achieve the good life or happiness or a life following virtue, individuals need the support of the state. Hence, for Aristotle, there is no necessary antagonism between the individual and the state. Antagonism only arises when the state is organized to serve private interests rather than the common interest. Indeed, the distinction between common and private interests separates true forms of government from perverted ones.
** In theory, Aristotle prefers monarchy and aristocracy as the best forms of government since the best persons possess the ruling power; in practice, however, he recommends polity as being most appropriate to most states.
The attractiveness of a polity consists of preserving key features of aristocracy while also achieving greater harmony by allowing participation in government by greater numbers of people, for example, by allowing them to vote for officeholders or serve on juries.
Since an average person lacks the wisdom and virtue of a truly aristocratic person, comparatively speaking, Aristotle has much less confidence in the average person's judgment; accordingly, he wants to reserve the highest political offices for superior persons. He has, however, much greater confidence in the collective judgment of a large number of average persons—which justifies the compromise that constitutes a polity.
In his book, Politics, Aristotle believed the man was a "political animal" because he is a social creature with the power of speech and moral reasoning: "Hence it is evident that the state is a creation of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal. And he who by nature and not by mere accident is without a state, is either above humanity, or below it; he is the 'Tribeless, lawless, heartless one,'...denounced as—the outcast who is a lover of war; he may be compared to a bird which flies alone."
Aristotle's statement that man is a "political animal" can be taken in a number of ways. One reading is to say that man is naturally sociable and naturally drawn to various political associations to satisfy their social needs. Another reading, which sees the word "political" in a less charitable light, might state that, since politics is based upon violence and threats of violence, the phrase emphasises the "animal" side of human nature rather than its rational and cooperative side. In Aristotle's view, those who turn their back on the violence inherent in politics also turn their back on society - they declare themselves to be outlaws, without a "tribe", and without a heart.