Resistance to Social Influence

What are the unseen social forces that influence how we behave or think? Why do we act and interact with others the way we do? Social influence research in psychology sheds insight into the invisible influences that impact our everyday lives. It also looks into resistance to social influence and the psychological factors affecting it.

Resistance to Social Influence Resistance to Social Influence

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Contents
Table of contents
    • First, we will answer "What does resistance to social influence mean?".
    • Next, we will discuss two explanations for resistance to social influence.
    • After, we will answer "Are there psychological factors that affect resistance to social influences?".
    • After, we will discuss the locus of control.
    • And Lastly, we will answer "How can we evaluate resistance to social influence?".

    Resistance to Social Influence: Definition

    Many things influence our thoughts, beliefs, and actions. Whether we’re talking with our family, interacting with our friends, watching television, or scrolling social media, we are vulnerable to social influence.

    Social influence means perceived social pressure from society or other individuals or groups that influences somebody’s beliefs or actions.

    You might like a certain song or type of music. However, your friends make fun of it, and so do many of the social media accounts you follow. You might start downplaying your affinity for that music or stop listening to it. That is the strength of social influence.

    Resistance to Social Influence female friend group StudySmarterFig. 1 - Group of female friends.

    Is it possible to stand strong when we hear those opposing opinions? How do we resist their influence?

    Resistance to social influence refers to a person’s ability to limit the social influence on them.

    An example of resistance to social influence would be not giving in to peer pressure, such as refusing to go to the park even though your friends want you to, even though you do not feel like it. Or you were continuing to listen to a song that you genuinely enjoy, despite the opinions of others.

    What are the two explanations for resistance to social influence?

    When we find ourselves in situations where we act against our instincts, we often wonder why. There are a couple of reasons we might have acted the way we did.

    The two main factors affecting resistance to social influence are social support (Asch, 1951) and locus of control (Rotter, 1966).

    Social support

    Social support can allow people to resist normative social influence by making them feel less alone when they go against the majority group, thus reducing the pressure to conform. It can also help fight informational social influence by validating a person’s thoughts and ideas and counterbalancing the information presented by the majority group.

    Social support is when someone feels empowered by standing up to authority together or when others share or support their beliefs or actions.

    Social support can be when a friend sides with you in a disagreement against others or the rest of your friend group.

    You hear a popular group of students using a derogatory racial term. You know this kind of behaviour is wrong and needs to be stopped, but you are afraid to speak up against a group of students with so much popularity and social power. However, when another student confides that they share your concerns, you suddenly dare to speak up.

    Psychological Factors Affecting Resistance to Social Influence

    We have mentioned one important psychological factor that influences our resistance to social influence: locus of control. How we interpret the nature of control in our lives can make us act differently. We might take more risks or make bolder choices if we feel we control our lives and fate. We might feel more certain of our choices and experience less anxiety and distress. Conversely, if we feel that control over our lives or fate is largely out of our hands, we might feel powerless, depressed, indecisive, or fearful of taking chances. Let us look at the locus of control regarding resistance to social influence.

    Locus of Control and Resistance to Social Influence

    Rotter (1966) proposed an idea known as the ‘locus of control’ to describe how people perceive how much control they have over their lives. People with an external locus of control believe that external forces influence much of their lives. On the other hand, people with an internal locus of control believe that their actions are the main driving force in their lives, and therefore they are more able to resist social influence.

    A person with an internal locus of control could be a person who believes that as long as someone works hard and is honest and good-natured, they will live an easy life where they are rewarded for their work. Conversely, they would also believe bad things happen to people due to their flawed actions and decisions. This type of person would find it easier to resist social influence, as they believe in their power and decisions.

    A person with an external locus of control could believe life is mainly based on luck or the consequences of the actions of greater powers such as the government, big businesses or the extremely wealthy. They believe many people work as hard as possible but never enjoy the same benefits as someone born into wealth. They might think bad things happen to people due to circumstances, such as place of birth, family, etc. This type of person may be less likely to resist social influence.

    Resistance to Social Influence portrait of woman StudySmarterFig. 2 - Intense portrait of a woman.

    Resistance to Social Influence: Evaluation

    A lot of research demonstrates the strength of social support in resistance. Asch (1951) found that participants’ conformity dramatically decreased when they were given a confederate for social support who agreed with their responses to the line task and rejected the responses of the other confederates, indicating resistance to social influence.

    In addition, Milgram (1974) found that participants given the task of administering electric shocks to people were much less likely to administer shocks in a group with two confederates for social support (against the shocks). This is because the allies supported the participants’ desire to disobey the authority figure who gave them the order to shock.

    Locus of control is an important element in resisting social influence. Oliner & Oliner (1998) studied a group of non-Jewish survivors of World War II, some of whom had helped Jewish people and others who had joined the Nazi regime. Those who opposed the Nazis tended to have a high internal locus of control beliefs.

    Spector (1983) wanted to determine if the locus of control correlated with conformity. He had 107 students take Rotter’s control type test and found that those with an internal control type found it easier to resist social influence.

    The locus of control is a binary way of looking at things. Most people know that internal and external factors influence their lives, but their locus of control definition does not reflect this.

    Resistance to Social Influence - Key takeaways

    • Resistance to social influence refers to a person’s ability to limit the social influence on them.
    • Two main factors in resistance to social influence are social support (situational) and control beliefs (dispositional).
    • Social support is when another person within a majority group agrees with or supports a person’s beliefs or actions.
    • Locus of control describe how much people believe their lives are determined by themselves or by external factors.
    • People with an internal locus of control resist social influence more quickly than people with an external locus of control.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Resistance to Social Influence

    How to resist informational social influence?

    It is easier for someone to resist informational social influence if they have social support.

    What are some examples of social influences?

    Some examples of social influence are our families, friend groups, television, and social media.

    Why does resistance to social influence occur?

    Resistance to social influence occurs because we have good social support or an internal locus of control.

    How to resist social influence?

    It is easier for people to resist social influence if they have an internal locus of control or social support.

    What is meant by resistance to social influence?

    Resistance to social influence is someone’s ability to withstand social pressure from the majority group.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Social support helps us resist _____social influence by making us feel less alone.

    Who proposed the concept known us the locus of control?

    Simon believes that bad things happen to bad people because of their actions and decisions, and good things happen to good people because they worked for them. It's likely that Simon has an _______ locus of control.

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