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Resistance to Social Influence

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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 on the invisible influences that impact us in our everyday lives. It also looks into resistance to social influence and the psychological factors affecting it.

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

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

An example of this would be not giving in to peer pressure, such as refusing to go to the park even though your friends want you to because you do not feel like it.

Resistance to Social Influence Social factory StudySmarterSocial ‘factory’, Katarina Gadže, StudySmarter Originals (Images: Pixabay and Canva)

What are the two explanations for resistance to social influence?

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

Social support

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

An example of social support would be when a friend sides with you in a disagreement against the rest of your friend group.

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 giving validity to a person’s thoughts and ideas and counterbalancing the information presented by the majority group.

Research confirming the importance of social support

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). The reason for this is that the allies supported the participants’ desire to disobey the authority figure who gave them the order to shock.

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 that 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 that 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 that many people work as hard as possible but still 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.

Research into the importance of locus of control

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 who had an internal control type found it easier to resist social influence.

Evaluation of locus of control

The locus of control is a binary way of looking at things. In reality, most people are aware that both internal and external factors influence their lives, but their locus of control definition does not reflect this.


Resistance to Social Influence - Key takeaways

  • Situational and dispositional factors determine resistance to social influence.
  • These two main factors 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.
  • Social support can help people resist social influence.
  • Control beliefs describe how much people believe their lives are determined by themselves or by external factors.
  • People with an internal locus of control believe that their actions are the most important factor in their lives.
  • People with an external locus of control believe that what happens in their lives is primarily the result of external forces such as social systems or other people.
  • 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

Resistance to social influence is both dispositional and situational. Locus of control is dispositional, while social support is situational..

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

Spector’s study found that those with an internal locus of control only resisted normative social influence. There was no effect on informational social influence.

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

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

Final Resistance to Social Influence Quiz

Question

What is social influence?

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Answer

Social influence is when perceived social pressure from society or other individuals or groups influences an individual's beliefs or actions.

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Question

What is resistance to social influence?

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Answer

Resistance to social influence refers to someone’s ability to limit how much social influence affects them.

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Question

What are the two main explanations for resistance to social influence?

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Answer

The two main factors that affect resistance to social influence are social support and locus of control.

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Question

What is social support?

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Answer

In social influence, social support is when someone feels empowered or encouraged to resist social influence due to other people sharing their views or agreeing with their ideas or actions.

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How does social support affect informational social influence?

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Answer

Social support adds validity to a person’s views and counters the ideas or information of the majority group.

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What is the locus of control?

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Answer

The locus of control describes whether someone believes internal or external factors control their life. 

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What is an internal locus of control?

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Answer

People with an internal locus of control believe their own actions are the main driving force in their lives and that they are ultimately in control.

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What is an external locus of control?

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Answer

People with an external locus of control believe events, groups, and systems outside of their control primarily determine their lives.

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How does the locus of control affect resistance to social influence?

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Answer

People with an internal locus of control find it easier to resist social influence than those with an external locus of control.

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Does someone’s locus of control affect informational social influence?

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 According to Spector's study, locus of control only affects normative social influence.

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How does social support affect resistance to social influence?

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Social support influences people’s ability to resist social influence by making them feel as if they’re not alone, thus reducing the pressure to conform.

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Question

Is resistance to social influence dispositional or situational?

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Answer

Resistance to social influence is both dispositional (locus of control) and situational (social support).

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