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The Effects of Social Influence on Decision-Making

Introduction

Social influence plays a critical role in shaping individuals’ decision-making processes. Decision-making is a complex cognitive process that involves evaluating different alternatives and selecting the most appropriate course of action. Many factors can influence a person’s decision-making, including internal factors such as personal values and beliefs, as well as external factors such as social influence.

Social influence refers to the impact that others have on an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It can be manifested through direct influence (e.g., persuasion, conformity) or indirect influence (e.g., social norms, informational influence). Social psychologists have long been interested in understanding how social influence affects decision-making, as it provides valuable insights into human behavior and provides a basis for predicting and explaining patterns of decision-making.

In this journal, we will explore the effects of social influence on decision-making, drawing upon relevant theories, empirical research, and practical implications. Specifically, we will discuss three types of social influence: conformity, compliance, and obedience.

Conformity

Conformity refers to changing one’s beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors to match those of others in a social group. It can occur at both the explicit and implicit levels, and it plays a significant role in decision-making. One of the most influential studies on conformity is the Asch conformity experiment. In this study, participants were asked to compare the lengths of different lines and indicate which line matched a standard line. However, unbeknownst to them, all other participants were confederates who gave deliberately incorrect answers. The findings revealed that participants conformed to the incorrect answers of the confederates in a significant number of trials, even when it was clear that the confederates were mistaken. This demonstrates the powerful influence of social pressure on individuals’ decision-making processes.

Compliance

Compliance refers to changing one’s behavior in response to a direct request from another person or group. It can involve both normative and informational influence. Normative influence occurs when individuals comply with requests to gain approval or avoid disapproval from others. Informational influence occurs when individuals comply because they believe that others have accurate knowledge or expertise. Compliance techniques, such as the foot-in-the-door technique or the door-in-the-face technique, have been widely studied and utilized to understand and manipulate compliance behaviors. For example, the foot-in-the-door technique involves making a small initial request followed by a larger request. Research has shown that people are more likely to comply with the larger request if they have first agreed to the smaller request, illustrating the effectiveness of this compliance strategy in influencing decision-making.

Obedience

Obedience refers to a form of social influence in which individuals comply with the orders or commands of an authority figure. One of the most well-known studies on obedience is the Milgram experiment. In this experiment, participants were instructed to administer electric shocks to another person (who was actually a confederate) under the guise of a study on memory and learning. The shocks ranged in intensity from mild to potentially lethal. Despite the distress exhibited by the “learner,” a significant number of participants continued to administer shocks when instructed to do so by the experimenter. This study demonstrated the extent to which individuals can be influenced by authority figures, even when it conflicts with their personal beliefs and values.

Conclusion

Social influence has a profound impact on decision-making processes. Conformity, compliance, and obedience all play important roles in shaping individuals’ choices and behaviors. Understanding the effects of social influence can provide valuable insights into various social phenomena and inform strategies for persuasion, behavior change, and social intervention. By acknowledging and examining the power of social influence, we can gain a deeper understanding of human behavior and improve decision-making in our personal and professional lives.