September 5, 2011
Social influence, whether from a group of many or a solitary comrade, powerfully affects the behavior of all human beings, although some people are influenced more than others (Quiamzade, 2009). The extent to which people are influenced depends on their level of self-esteem and the strength of their self-identity, morals, and values (Velden, 2007). Daily influences include measures of common courtesy to inappropriate agreement in group situations based on the group's demand for consensus. People are guided by an internal compass that forms the parameters of perceiving what is considered right and good according to personal values and social expectations (Velden, 2007). Many of the things people do are done to ensure themselves a place of acceptance and familiarity and to avoid exclusion (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). Relative to individuals' fundamental human needs is the desire for social acceptance and a sense of belonging. For many people, the need for acknowledgment and approval exceeds the value of authentic individual identity (Kowalski & Westen, 2009).
Human behavior can change radically in a group situation when the individuals in the group leave their own identity to take on a composite group identity (Quiamzade, 2009). Individuals may take on a different demeanor and may participate and agree to actions, agendas and behavior that is not typical of their normal and average behavior (Quiamzade, 2009). They may seek membership and acceptance by the group and consciously agree to lose their individual sense of identity to take on the ideas, ideals, and values of the group, whether or not the agendas align with their personal values and morals (Velden, 2007). They understand that losing their individual sense of identity is a determining factor in their acceptance by the group (Kowalski & Westen, 2009).
Based on previously learned material, this type of group mentality is referred to as "group think," which is a thought process that occurs between members of a cohesive in-group, subconsciously agreed upon as a way to minimize conflict and maintain consensus within the group. Based on similar material, the term "groupthink" was coined by sociologist William H. Whyte, Jr., in an effort to describe conformity as a rationalized choice among group members. Group mentality or group think occurs in the context of the group when members cease to think individually and respond according to group expectations and without reference to the individual's personal agendas. To maintain the equilibrium of the group, members value unanimity more than they value their own realistic and personal view of situations and actions.
Normative social influence is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when a person's behavior is motivated by the desire to be socially accepted (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). People experience this to some extent in their daily lives without being aware of its influence. Following fashion trends and daily routines and habits are highly influenced by what people perceive as normal and acceptable (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). Although not always determined by a desire to be part of a large cohesive group, it is another form of conformity motivated by a dominant need to be accepted. For a person under this influence, the desire to be liked and accepted becomes more important than personal thoughts, feelings, and sense of identity (Straker, 2010). This phenomenon often leads to public compliance but not always private acceptance of a relationship's norm (Straker, 2010). In normative social influence people are motivated to act and respond according to what is perceived as behavior that will promote others to like and associate with them. The strength of the motivation varies by degree and in its most extreme example; this particular motivation outweighs any sense of authentic self-identity.
The fundamental psychological underpinnings of