Social change is when society adopts a new way of behaving or a new belief which then becomes the new social norm and can be either positive or negative.
A real life example of a positive social change is by the Suffragettes, who consistently fought for the right for women to vote and at the end; they succeeded with an overwhelming number of supporters who were persuaded by an initial minority group (that acted as a catalyst for social change.)
A real life example of a negative social change would be by Nazism. This can be explained as a mechanism for social change as Nazism used obedience. Many Nazi leaders did unjust and unethical things because they claimed that they were simply following orders even though they could have backed out.
An optimistic side of obedience that influenced social change is supported by Milgram’s study where the participants were asked to deliver only 15 volts but then continued to give bigger and bigger volts, up to 450 volts, through small stages. This is called the ‘foot in the door’ technique.
Research into social influence has helped us be able to explain the process of social change through both majority group influence and minority group influence.
Majority group influence relies on two factors. Maintaining order, power and social roles is how the social system, which is controlled by the majority, creates social roles for people that are powerful. An example to demonstrate this is with Zimbardo’s prison study – where the ‘officers’ believed themselves to be dominant authority figures over the ‘prisoners’ because of the uniform they wore whilst most of the prisoners obeyed the officers.
Conformity and compliance is a factor or majority group influence as it shows that people conform if it is easy to conform or if it is hard to not conform. Compliance is shown due to either Normative Social Influence or Informational Social Influence (both are passive processes.) A jury would be a good example to show this. Every person in a jury must have the same verdict, and so some of the people in the jury may conform to others because they either do not want to be excluded by the others (NSI) or they do not know what to do so they look to others for an answer because they believe that the majority knows the best (ISI.)
Minority group influence relies more on consistency, confidence and persuasiveness in minorities. Features of minorities include: internal locus of control (belief of being able to influence others and take control of events), the social impact theory (where a strong figure can argue with others to