Interpersonal Social Influence
Why do television comedies use canned audience laughter? Why do bartenders often fill their tip jars from their own pocket before going on duty? Because social proof is persuasive; the behavior of other people influences your own behavior. But this begs another fundamental question: Why do you use other people to learn about stuff anyway? Can’t you just figure it out for yourself?
One answer is that you don’t always know how you are supposed to act or behave. In many everyday situations, you feel uncertain about what to think or how to act or behave because you simply don’t have enough information to make a good or accurate choice. Fortunately, when you do not know what to do, you have a powerful and useful source of information for how to proceed: the behavior and actions of other people. Asking others or observing what they do helps you to make your way through an otherwise novel or ambiguous situation. The behavior and actions of other people provide social proof of what is the most frequent and appropriate behavior for the situation. Social psychologists call this type of influence Informational Social Influence.
Information is only one reason that leads you to conform to the behavior of other people. Human beings, by nature, are social animals; you have to interact with other people to be healthy and happy. There are important benefits to having relationships with other people, such as love, affection, emotional support, and, sometimes, a free meal. There also are important costs to being alone. Research shows, for example, that people who live in isolation from others tend to experience more stress, which can contribute to physical illness. Living in isolation also tends to cause depression. Thus, it is important to your physical and psychological well-being to have positive relationships with other people.
Given this fundamental need for social companionship, it should not be surprising that you often have to conform to be accepted by others. Simply put, in order to belong, you have to live by other people’s rules. The rules for conduct set by others are commonly referred to as norms—socially shared rules or standards for behavioral conduct. When you want to know how to behave in a given situation, it is useful to understand the generally accepted rules or standards for behavior set down by your group for that situation. Violation of the rules means that you will be punished by the group and possibly excluded from being in the group altogether.
Conformity for the sake of group membership is called Normative Social Influence. Norms tell you what most people believe is the appropriate behavior, and the power of a norm on your behavior depends on the power of others to reward or punish you for conforming to their rules for conduct.
To prepare for this Discussion:
• Read Chapter 7 in the course text, Persuasion: Psychological Insights and Perspectives.
• Reflect on what the “rule of reciprocity” is and why it exists in society. Determine if it operates based on informational or normative social influence. Be sure you understand the examples of how reciprocity is used to influence sales and other consumer behaviors. Be able to describe the steps required to use the door-in-the-face strategy, and also consider some of the ways in which it could be implemented incorrectly (as illustrated in Figure 7.3).
• Think about how the behavior of others creates “social validation.” Determine if it is a form of informational or normative social influence. Be sure you understand how you respond when you receive conflicting social validation information. Be able to describe why similarity plays a role in social validation and how to use the list technique to persuade.
• Consider some reasons for why it is important to appear consistent to others. Think about why commitment is critical to this process, and determine if consistency is driven primarily by informational or normative social influence.
• Review the steps involved in the four-walls technique and the foot-in-the-door strategy. Think about why you would have trouble walking away from an offer when someone uses a bait-and-switch or a low-ball strategy. Consider why you would or would not be persuaded by a paltry-favors strategy.
• Reflect on the many ways in which people can persuade you by creating the perception that they are your friend, that they like you, that they are attractive or attracted to you, share similar attitudes and beliefs, or are an authority figure. Determine which of these influence strategies operates based on informational or normative social influence.
• Define scarcity and think about the two major reasons for why it is persuasive. Determine whether it operates based on informational or normative social influence. Consider whether you would experience psychological reactance if someone used a scarcity strategy to influence your consumer behavior. Think about how the different uses of the deadline technique can influence your behavior.
• Finally, consider the author’s ideas about how you can avoid or resist being influenced by these strategies.
With these thoughts in mind:
Post by Day 4 a description of a time when you were influenced by a reciprocity, social validation, commitment, or scarcity strategy. Describe the steps in the strategy that were used and explain the psychological process by which the strategy influenced your attitudes and/or behavior. Determine if it was informational or normative social influence. Finally, explain what you could have done to avoid being influenced by the strategy. 2 to 3 paragraphs.
Be sure to support your postings and responses with specific references to the Learning Resources.