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Social Influence

6) Individual Differences and how it causes Independant Behaviour

Locus of control

The locus of control describes how much a person feels they are in control of their own behaviour. If a person has an external locus of control they feel like what happens to them is down to “fate” and not due to their actions. Someone with an internal locus of control, however, believes they have control over their only behaviour due to decision and actions.

How locus of control affects independent behaviour

If someone has an internal locus of control they are more likely to resist social influence. This is because:

  • They are seekers of information that is useful to them, so are less likely to listen to and adopt the opinions of others
  • They are more able to resists coercion (being made to do something by power and authority of others). 

Research evidence 

Anderson and Schneier (1978) found that people with an internal locus of control were more likely to become group leaders.

Twenge et al’s (2004) meta-analysis found that young Americans are becoming more external, meaning they are more suspect to social influence.

 

Attributional Style 

This is how people explain and rationale to themselves why something happened. Psychologists have identified 3 components in attributional style: 

  • Personal – This is whether the person sees themselves as the cause of an event (I failed because I’m stupid), or whether they say it was caused by external factors (I failed because the exam was unfair)
  • Permanent – This is whether the person sees the situation as changeable (I might as well never try again at this exam) or unchangeable (next time I’ll do better)
  • Pervasive – This is whether the person sees an event as affecting all aspects of their life (I can never do anything right!) , or just the parts of their life that are closely related to that event (I messed that exam up, but it doesn’t mean I’ll do badly in my other exams).

Positive and Negative attributional styles

 People with a negative attributional style often blame themselves, and feel that one failure means they will fail at all aspects of their life.

People with positive attributional styles often blame external factors, and do let failures get them down. This style of often linked with the ability to resist social influence as it means you are able to cope with the negative life experience that might otherwise cause you to succumb to social influence

Research on attributional style

Heaven et al’s research on teenagers in Australia found that those who achieved lowest on test scores where those who were “rebel students”. This means they rebelled against teachers and didn’t do homework etc. These students also had a negative attributional style; this suggests that this style is linked with poor attainment at school.

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About Sam Cook

A blog set up to help A Level students revise Sociology

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