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Exploring Social Influence And The Experiments That Attempt To Explain Social Influence

2125 words - 9 pages

We live in a society where each individual has their own set of thoughts and beliefs. Occasionally one will modify their beliefs and behavior to coincide with a group. This is an example of social influence. Social influence has three main components; conformity, compliance and obedience. The concept of compliance is similar to conformity, however there is a slight difference. Compliance only requires a person to perform a task. The person does not have to agree or disagree with the assignment, just simply complete it. Conformity requires the person being influenced to change their attitudes and or beliefs. An example of this aspect of social psychology is the holocaust in World War II. Adolph Eichmann was a Nazi officer responsible for filling up death camps in Germany. After the war he went on trial in Jerusalem for crimes against the Jewish people, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. On May 31, 1962, he was sentenced to death for the horrible crimes he committed. His defense was "Why me? Why not the local policemen, thousands of them? They would have been shot if they had refused to round up the Jews for the death camps. Why not hang them for not wanting to be shot? Why me? Everybody killed the Jews". A few months after the start of Eichmann’s trial, Stanley Milgram instituted an experiment testing ones obedience to authority. He wanted to find out if good people could do atrocious things if they were just obeying authority. Was Eichmann and millions of others in Nazi Germany decent people who were just following orders? Some other famous experiments that have taken place to test the waters of social psychology are Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford prison experiment and Solomon Asch’s conformity experiments, all attempting to explain and discover the effects of social influence.
Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford prison experiment is a prime example of good people committing atrocious acts and takes a good look at obedience to authority. In the summer of 1971, students were picked up and brought to a make shift prison at Stanford University’s psychology department. Dr. Zimbardo created a functional simulation of a real prison by adding aspects of dehumanization, humiliation, and degradation. He accomplished this by issuing the prisoners a dress, or smock, which each subject wore at all times with no underclothes. On the front and back of the smock was the “prisoners” ID number. The subjects were only to be referred to by their number, not their name. The prisoners had a nylon cap placed on their head to replicate their head being shaved, further taking their identity. Lombardo also locked a chain and padlock around the prisoners right ankle to remind prisoners of the oppressiveness of their environment. The experiment started with nine guards and nine prisoners. The guards would work eight hour shifts and alternate. The prisoners were in the prison for all 24 hours in the day. They occupied a little cell containing three...

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