Social Processes, Attitudes, and Behavior
After Chapter 8.2, you will be able to:
· Distinguish between conformity, compliance, and obedience
· Compare and contrast primary and secondary socialization
· Describe compliance techniques, such as foot-in-the-door, door-in-the-face, lowball, and that’s-not-all
More than any other animal, humans use social experiences to learn acceptable behavior in the culture in which they live. Sociologists and psychologists use the term socialization when discussing the process of developing, inheriting, and spreading norms, customs, and beliefs. Individuals gain the knowledge, skills, habits, and behaviors that are necessary for inclusion in society. Widely held views in a society become the accepted viewpoints and are generally adopted by the majority of individuals within that society. Beliefs, customs, and cultural norms are often passed down from one generation to another within a society in a process called cultural transmission or cultural learning. Spread of norms, customs, and beliefs from one culture to another can also occur, and is called cultural diffusion.
Socialization can be further categorized. Primary socialization occurs during childhood when we initially learn acceptable actions and attitudes in our society, primarily through observation of our parents and other adults in close proximity. In children, this sets the stage for future socialization and provides the foundation for creating personal opinions. Secondary socialization is the process of learning appropriate behavior within smaller sections of the larger society. This type of socialization occurs outside of the home and is based on learning the rules of specific social environments. For example, the behavior necessary to thrive in school is different from that in the home setting, and also from that which is acceptable on a sports field or in a church. Secondary socialization is typically associated with adolescents and adults and includes smaller changes and refinements to behavior that were established in primary socialization. Secondary socialization can also occur when moving to a new region or changing schools or professions. Anticipatory socialization is the process by which a person prepares for future changes in occupations, living situations, or relationships. A premedical student shadowing physicians to assimilate and practice appropriate behaviors in expectation of one day becoming a doctor is an example of anticipatory socialization. Resocialization is another process by which one discards old behaviors in favor of new ones, typically through intensive retraining, and can have positive or negative connotations. The method by which members of the armed forces are trained to obey orders and commands without hesitation is a prime example of resocialization, but so is attracting and indoctrinating members into a cult.
Cults that have become a mainstay in media today are often “Doomsday cults.” This term refers both to groups that prophesy catastrophe and apocalypse and to those who attempt to bring it about. In December of 2012, nearly 1000 members of the Chinese cult Church of Almighty God were arrested for broadcasting fears of apocalypse and encouraging the overthrow of the Communist Party.
Sociologists define norms as societal rules that define the boundaries of acceptable behavior. Mores are widely observed social norms. While norms are not laws, they do provide a mechanism for regulating the behavior of individuals and groups and thereby serve as a means of social control. Penalties for misconduct or rewards for appropriate behavior, called sanctions, can also be used to maintain social control. Negative sanctions punish behaviors that deviate from norms, while positive sanctions reward behaviors that comply with norms. Sanctions can also be categorized as formal or informal. Formal sanctions are enforced by formal social institutions like governments or employers and can include receiving a promotion (positive) or a jail sentence (negative). By contrast, informal sanctions are enforced by social groups. Informal sanctions might include being allowed to sit at a particular table in the school cafeteria (positive) or exclusion from a social group (negative).
Norms provide us with a sense of what is appropriate, what we should do, and what is considered taboo—socially unacceptable, disgusting, or reprehensible. Norms exist for behavior, speech, dress, home life, and more and can differ between groups within a society, and also between different cultures. For example, Americans tend to be extraverted and talkative, even among strangers, while Japanese culture teaches that showing too much of oneself in a public setting is a sign of weakness. Thus, a very quiet person who does not make eye contact could seem odd in America, while she may fit in perfectly in Japan. Folkways are norms that refer to behavior that is considered polite in particular social interactions, such as shaking hands after a sports match, as seen in Figure 8.7.
Figure 8.7. FolkwaysAn act as simple as shaking hands after a sporting match is an example of a folkway.
AGENTS OF SOCIALIZATION
Any part of society that is important when learning social norms and values is called an agent of socialization. For children, the primary agents of socialization are parents or family members. Direct family remains an important agent of socialization for adolescents, but social circles—including friends, peers, and teachers—become important agents as well. For adults, colleagues and bosses can also act as agents of socialization. Aside from personal relationships, the environment is another agent of socialization. For example, when entering college, teenagers experience a complete lifestyle change and are in nearly constant interaction with people of their own age. This new environment creates a shift in acceptable behavior that can include late nights out with friends or all-night study sessions. When entering the workforce, another change in environment leads to socialization within the organization. Ethnic background, religion, and government also play a role in learned behavior, and are therefore also important agents of socialization. And geography at the national, regional, and neighborhood levels also dictates norms of 'margin-top:17.8pt;margin-right:0cm;margin-bottom: 8.9pt;margin-left:0cm;line-height:normal;background:white;text-autospace:none'>Real World
A study published in 2002 examined the link between television and violence. In the study, the researchers followed 707 subjects for 17 years. Study subjects who watched more than one hour of TV per day were approximately four times more likely to act aggressively toward others later in life than those who watched less than one hour of TV. Of those who watched more than three hours of TV per day, nearly 30% were involved in assaults, robberies, or other aggressive behaviors. While this is an interesting link, remember that it shows correlation—not causation!
Furthermore, the media are an important agent of socialization through their influence on what is accepted within a particular society. Popular culture, i.e. common trends and beliefs prevalent at a given point in time, is heavily influenced by the media. The media can determine what is considered important in a particular society. Mass media is most commonly accessed through television, radio, newspapers, and the Internet. It delivers impersonalized communication to a vast audience, and can thereby establish trends in American or international popular culture. Many of the agents of socialization are summarized in Figure 8.8.
Figure 8.8. Agents of Socialization
DEVIANCE AND STIGMA
Deviance refers to any violation of norms, rules, or expectations within a society. It is important to note that using the term deviant is often associated with strongly negative connotations; however, in the sociological context, it simply refers to any act that goes against societal norms. Deviance can vary in severity, from something as simple as jaywalking to something as serious as committing murder. Deviance also includes any act that meets with disapproval from the larger society, such as promiscuous sexual behavior.
Social stigma is the extreme disapproval or dislike of a person or group based on perceived differences from the rest of society. These deviations from the norm can include differences in beliefs, abilities, behaviors, and appearance. Certain medical conditions such as HIV, achondroplasia (dwarfism), and obesity can also be stigmatized. Stigma can also spread to affect others who are associated with a particular individual. For example, family members of an alleged or convicted murderer or rapist can be stigmatized. Stigma also evolves over time: whereas divorce was stigmatized in the early twentieth century, it no longer has such strong negative connotations.
Mental illness has long been stigmatized in American society. While this is slowly changing, the potential stigma associated with a mental health diagnosis continues to be a hurdle to many patients seeking out or receiving care. Many common psychological disorders are discussed in Chapter 7 of MCAT Behavioral Sciences Review.
Deviance, stigmatization, and reputation are strongly linked with the labeling theory. This theory posits that the labels given to a person affect not only how others respond to that person, but also affect that person’s self-image. Labels can lead to channeling of behavior into deviance or conformity. For example, if members of society label a woman as promiscuous, this label could either lead to further promiscuity or to a change in behavior toward something more in line with what is accepted in that society. In many instances, we resist being labeled, particularly with labels we perceive as negative. However, groups may embrace deviant labels. Biker gangs, for example, utilize labeling to enhance the perception of their own subgroup. Internalizing a label and assuming the role implied by the label may lead to the assumed role taking over a person’s identity, a phenomenon known as role engulfment.
According to differential association theory, deviance, particularly criminal behavior, can be learned through interactions with others. In this theory, intimate exposure to others who engage in deviant behavior lays the groundwork for one to engage in deviant behavior him- or herself. However, this same person will also likely come into contact with norm-abiding individuals. Differential association, then, is the degree to which one is surrounded by ideals that adhere to social norms vs. ideals that go against them. In this theory, when associations with others engaging in deviant behavior are more numerous or intense than those engaging in normative behavior, the individual begins to gravitate toward deviant behavior him- or herself. In common language, we might describe someone as having “fallen into the wrong group.”
Finally, strain theory attempts to explain deviance as a natural reaction to the disconnect between social goals and social structure. One common example in strain theory is the American dream, which refers to acquiring wealth and personal stability through achievement and hard work. The American dream is considered a desirable social goal, but the structure of society is unable to guarantee the education and opportunity needed to achieve this goal to all citizens. Therefore, deviant behavior such as theft may arise as an attempt to achieve the social goal outside of the limiting social structure.
While deviance is often associated with negative behavior such as crime, functional theorists argue that it is necessary for social order. These theorists argue that deviance provides a clear perception of social norms and acceptable boundaries, encourages unity within society, and can even promote social change.
CONFORMITY, COMPLIANCE, AND OBEDIENCE
While deviance is defined as going against societal norms, conformity, compliance, and obedience are manners of adhering to social expectations or others’ requests.
Conformity is matching one’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors to group or societal norms. The pressure to conform can be real or imagined: an actual pressure from others, or a perceived pressure or expectation. Conformity is also known as majority influence. The Asch experiments, described earlier, showed the strength of social influence on normative conformity, the desire to fit into a group because of fear of rejection.
There are distinct types of conformity, including internalization and identification. Internalization involves changing one’s behavior to fit with a group while also privately agreeing with the ideas of the group. Identification refers to the outward acceptance of others’ ideas without personally taking on these ideas.
Internalization and identification both deal with accepting others’ ideas, but whereas internalization also reflects a change in internal thoughts to agree with the idea, identification is acceptance of the idea on the surface level without internalizing it.
A classic experiment looking at internalization was Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment. Zimbardo advertised for a role-playing experiment in which he recruited 21 male college students. The study participants were randomly assigned the role of prisoner or guard. The prisoners were arrested in their homes and taken to a “prison” created in the Stanford University psychology building. Guards were issued uniforms, including whistles, handcuffs, and dark glasses to prevent eye contact. The prisoners and guards quickly fell into their roles and displayed related behaviors almost immediately. Guards began to taunt and harass prisoners, appearing to enjoy their role. Prisoners also adopted their new role, taking the prison rules very seriously, and becoming more and more dependent on the guards. As the guards became more aggressive, the prisoners became more submissive, although they also attempted to mount a revolt. The study had to be ended after six days because the guards had begun to physically abuse the prisoners so severely that ethical concerns were raised. After the study ended, Zimbardo interviewed each participant. The guards and prisoners, who had internalized their roles, were both shocked by their behavior during the experiment.
In recent years, design flaws in the Stanford Prison Experiment have come to light. These include sampling biases, ethical concerns, lack of controls, and active participation in the experiment by Zimbardo himself.
The likelihood of conformity differs among cultures. For instance, Western cultures tend to value independent thought and unique ideas and are thus less likely to conform; in Eastern cultures, group mentality often supersedes the individual. This type of collectivist society tends toward conformity.
Compliance is a change in behavior based on a direct request. The person or group that asks the individual to make the change typically has no actual power or authority to command the individual, yet will ask him to change his behavior. There are several notable techniques used to gain compliance of others, particularly within the marketing arena. The foot-in-the-door technique begins with a small request, and after gaining compliance, a larger request is made. An example of this scenario could be a fellow classmate asking to borrow your notes because he had to miss class. You agree and offer to share the notes at the next class session. Later in the day, you see the student again, and he asks you if you would be willing to make copies of your notes because he does not have access to a copier. Many people will still agree at this point, as the first request opened the door to continued compliance.
The next technique is called the door-in-the-face technique. This is the opposite of the foot-in-the-door technique, wherein a large request is made at first and, if refused, a second, smaller request is made. Often, this smaller request is the actual goal of the requester. Using this technique, a fellow student might ask you to make a copy of your notes from class and bring them to the next class. If you deny the request, the student might follow up with a smaller request, asking to borrow your notes so he can make copies for himself. The second, more reasonable request may be granted.
Another common method of achieving compliance is the lowball technique. In this technique, the requestor will get an initial commitment from an individual, and then raise the cost of the commitment. It is important to note that cost need not only include money, but can also include effort and time. An example of this technique is a scenario in which you are asked by your boss to head a committee with a time commitment of five hours per month of meetings. You agree to head the committee, but later discover that the commitment also includes written reports from each meeting and a quarterly presentation.
Yet another technique used to gain compliance is the that’s-not-all technique. In this method, an individual is made an offer, but before making a decision, is told the deal is even better than she expected. This method is frequently seen in infomercials: We can offer you these earrings for the stunningly low price of $19.99. But wait! If you buy them, you'll also receive our matching necklace, normal retail value $49.99, absolutely free.
While compliance deals with requests made by people without actual authority over an individual, obedience is changing one’s behavior in response to a direct order or expectation expressed by an authority figure. While a classmate has no authority to demand notes from you, an authority figure has social power over other individuals. For instance, if a teacher demands that you provide your notes from class to him, you would be obeying rather than complying. People are far more likely to obey than comply due to the real or perceived social power of the individual.
One of the most notable obedience experiment series was conducted by Stanley Milgram. In this classic set of studies, Milgram claimed to be recruiting participants for a study to test the effects of punishment on learning behavior. Participants were told they would be randomly assigned to be the “teacher” or “learner”; however, the “learner” was actually a paid actor (confederate). The teachers were told that they would be controlling an electrical panel that would administer shocks to the learners if they made mistakes. Prior to giving the first shock, the teachers were given a sample 45 V shock to make them aware of what they would be doing to the learners. The teachers were then told that they would need to increase the voltage by 15 V each time an incorrect response was given. The learners, who received no actual shock, were provided with scripts telling them to show pain, ask to stop the experiment, scream, and even feign passing out. As the learners acted more and more uncomfortable, the teachers became less willing to increase the shock voltage. However, by using increasingly demanding language (from Please continue to You have no other choice, you must go on), the researchers were able to get 65 percent of the participants to administer shocks to the maximum of 450 V, even if they showed discomfort in doing so. Milgram and other researchers were surprised at the level of obedience the participants showed during the experiment. This type of experiment has been repeated many times and has consistently shown that more than 60 percent of people will obey even if they do not wish to continue.
MCAT Concept Check 8.2:
Before you move on, assess your understanding of the material with these questions.
1. What is the difference between primary and secondary socialization?
2. What are conformity, compliance, and obedience?
3. For each of the compliance techniques listed below, provide a brief description: