Monday, 7 July 2008
I'm developing a new category called Social Influence to give more focus to aspects of applied social psychology and their connection to the phenomenon of Gullibility. The foundational studies of human behavior in this area have been around for some years with Le Bons 1895 work of The Crowd, through Sherif in 1935 and Social Judgement to Bob Cialdini in the 1980s and recently an academic journal specialising in this area called spookily Social Influence and first published in 2006 (see Social Influence
I'm presently reading The Science of Social Influence edited by Anthony R. Pratkanis - Psychology Press 2007. This is a fascinating collection of articles and provides a great overview of the area which Pratkanis says is "vast and thus can be daunting fro a new researcher"
So what's this topic all about? Well...Pratkanis gives a neat summary in chapter one when he says:
"Do you ever wonder why people do things? For example, why, all of a sudden, is everyone wearing the same purple shirt of the same hairstyle or using the same cool, groovy, or ist it spot jargon to describe what they like and agree with? How can a group of people watch someone else commit acts of violence and not intervene?...Why does a seemingly normal person give his or he money to a con criminal? What happens to get us to purchase things on the used car lot or the cosmetic counter or the infomercial? ...How does a small group (and sometimes just one person) come to change the behaviour and folkways of an entire community...And perhaps most importantly how can we resist unwanted and undesirable social influence attempts?
He goes to say on page 6 is that:
"One of the most important findings to come out of research on social influence is that situations are more powerful in controlling behaviour than we normally think (Ross Nisbett 1991) To account for this state of affairs, Lee Ross (1977) coined the term 'fundamental attribution error" for the tendency to over emphasise dispositional explanations for behaviours observed in others while under emphasising the role of power and situational influences.
So, with Mowgli in mind, Kaa couldn't have exerted influence outside of the jungle situation, where he could use his physical power over the weaker and vulnerable boy.
..."Social influence researchers tend to be wary of explanations that rely heavily on the dispositional causes such as -people conform because they are gullible" Pratkanis in his 2006 paper 'Why would anyone do or believe such as thing? A Social Influence Analysis." - in Sternberg, Roediger, Halpern - Critical Thinking In Psychology - Cambride University Press argues that there hasn't yet been the discovery of a gullibility or persuadeability factor in episodes of social influence... It merely names the thing without explaining it.
This, of course, is great news for the Gullibility Club...it never was our fault it seems! What do you think?