Social Power and Influence
Social power influences the behaviors of individuals within the society in diverse ways. People would act according to the expectations and standards or norms set in their environments. They could also act according to the societal norms, which implies that they would conform to the acceptable standards or codes of ethics of their communities of origin. The society influences to a great deal an individual’s social contracts through the norms and expectations it imposes on them. As such, the environment plays a pivotal role in the upbringing of individuals. Parents, teachers, guardians, school, poverty, and race represent the environment in this context. Studies continue to show that the neighborhood in which a person is raised determine how they will view life, become obedient or even become deviant in the future. This paper explores how environmental factors such as family, community, race, and gender conventions shape individuals’ thinking, with or without their awareness. It further outlines how individuals construct ideas and institutions that influence their understanding of the world and their places in it. In that context, the research will involve a revisit of three works by Christian et al. (2012), Loroz (1988) and Messick and Ohme (2007). The works are of interest in the research because they explore important aspects such as worldviews, values, the role of the society in shaping social contracts, social power, the environment, and individuals’ understanding of the world and their places in it.
The basis of social power and influence is of particular interest in this discussion. Social power implies norms and their influence on daily interactions with the environment (Loroz 148). What other individuals expect from members of their groups or those outside their groups has been found to be the most compelling in terms of dictating social interactions. Whereas the society does not expect its members to behave in a random manner, individuals will sometimes behave in rather predictable patterns (Christian et al. 256). Every social scenario involves a unique set of expectations concerning what is right or wrong. As expected, though, the expectations would vary from place to place or from time to time. Perhaps to look at how expectations manifest in the society, it is significant to consider the roles that various individuals perform in the society. Social roles imply the duties assigned to members of the society such as the father, the mother, or children.
William Shakespeare compared the world to a stage where all men, women, and children are mere players. He noted that they had their unique entrances and exits, and that one man could play so many parts. In essence, what Shakespeare meant was that individuals could become what they were not due to the influence of the environment or the individuals around them, but how the society dictates (Christian et al. 258). The lines illuminated the reality of social roles within the community. In a single day, family members would play various roles, whereby each role would carry the expected behaviors, otherwise referred to as norms.
Social norms refer to the unwritten rules that guide how individuals behave within the society. They are the standards for measuring a good or wrong behavior and would change depending on a given society, culture, or social group. For instance, teachers expect students to be respectful and perform excellently while at school. The concept of social norms enables one to understand conformity as well as social influence, and how they interplay in shaping behaviors (Loroz 153). Social groups vary from friendships to organizations, or even states. Conformity is the behavior to satisfy the expected code of conduct while norms are a powerful tool for predicting or understanding how individuals would behave (Christian et al. 259). Students, patients, or neighbors understand how they are required to act while at school, hospital or homes. Without norms, there would be no order in the society. Individuals need them to guide their behavior and predict social interactions. There is immense pressure to adhere to the social norms or roles dictated by the society. As a result, individuals conform to what other society members expect of them; they do that to seek approval. However, they could also choose not to conform to their expectations. Overall, though, social power plays an integral role in ensuring that most of the time individuals conform to the expectations of the society and perform their social roles.
How Individuals Construct Worldviews
Every person has a unique worldview, meaning that they have different opinions about other individuals and the world around them. The worldview is determined by factors such as culture, religion, life experiences, gender, biology, environment, friends, among other factors. Individuals view the world uniquely depending on personal perspectives, worldview, and beliefs. Even without them knowing, many times the worldviews occur without conscious awareness. Worldviews inform and affect individuals reality (Christian et al. 260). They influence how one would understand and conceptualize their environment and articulate ideas, or react to the unfolding events. The compilation of beliefs, values, attitudes, ideas, and assumptions that determine an individual s goals, relationships, desires, and behaviors. The more conscious an individual is about their worldview and those of others, the more the impact will be felt. Consequently, they will be able to navigate through the complexities of life.
When a person is aware of the possibility of multiple and simultaneous worldviews, he or she can then understand that the goal of life is not to be right or to be wrong (Loroz 151). Rather, it is advisable that individuals should be curious in their quest to look for the truth and do what they deem right to them. Getting the perspectives and knowing that new possibilities could exist is what could rightly influence individuals minds. What an element of uncertainty comes in handy is explaining the paradoxes of life and learning the mysteries of life. In fact, scholars concur that creativity would likely emerge when they question the unknown (Loroz 156). The consciousness does matter a great deal: Simply put, it should explain the awareness to one s thoughts, existence, sensations and their surroundings. Then mediation will occur between the inner and the outside environment. It is the way of interaction and direction of individuals intentions into the real world that provides them with the capacity to be aware and to be creative.
How the Environment Shapes Thinking
Sometimes people might conclude that they think on their own and that the world around them has no impact on their actions or reasoning. They may even not be aware that others are considering their actions and monitoring their patterns of behavior. With or without knowing, the environment is dictating how they think and react. It is always comparatively easier to know how the factors work (Loroz 156). Again, some individuals will realize that it is not a matter of what they are aware of that shapes their thoughts and experiences. Rather, what they are unaware of may have a great impact on their life. Thus, the environment is also already dictating how individuals think. When it does influence thoughts and paths of action, it does not mean that an individual has no control over their thoughts and are powerless. Some individuals have shown consistency by struggling through the life’s miseries, which serve to show that individuals can control their world (Loroz 148). When it occurs, an individual may be empowered to believe that they have what it takes to transform their environment. Where it is not possible, at least, they can limit the effect of environment on them. In other words, when individuals control their minds and thoughts, then they can also change their perception of the world around them.
When an individual is conscious of the aspects in the environment that shape their thinking, then they will have a chance to react and change what they might. Although they cannot completely be eradicated, they could temporarily avoid such thoughts. Doing so could prove sufficient to enhance their mind state, albeit for a little time and make them focus on constructive aspects of life (Christian et al. 259). The positive energy that accumulates following this realization allows individuals to transform their environment slowly. For instance, when an individual lives in a place where there is much strictness, they may find such an environment unfavorable and opt for less strict areas. It is still possible to revisit the areas they first accustomed themselves to, but moving on gives them the chance to feel and act differently for albeit a short time and have an influence on the rest of their lives.
Where a person has lived in a unique surrounding for a given period, or for most of their life, they could not know to what extent the environment has impacted their thoughts. The effects might be progressive while not necessarily occurring overnight. The individual is then not in a position to know what is hidden from them. Under these circumstances, a person would feel unmotivated, indifferent, or down. Such feelings are related to the types of environments where they spent most of their time while growing up (Messick and Ohme 199). By reflecting on how people think in every situation, they would then be able to realize the kinds of environments that have undesired influence in their lives. Still, they could avoid places where they spend most of their time and reckon whether their situations will improve with time.
It is not necessarily important whether a person is aware or unaware of what shapes their thoughts. By avoiding some environments, they will be able to gauge what improves their life and what does not, meaning that they no longer defend their roles (Messick and Ohme 192). Instead, they take positive action and change what they can, from a situation of being unaware how the surroundings affect them, to progressively being conscious of how the environment influences their lives.
All the factors discussed above constitute contrast and enable the individual to be aware of how the environment limits their thoughts and exposes them to its influence. In creating contrast, one does not have to transform where or how they live (Messick and Ohme 195). Rather, they should reach a compromise and instead prefer environments that satisfy their independent thoughts. For instance, one could read a different book, adopt a new lifestyle, or just view the world differently.
Change needs to be gradual, systematic and well timed. A person will need to take time, assess their current situation and gradually change how they spend time and what they interact with. The pressure on them has subsided, and it is likely that the individual will act consistently, instead of letting the changes around them to overwhelm them (Messick and Ohme 194). Thus, where one is conscious of what makes them think in a given pattern, they have two merits: They will know what to avoid and what they need as part of their environment to behave in a particular way
The Environment and Its Influence on Worldviews
Every individual has a unique worldview, whether they realize it or not. The worldviews influence how individuals interpret, perceive, respond to, or understand the realities around them. Worldviews are significant in shaping what individuals do, consider, or think to be acceptable or not, normal or abnormal. For instance, conflict-oriented worldview views conflicts to be acceptable and normal. It assumes that a person s feelings, thoughts, and actions are somewhat characterized by conflicts, such that people would express and measure everything in terms of the extent of conflict (Messick and Ohme 201). Where the goal is to create a peace culture, then it is critical to understand the formation and transformation of worldviews. The knowledge comes in handy to understand the individual and to adopt a peace-oriented worldview in personal lives, communities, families, and the world.
Worldviews imply images; set of beliefs and values that make a person look around them and understand the phenomena they see. Worldviews influence how individuals interpret and interact with the others in their surroundings. A number of worldviews are learned early enough in life and cannot be changed easily. In instances where individuals encounter evidence that fails to meet their worldviews, they can choose to reject the evidence and stick to their previous proofs. Individuals basic beliefs influence not only how they view themselves, but also the questions they ask and their validity (Messick and Ohme 198). Psychologists contend that in most cases individuals do not arrive at worldviews naturally. Whereas worldviews do not have to be accurate, they immensely influence behaviors. It is a cumbersome task explaining why they believe in the things they do. They cannot just verbalize the primary reasons for a given set of ideas. For instance, when one explains that, I cannot do this, most likely they are describing their worldviews.
Values measure the overall worth of an action or event. They embody principles, rules, or standards that are derived from an individual s worldview. What every person thinks or feels relies on a unique set of values. The core values that individuals have held they probably learned when they were young. Values can also be learned from experiences of life, though sometimes unconsciously (Messick and Ohme 200). One only needs to think of attributes such as safety, popularity, friendship, security, wisdom, accomplishment, among others, to understand values. Where the attributes are denied, what will the individual still want to remain with?
The Role of Environment
Cooperative education works on the principle that one can never understand their unique position in a given issue until they get the perspectives of other individuals who do not share their opinions. In this context, the environment offers an excellent opportunity to assess a number of ways of perceiving the world. Consequently, one does not have to agree with other individuals views. However, it is to evaluate the essential values as a means of gaining insight into one s ideas. As such, they should view problems from utterly different religious, socioeconomic, or political backgrounds other than theirs (Messick and Ohme 192). With time, they realize that their worldviews and values become rather clearer. Whether consciously or unconsciously, worldviews play significant roles in their relationships with nature. As they ask important questions such as the role of humans in the society, the rights of animals, they answer important questions about realities of life.
The essential beliefs and worldviews are exposed through thorough questioning of baffling phenomena such as conflicts and social power struggles in the society. It is significant to ask whether they owe a moral or ethical responsibility to other persons. The concept of questioning is not to oppose others ideas or set of beliefs, but rather to take a unique position not influenced by the accepted behaviors. Through such investigations, one understands how factors such as cultural beliefs, social experiences, personal influences and family backgrounds shape their views. In essence, individuals construct the ideas and perceptions that influence how they view themselves and others in the society through learning and environmental impact.
Christian, Julie., Richard, Bagozzi., Dominic, Abrams., and Harriet, Rosenthal. “Social influence in newly formed groups: The roles of personal and social intentions, group norms, and social identity.” Personality and Individual Differences 52.3 (2012): 255-260.
Loroz, Peggy Sue. “Persuasion Wars: Practicing Social Influence.” Social Influence 2.2 (2007): 145-157.
Messick, David M., and Rafal K. Ohme. “Some Ethical Aspects of the Social Psychology of Social Influence.” Power and Influence in Organizations (1988): 181-202
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