We have always been confronted by that ‘which came first, the chicken-or-the-egg? ’ type of question. A lot of different theories have spawned to explain how an individual’s behavior has influenced societal behavior and vice-versa, however, which of them precedes the other? Before one approaches that issue, the linkage as between societal influence and the individual’s behavior must be discussed. There have been numerous studies concerning the manner by which social influence affects individual behavior.
Cialdini (2000) does the same in his explanation of the role of conformity in influencing individual behavior, in his listing it as one of the six weapons of influence. For purposes of the discussion, I would be concentrating on one of these ‘weapons’ as Cialdini called them that influences social behavior- Social Proof. Herein, it is said that a person acts a certain way because he sees others in a group doing the same thing in a given situation. There are several motivations for this. One of these would be so as the person who copies group behavior would be accepted and gain approval from the members of the said group (Latane, 1981).
Also a person may do the same because he or she is unsure about the rules that exist and how to act a certain way (Aronson, 2005). All these theories made me realize as to how my behavior has been affected by my social environment. Many times, I have found myself acting a certain way, even as simple as dressing up in an attire that I know the people I am constantly with find acceptable, so as to gain the respect and recognition from my peer group, when in reality, I would have chosen to take a different route and dress rather simply.
There are also some instances wherein I find myself acting a certain way without even understanding what I was doing, just because I saw the others around me doing the same. In a larger context, such as in the issue of racial discrimination, such concepts might also come into play. There may be individuals conforming by way of racially motivated behavior, or even commit offenses, due to their need to feel that they belong in a certain group.
On the other hand, others may also engage into such racially prejudiced behavior as if it were part of the natural order of things, without truly understanding what they are doing and just merely copying what they see bring practiced. The link then between social influence and individual behavior in this case, becomes crucial because it could be a key to explaining dire consequences borne by such correlation such as cases wherein people end up getting hurt, even die, such as in hate crimes. Now going back to the chicken-and- the egg question.
I conclude that answering such would just lead to an endless debate. Furthermore, finding out the answer is not really integral to solving society’s problems. What is in order is the realization that, truly, individual behavior is influenced by society and such must be looked into so as to be able to pinpoint specific factors or elements that influence positive and negative individual behavior, and to apply learning taken from all these to create solutions to issues concerning individual behavior.