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Social Influences on Human Behavior

As humans, we all act and behave in certain ways at different times and in different places. Whether you have one persona in the workplace and another at home, or you are a teenager behaving like your friends, social influences can alter and shape actions, speech and more.

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Attitudes, or a person's internal/mental beliefs about a specific situation, object or concept can greatly influence behaviours. From simple, nonharmful situations such as the choice to not wear orange because you do not like the colour to much more destructive attitudes such as racial prejudice, attitudes can lead our thoughts and actions. Social influences can affect human behaviour by changing our attitudes. This can be a positive change, such as opening up a closed-minded individual's beliefs to include new choices. On the other hand, social influences on attitudes can be negative and include destructive or coercive concepts leading to poor choices or even criminal behaviours.

Teen Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is most commonly found in teen or high school society, in which one person or group influences another. Peers, or other people close in age, play a large role in the daily life of the teenager, even more so than that of the teen's own family. As the teen develops into a more independent person, she may attempt to break away from the family structure, opening herself up to the influences of friends and peers. Peer pressure comes into play when other teens attempt to influence someone else in social situations. This can be positive, providing good examples of behaviour that pushes the teen into new experiences such as academic clubs or sports. In contrast, many teens succumb to negative peer pressures involving drug use, risky sexual behaviours or even criminal actions.

Products and Buying

Social pressures and influences can, to some degree, impact human buying behaviours. Advertisers and marketing professionals often play into this concept by creating commercials and print ads that aim to change purchasing based on what other people do or buy. For example, if you are a new parent and see a happy family on television using a specific product in an ad, you may be more likely to buy that product than a similar product that does not advertise in that way.

Close Social Influences

From the beginning of our lives, the first social influences that we encounter belong to the family unit. Whether it is your mother, father, a brother or sister, families often provide the closest social influences of any other group. As we grow into independent thinkers and move toward adulthood, these influences may loosen or change, but it is our families that shape our behaviours and actions from the start. Values, attitudes and morals are all functions of the family social structure and may greatly impact what we do and how we do it. For example, families may dictate our religious beliefs from the time of early childhood, shaping behaviours accordingly.

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About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

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