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Social Influences on Human Behavior Essay

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Updated: Jun 23rd, 2020


Human behavior is susceptible to change based on one’s social situation. A person in a group will have a heightened level of social awareness that will prevent them from acting appropriately. Two scenarios of behavior alteration will be analyzed in order to demonstrate this tendency.

Description of the specific behaviors

The first incident was the gang rape of a high school student at Richmond, which occurred on 27th October 2009. The victim was a fifteen year old student who was attending a dance at the school’s gymnasium. Ten men raped and tortured her in the presence of ten other witnesses who surrounded the attackers and took pictures of the incident. Several other individuals joined the crowd of witnesses and continued to watch or laugh at the girl. The school had a number of security guards during the incident, yet no individual bothered to call them. Even the assistant principle noticed that a group of strange men was in the school premises, but he did not investigate the matter further. This administrator did not alert teachers or the police concerning such a peculiar situation. One student who left the party reported the incident after the girl had already been raped and was in critical condition. She was found under a bench, half conscious.

The second behavior is something that has taken place in several organizations around the world. An employer assigns workers with the responsibility of creating a new company manual. In performing this task, they are expected to meet regularly and give their suggestions and ideas. After collection of ideas, different members must compile, edit and prepare the manual. They need to research and add more information concerning those suggestions in order to translate them into usable material. However, many of the employees do not carry their weight in the project meetings as well as the implementation phase. This occurs regardless of the fact that most of the employees are highly productive in their specific departments. The project ends up dragging for long and members create an inferior product at the end of it all.


The rapists had varied ages, but most of them were young. Additionally, most of the eye witnesses were immature. Psychologists explain that youth are more likely to be detached during a dangerous situation because they do not understand the idea of victimization well. Eyewitnesses did not have any personal association with the rape victim thus explaining why most of them remained passive. Failure to notify the police or other authorities in the vicinity contributed to excessive prolonging of the rape, psychological and physical torture of the victim.

The second issue of employee stalling occurred in an organizational setting. The individuals were not used to working in groups. Furthermore, there was no explicit evaluator who would hold project members responsible for project failure. This incident also occurred in a western context. Employees had minimal collective tendencies; consequently, they did not care much about the effect of their actions on the group. Perhaps their behavior would have been different if they came from a collectivist society, such as China (Sheppard, 1993).

Precursors and consequences of the behaviors

The group under consideration had difficulties in sharing information outside their weekly meetings. Employees had to wait for seven days before they could make any useful decisions. When they did make any contributions, these were not recognized by an authoritative figure. They did not feel satisfied about the project team as well as the way in which work was done. Furthermore, few of them identified with the group. They defined their membership in terms of their respective departments as well as the organization in general. None of them mentioned the company manual committee as a group that they belonged to. They did not think that members of the group valued them. Since the project team constituted of forty members, it is likely that most of the participants felt that their efforts were too trivial to make any significant contribution to the project goals. Furthermore, there were no tangible rewards or foreseeable outcomes of the tasks. All the above factors were precursors to their stalling behavior. The consequences of their behavior were depletion of company resources during the project and wastage of valuable company time. Performance declined in the company and employees were also demoralized.

Associated phenomenon with the selected behaviors

Groupthink may be attributed to the 2009 gang rape incident. This was manifested in the form of the bystander effect. The latter phenomenon refers to the tendency to refrain from taking action in an emergency situation when a high number of people exist. One’s response as an eye witness is likely to be more active if no observers exist (Brun & Tiegen, 2011). When people are present in large numbers during an emergency, then diffusion of responsibility takes place. In the case of the Richmond rape, most of the witnesses probably felt that others would notify the authorities about the matter. Additionally, social influence played a large role in determination of their actions. Sometimes individuals may act passively in an effort to be socially acceptable. In the gang rape, it likely that the observers continued to watch the ghastly act of rape because of influences from other witnesses. Since the crowd had a large number of men, it is likely that the need to appear more masculine made the eyewitnesses appear less empathetic towards the victim.

The phenomenon that led to employee stalling was social loafing, which is the reduction of individual effort when people need to work in a group (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). Psychologists explain that people will reduce their personal efforts in a group when they do not see a connection between their inputs and the outcomes of their world. Furthermore, social loafing may occur when a group is large in size with very divergent members. Also, if people think that their input is insignificant then social loafing will arise. In this case, members of the organization had all the above qualities hence explaining why their behavior changed when in a group.

Whether the behaviors necessitate therapeutic intervention

The first case of gang rape necessitates therapeutic intervention because it led to highly severe and dire consequences. Members of the high school or the Richmond community need to be sensitized about group think and its dreadful effects. They can learn about the importance of sound moral judgment even when one is in a large group. Unless the individuals learn about thinking independently, then they may remain inactive in future incidences.

Organizational psychologists can also intervene in cases of social loafing. In the concerned case, they would have identified individual contributions among project members. Administrators should also have made group members feel valued. Team cohesiveness could have been increased and evaluation systems instated. The organizational psychologists could also have reduced the number of team members.


The two cases under consideration were undesirable; one was even tragic. Alterations in behavior were caused by social situations or the presence of a group. Mental efficiency and bad judgment were caused by group think and social loafing, which only arise when participants are socially aware of their situations. Therefore, the behavior can be altered if therapists deal with these social influences.


Brun, W. & Tiegen, K. (2011). Responsibility is divisible by two, but not three or four: Judgments of responsibility in dyads and groups. Social cognition, 29(3), 15-42.

Kowalski, R. & Westen, D. (2011). Psychology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley and Sons.

Sheppard, J. (1993). Productivity loss in performance groups: A motivational analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 113, 67-81.

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