Social Influence: An Essay (Part 2/2)

So far in part 1 of this essay, we have looked at majority influence of a group on an individual.

However, there are also everyday social influences that occur on an individual level between people.

Most importantly however, these techniques are deliberate forms of social influence, whereas the aforementioned in part 1 were implicit forms.

These everyday influences include: the door in the face technique (e.g. Cialdini et al, 1975), the foot in the door technique (e.g. Dickerson et al 1992), and lowballing (e.g. Cialdini, 1974).


When we consider the door-in-the-face technique, Cialdini et al (1975) illustrated its social influence qualities.

In this experiment, the researchers approached university students with a huge request of whether they would like to chaperone a group of juvenile delinquents to a zoo.

83% denied the offer. However, when the students were asked if they would like to sign up as counselors for minimum of 2 years – no one agreed.

When presented with the follow up ‘zoo offer’, 50% agreed.

This is an example of offering a huge request that will inevitably be declined but will lead to an acceptance of a much smaller request.


Another form of deliberate social influence is the foot-in-the-door technique, which requires individuals to express a small initial commitment that would influence them to partake in a larger commitment.

Dickerson et al. (1992) showed the effects of this influence in their experiment. In this study, the aim was to investigate if students could be influenced to conserve water in dormitory showers.

The researchers used this technique by approaching students on campus in a US university to sign a poster on conserving water. Those that did, were asked to be surveyed (a survey which was designed to make them think deeply about their water usage).

Then, there shower times were monitored. It was found that those that had committed to both poster signing and survey had shorter showers by 3.5 minutes across all over students.

This study shows how a small request can lead to a larger commitment and is an effective form of deliberate social influence.


A final influence technique is that of lowballing.

Cialdini (1974) demonstrated this technique in a university setting where he asked first year psychology students to volunteer for a study on cognitive and that it would commence at 7am.

24% agreeds to this. In another group, the same proposition was made, but the time wasn’t given. 56% agreed.

However, when the time was then presented to them (that the experiment is at 7am) and were told they could still back out – 95% of the students still appeared for that experiment.

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Social Influence: An Essay (Part 1/2)

In this essay, the definition of social influence will be looked at along with the forms of such influence (incidental and deliberate). Focus will be placed on why people conform (e.g. Deutsch and Gerard, 1955).

Everyday examples of deliberate social influence will be presented in the form of compliance techniques namely the door in the face (e.g. Cialdini et al 1975), foot-in-the-door (e.g. Dickerson et al 1992), and low-balling (Cialdini, 1974).

Then, the various social influences dictated by particular group dynamics will be discussed.

These types of group dynamics can be divided into scenarios where individual psychology is influenced by the group (e.g. majority influences) and scenarios where groups are influenced by individual psychology (e.g. minority influences.)

In the latter case, we can further categorise the influences into group identification (either by cooperation or competition, Tajfel, 1970, or even prejudice, Macrae, 1994)) and majority influence such as conformity (e.g. Sherif, 1936; Asch, 1951) and obedience.

What is social influence?

Social influence pertains to the change of beliefs, attitudes, and values of a person being influenced. This influence is either deliberate (i.e. explicit feedback regarding how to behave) or incidental (i.e. implicit).

The latter type of influence can occur as a function of social norms. Social norms provide insight into why we conform, for example.

These norms inform others of the shared expectations of what a particular group believes desirable behavior is and it is these norms.

Social norms – two types of influence relating to norms

According to Deutsch and Gerard (1955), there are two types of influence relating to the social norms. These norms either serve an informational or normative purpose.

Informational influence is to reduce uncertainty, which leads us to accept information from others as evidence of reality (e.g. Sherif, 1936). Human beings have a desire for a definite answer, which is opposed to ambiguity and confusion.

They strive for cognitive closure (Kruglanski and Webster, 1996) which is characterized by urgency (e.g. attaining cognitive closure as quickly as possible) and permanency (this closure is maintained long-term).

Normative influence reflects the inherent need for social approval. Conformity occurs in order to build strong social relationships with group members.

Transmission of norms

Sherif (1936) conducted an experiment using the autokinetic effect to investigate the effect of conformity to a perceived group norm.

The autokinetic effect is an optical illusion where a fixed pinpoint of light in a completely dark room appears to move due to the eye movements of participants.

In this experiment, participants watched the light alone and estimated verbally how much this light appeared to move. After a number of trials, the participants had developed their own frame of reference with which they adhere to in their estimations.

Later, the experiment continued in groups of 3-4 where participants took turns in estimating how much the point of light moved. They used each other’s frame of reference, with all estimates being roughly the same.

A group norm had formed to which participants had conformed to once it was established.

Interestingly, when the participants were asked to repeat the task alone it was found that social influence of conformity still compelled the participants to based their estimations of the previously established group norm.

Hence, Sherif’s experiment shows how conformity can occur as a function of informational influence (Deutsch and Gerard, 1955) whereby people use the information of others as evidence of reality.

This is done in order to reduce uncertainty as we as humans strive for cognitive closure (Kruglanski and Webster, 1996).

This is due to uncertainty causing discomfort and confusion and humans will strive to reduce this uncertainty by achieving cognitive closure urgently (i.e. as quickly as possible) and permanently (i.e. for extended periods of time).

Conformity as majority influence on a minority in an ambiguous situation

What is the other reason that people conform?

Deutsch and Gerard (1955) suggest that normative influence (i.e. inherent need for social approval) is another reason. This influence compels us to conform due to an inherent need for social approval and group affiliation.

Conformity occurs as a function of building strong social relationships.

Asch (1951) conducted an experiment where majority influence was a factor in inducing normative influence in the form of conformity among individual participants.

In this experiment, 8 participants were gathered to enter a room, of which 7 were confederates. All participants were presented with two white cards.

On one there were three lines differing in length (a, b, and, c) and on the other there was one line which had to be compared with the lines on the card.

Out of 18 trials in the experiment, the confederates were asked to unanimously make a decision in 12 trials.

Over the critical trials, it was found that 75% of individuals agreed at least once and 32% conformed half of the times. This experiment showed the effect of majority influence over a minority.

Majority influence:
group affiliation and cooperation

However, studies have found that social influence occurs due to mere group affiliation and cooperation.

Tajfel (1970) conducted an experiment in which a group of boys that had previously known each other took part in a series of tasks.

The experiment required them to come into the lab and take part on an experiment on visual perception. One of the tasks required them to estimate how many dots there were on a computer screen.

Then, the participants were divided into groups depending on the performance in the visual task. They were segregated into two groups: under- and over-estimators.

Later, the boys assigned real money rewards to the participants with only knowing their group allocation (there was no real name, just a code).

Even though the group allocation was entirely arbitrary, the boys showed inter-group discrimination and in-group favouritism in their rewards.

That is, they gave less and gave more to out-group and in-group participants, respectively.

Majority influence: prejudice

The aforementioned experiment by Tajfel (1970) touches upon an important issue in everyday life and a majority social influence that occupies a curious position in the literature on social influence, namely prejudice.

Prejudice has been exhibited towards the outgroup in Tajfel’s study.

Macrae (1994) conducted a study on prejudice towards out-group as social influence.

In this experiment, participants were presented with an essay task to write about skinheads (this term was chosen for its political incorrectness).

Group 1 was asked to suppress their prejudices whereas group 2 was given no such instructions.

It was found that group 1 expressed fewer prejudicial views in their essays than group 2.

This showed that there was an obedience effect that had caused their suppression.

Interestingly, when the participants were asked to repeat the essay (without instruction), group 1 had experienced a rebound effect and had become significantly more prejudiced.

This study showed that it can be difficult to suppress a prejudicial idea and the attempt may lead to more prejudice.

Stay tuned for part 2 of 2…

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Three Ways to Improve Your Sleep

According to Dr. Mark Hyman, author of The Ultramind Solution, here are his tips on how to improve your sleep:

  1. Avoid stimulants like caffeine, sugar, alcohol, nicotine before bed.
  2. Try to go to bed at the same time everyday, ideally before midnight.
  3. Don’t watch TV or use your phone or laptop two hours before sleep.

Melatonin is a sleep hormone which is excreted by the pituitary gland when it is dark.

This hormone makes you sleepy, especially when you’re chilling in a dimly lit room.

However, if you watch TV or use your phone or laptop, you’re stopping the natural melatonin secretion from happening.

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The Truth About Sauna & Magnesium Supplements


Chilling in the sauna is such a beneficial pastime.

It relaxes, detoxifies, and rejuvenates. It works wonders for your skin.

But perhaps most importantly, the sauna can activate two genetic pathways that curtail the stress of ageing, according to Dr. Rhona Patrick, ph.D in biomedical science and expert on nutritional health.

One of these pathways includes heat shock proteins which are activated by heat stress. These proteins decrease the rate of cell degeneration.

Interestingly, the effects of these proteins can extend for up to 2 weeks after going to the sauna.

It also activates a gene called Fox03 which is a gene that creates proteins that protect cells from inflammation and oxidative stress.

What this translates to is this: the more you go to the sauna, the lesser your risk of developing any form of cancer.

Magnesium supplements

It’s interesting how you want to do the best for your health and well-being by taking supplements, but if you’re just blindly taking them, you may as well stop and save yourself the time and effort.

Case in point.

I made the mistake of buying the wrong magnesium not once, but twice.

I’ll tell you where the mistake lies.

Both of my magnesium supplements had Magnesium Oxide (i.e. MgO), which is poorly absorbed by the body.

MgO supplements contain 60% magnesium but they’re less bioavailable and for this reason are poorly absorbed by the body.

On the other hand though, magnesium citrate supplements, which have 15% magnesium, are much more bioavailable that MgO and are a better choice for magnesium supplementation, according to a 1990 study published in the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition.”

Basically, using the better absorbed magnesium citrate is a better bang for your buck than supplementing on MgO.

Magnesium lactate and magnesium chloride are also more bioavailable and hence better absorbed than magnesium oxide.

Just goes to show that with anything, you have to get a deep understanding of what you’re doing and immerse yourself in the subject at hand.

Taking supplements blindly isn’t good enough, you’ll spend your money, spend the time taking them, but if you’re doing it wrong – nothing’s going to come of it.

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Why Caffeine is a Poison

It’s interesting how fruits and flowers have evolved to increase their chances of survival.

You know how roses have thorns at their sides?

Well, it’s a defensive survival mechanism to keep animals from eating them.

And the seeds in apples?

Apparently, just one apple seed has enough toxins in it to kill ants on an exponential scale (harmless for humans, though.)

And coffee beans?

The survival mechanism in coffee beans is caffeine.

To insects, caffeine is poisonous whereas for humans it gives us a nice buzz.

In fact, coffee mimics the same effects as dopamine, which explains that sense of euphoria we’ve come to know and love.

Is caffeine really harmless for us?

I love caffeine but short answer: it can be.

It’s a diuretic which means it flushes out water from your body, along with essential minerals like magnesium. Which is why if you drink too much coffee, you might notice that you’re eye or pinky finger might start twitching.

So replenish that magnesium init. Cause magnesium deficiency prevents your body from making serotonin.

It dehydrates you so replenish that water init.

But also, it causes your body to release stress hormones in your body.

When you ingest caffeine, it stimulates your nervous system in the same way that a lion charging at you to eat you would stimulate your nervous system (just on a smaller scale…)

If you’re an avid coffee-drinker, you might not feel the effects of caffeine but your body definitely does because it’s still producing stress hormones to fuel your body.

Caffeine also contributes to the premature ageing and damaging of the brain if not consumed in moderation.

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Why Do You Keep Having Nightmares?

One big part of the answer – and the part we will look into today – is low blood sugar.

Mystery solved. Read on for the juicy details.

Low blood sugar = Nightmares

If you eat something sugary or a big carb-heavy meal before going to sleep, in all likelihood your blood sugar will drop in the middle of the night.

This is because the carbohydrates in your meal spike your insulin levels which in turn lower your blood glucose/sugar levels because the insulin is taking the glucose from your bloodstream and feeding it into your cells.

But after a carb heavy meal or even after a lot of sweets, there is way too much sugar in your bloodstream and hence a huge insulin secretion follows.

What ends up happening is the insulin pushes the glucose into your cells but if you’re asleep and you’re not eating (i.e. supplying glucose to your bloodstream) then your running out of sugar in your blood meaning you end up with low blood sugar.

From experience, I’ve realised that this leads to some really weird dreams and nightmares.

These dreams tire your mind out and upon waking up you don’t feel as well-rested.

How to avoid nightmares caused by low blood sugar?

The body doesn’t process carbs well at night so it is wise to lower your carb intake after 6pm if you don’t need the energy.

If you eat too many carbs in the evening, you end up stocking up on energy/calories which, if not used, end up turning into fat.

Dr Mark Hyman, author of The Ultramind Solution, suggests you don’t eat for up to 3 hours before going to sleep.

In case you get hungry or are in the mood for a snack, the best way to go is to choose a low-glycaemic carbohydrate with protein and/or some form of fibre that will slow the digestion of the carb and will release glucose into your bloodstream at a slow and steady pace.

A common night snack is a handful of almonds, egg whites, Greek yoghurt etc. Cottage cheese has casein which slows carb absorption.

Side note: Aspirin lowers blood sugar! I had some pretty scary nightmares on the two nights that I took aspirin when I wasn’t feeling too well.

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Why Stress Affects Your Happiness

If You Want To Be Happy, Make Your Gut Happy

Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that contributes to your overall happiness, among other things.

It just so happens that 95% of serotonin is produced by gut nerve cells.

So it makes perfect sense to make your gut happy, if you want to be happy yourself.

Because everything that’s happening in your gut is relayed to your brain via the nervous system. After all, the small intestine has as many neurons as the spinal cord.

In the words of Mark Hyman, M.D, author of The Ultramind Solution – “fix the gut, and mood, behaviour, and cognition will improve.”

Happy gut, happy mind.

But some foods can be misleading.

Sugar, for instance.

You eat some sugary food and you feel a pleasure come over you in an awesome wave.

That’s because sugar causes a burst of serotonin.

So yes, temporarily, sugar will make you happy.

But sugar also causes inflammation.

And inflammation leads to low serotonin levels.

This is interesting – in the short term, sugar will make you happy. But in the long term it will make you miserable.

Why does inflammation lead to low serotonin levels?

Stress – The Enemy to Your Happiness

Because where there is inflammation, there is the stress hormone called cortisol.

And cortisol happens to stimulate the activity of enzymes that break down tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin.

In other words, tryptophan is needed to create serotonin.

Trytophan is an amino-acid which comes from food protein like nuts (e.g. almonds, peanuts), eggs, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, buckwheat, spirulina, oats, chocolate, red meat, chickpeas, and poultry.

Cortisol reduces vitamin B6 and Magnesium

But cortisol doesn’t only stimulate enzymes that break down tryptophan; it also happens to reduce tryptophan-to-serotonin-converting enzymes.

More specifically, stress (as well as alcohol or birth control) reduce vitamin B6 levels – an important catalyst for enzymes that convert trytophan into serotonin.

Enzymes needs B6 to tranform tryptophan into serotonin.

What else prevents the creation of serotonin?

Magnesium deficiency, which can also be caused by high levels of stress.

Also, people who have a diet high in caffeine, alcohol, or sugar are likely to have less magnesium in their bloodstreams.

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