The study of the role that social or external influences and social norms have on human behavior is well-established in sociology and psychology, as evidenced in the assigned readings. Real or false, they have a powerful influence on human behavior. Social influences create social pressure, which arises from one's belief about what other people expect or want them to do. Social norms are the perceived standards of acceptable attitudes and behaviors prevalent among the members of a community. The community can be small (a family or workplace), or it can be large (city, state, country). External influences can lead one to conform to the group norms or obey a perceived authority figure. Conformity can be defined as changing one's behavior or beliefs to match those of other individuals or group members due to unspoken pressure (social/external influences), real or imagined. Requests, or demands, from a perceived authority figure can be construed as orders and when followed can be called obedient behavior. In this paper I will explore the role that external influences play on determining human behavior, how they relate to conformity and obedience in our everyday lives, and how they can limit or expand our perceptions that affect our choice of behavior. .
Although most people think of themselves as individuals able to make their own choices in respect to behavior, there is often a strong tendency to conform to group patterns and expectations. We may seek out groups with interests similar to our own, or we may find ourselves in a group where we are made to feel that we are in the minority. External group influences, either real or imagined, play a key role in determining behavior in these group situations. Both the Sherif and Asch experiments study the effects of group pressure on individuals and how that pressure leads them to the decision to conform to the opinions of a group. .
Sherifâ's experiment involved the so-called autokinetic effect in which a point of light in total darkness will appear to move randomly, when in fact it did not move at all.