Social Influences on Behavior

Topics: Branch Davidian, Waco Siege, Salem witch trials Pages: 7 (1314 words) Published: August 31, 2014


Social Influences on Behavior
Erika Whitacre
PSY300
Betsy Ferronato
July 7, 2014

Social Influences on Behavior
Social psychology is the study of human behavior is response to other people and social situations. Within this study, factors contributing to the shift in behavior when around peers include self concept, social cognition, theory of attribution, social influence, group processes, prejudice and discrimination, interpersonal process, aggression, attitudes, as well as stereotypes. Social psychologists examine how these factors and conditions contribute to the behavior, feelings, thoughts, intentions, and goals of an individual within a group setting (McLeod, 2007). 

Humans are social by nature and learn through observation as well as instinct. This is apparent through the differences in culture and how that produces difference of opinion, attire, family dynamic and verbal communication. This foundation builds an individuals outlook, principles, and behaviors. These are further compounded by social situations and religious organizations (Clark, 1999-2014). 

Religious organizations are social groups that congregate with similar beliefs. Groups may place specific regulations in relation to food, sexual conduct, and relationships. These beliefs encourage and prohibit behaviors that are corroborated by religious instruction and relate behavior with reward or penalty (Clark, 1999-2014).

Within the parameters of religious organizations two major incidents can be associated with social influences on human behavior, the Salem Witch Trials and the tragedy of Waco, Texas. Both have the aspect of how collective behavior with a religious veil can quickly encompass human behavior with social situations. Each event contains a small group or individual that regulates the dimensions of commitment to the faction and disobedience was met with harsh punishment.

During the 17th century the Puritan lifestyle was extremely firm and stringent. Citizens were expected to follow the moral code and to rebuke the rules was a sin subject to the “wrath of God” (Shah, 2008). In 1692 Salem, a group of adolescent girls began exhibiting abnormal behavior, eccentric dances, screeching, and barking. When examined by the town doctor he concluded that they were “bewitched.” This created a panic and the town began to search for who was responsible for corrupting the young girls (ushistory.org, 2014). 

Those accused of being witches were mainly individuals that did not follow the Puritan code and were considered outcasts. Sara Osburn, among the first accuses, was said to have had sex outside of marriage and did not attend church regularly. Another charged woman, Martha Corey, was exiled for having a child out of wedlock. Others charged with witchcraft included “social deviants, outcasts, merchants, tradesman, and others that threatened traditional Puritan values” (Shah, 2008). 

As outlandish as these accusations were, the religious aspect and the desire to keep the community “pure” played an important role in how the witch trials played out. The Puritan community experienced Indian attacks, difficulty acquiring land, an outbreak of smallpox, as well as uncharacteristically harsh winters. Also, the young girls may have propagated the events because of their diminished role in the traditional Puritan lifestyle and the desire for attention and power (ushistory.org, 2014).  These factors coupled with the strong religious values generated the idea that the devil was using the weak to carry out his work and “therefore were deemed punishable under Puritan law” (Shah, 2008). The ‘law’ allowed 20 individuals and two dogs to be killed as witches before the governor commanded the trials stopped (ushistory.org, 2014). 

The Waco, Texas tragedy was the result of the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) attempt to raid the Mount Carmel Center or the Branch Davidian compound. The compound was a communal community led by...

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