- Mental Health
Social Influences on Behavior: Acceptance
People Need to Feel Acceptance
Social Influences on Behavior
The basis of psychology from a behavioral standpoint comes down to how an individual thinks, acts, and is perceived by society. Acceptance is a topic that every person experiences at least one is a lifetime, but for most it is constant. For most people, behavior is affected by environment, parenting, and peer pressure. However, some individuals have other reasons such as social influences that take precedence over what is considered to be normal, acceptable behavior which at times may consider therapeutic intervention.
In the world of the media such as a famous actor or politics for example, acceptance from peers is the utmost important goal in that person’s life. No matter what the individual is experiencing: hardship, financial, or relationship troubles, a person in these positions are exposed to all kinds of criticism based on their actions. This can come from past, present, or even perceived future actions. In the eyes of the media, this can come at a cost. If one is perceived to have even the slightest bid of weakness or troubled past, it affects everyone around them.
Acceptance is also responsible for the way children, adolescents, and adults perceive the media. An example of this would be violence on television or other media reported incidents that when viewed, people react differently depending on their personality traits. A teenager could view violence on the media and would see it as “socially acceptable” therefore may continue the act. A child that is exposed to hate crimes may grow up prejudice. Even adults who are constantly viewing sex crimes or murder in the media may one day commit the act itself. Psychology in society is based on one’s perception of the information taken in at the time. While one person may feel obligated to commit the act, another may do the complete opposite. It just depends on what is considered to be “normal” behavior for that person.
Society bases behavior on perception. Psychological behavior in society relates perception to the act of reasoning behind the behavior. In society, people are expected to behave a certain way. Laws also dictate what behaviors are acceptable in one’s culture. Behavior can change from one culture to the next based on societal standards, religious beliefs, and family values. Take an abused child for example. If this child was taught the behavior is not socially accepted, that child would grow up knowing abuse is bad, if of course, the abuse did not come from a parent or close role model. He or she may grow up to actually defend victims of abuse and could relate on a psychological level to someone who had been abused. If not, this child may commit the same act of violence to peers or siblings.
However, this does not mean the child would not commit the act. This type of behavior is called operant conditioning, introduced by a famous psychologist known as B.F. Skinner, where “the behavior is followed by a consequence, and the nature of the consequence modifies the tendency to repeat the behavior in the future” (1904 - 1990). In other words, the child witnesses the act and due to a positive or negative consequence, will therefore avoid the act out of fear of punishment or promise of reward.
Specific behaviors of acceptance in society include humility, obedience to the law, and helping those less fortunate. Humility is defined as “voluntary self-abasement” or without pride, in essence, the act of being humble, doing a kind act without expecting anything in return such as praise or reward, or not lowering one’s self to humiliate or degrade another human being (Hautman, 2005). While humility can exist in every person around the world, greed can change one’s opinion and behavior.
Take for example Jennifer Lopez, a famous singer and actress. She tries to portray this image of humility while she is extremely wealthy and even writes songs to that effect like “I’m Just Jenny from the Block” in which she sings about how she was from an area of poverty where she grew up yet still managed to become famous. “Jennifer Lopez is a classic example of a rebellious wife… Lopez' own grandmother has expressed disgust and shame over her granddaughters lewd and lascivious behavior” (Stewart, n.d.). She is no more humble than King Henry VIII when he betrayed his country for putting out his true Queen Elizabeth and marrying the deviant Anne Boleyn. Because of this, Jennifer experiences conflict with her family, fails in relationships, and in social psychological concepts is victim of judgment among her peers.
People who engage in this type of self-destructive behavior should have some kind of therapeutic intervention such as group therapy, one on one counseling, and sometimes even medication.
Obedience to the law is expected but rarely followed, especially in America. Statistics show that “causes of crime and poverty in US are racial issues, personal income, geographic location, unemployment, population density and unfair distribution of wealth and other resources among minorities” (Tanvir, 2010). Even the wealthy are affected by obedience to the law. For example, Randy Quaid, a popular actor and brother of Dennis Quaid was arrested for squatting and charged with vandalism of private property. MSNBC reports “Quaid and his wife, Evi, were arrested Saturday after they were found living in a guest house on a million-dollar, Montecito, Calif., property Quaid once owned” (Briggs, 2010).
More and more people are turning to this type of behavior because they can’t afford to live so the crime rate goes up. While this particular behavior doesn’t necessarily require therapy as it seems to be more of a necessity, it is still a crime, punishable by hefty fines and jail time. MSNBC also reports “Luxury homes that are for sale or foreclosed are often unoccupied and under the care of asset managers who typically may be responsible for a lengthy list of idle properties. Many mansions are isolated, walled, cloaked by trees or otherwise hard for passersby to see” (Briggs, 2010) so it is easy to see why people feel the need to take possession, even if temporarily of a house that is unoccupied out of sheer need of a roof over their heads and the inability to pay for it due to the recession, loss of job, and financial hardship.
It is apparent that the decline in the American economy has affected even the wealthiest of people. With more and more people out of work, it becomes harder to purchase such expensive houses making them prime targets for squatters. Realtor Adam Kruse reveals “People are seeing all the negative news (about the housing market) and just deciding to be gutsy and stay in riskier places” (Briggs, 2010).
It may not be so easy to see why people behave the way they do, but if one looks hard enough, there are always reasons. Whether the behavior is socially accepted or not, depends on the area in which one lives. In the two cases described, one seemed morally wrong while the other was more of a need basis; two very different behaviors that society views as right and wrong.
Briggs, Bill. (2010). MSNBC’s Money Today. Squatters moving into upscale neighborhoods
Hautman, Jennifer. (2005). Self Acceptance. Society and Acceptance. Retrieved from
Skinner, B.F. (1904-1990). Personality Theories by D.R. George. C. Boeree. Burrhus Frederic
Skinner - Biography. Retrieved from http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/skinner.html
Stewart, David, J. (n.d.). Help Meet. Line 1, Para. 3. Retrieved from
Tanvir, Nabila. (2010). Crime and Poverty in US Major Cities in The US. Poverty and Crime.
Retrieved from http://economics.fundamentalfinance.com/povertycrime.php