The Power of Social Influence on Appearance

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The occurrence of social influence happens when the opinions, emotions and behaviors of an individual are influenced by other individuals in a society whether purposely or accidentally. This is caused due to the way the person who has been influenced, perceives him/herself relatively to the one who has result to the influence or the society at large. There are many ways in which social influence can form itself and be seen. These include, obedience, socializing with other people within the society, through peer pressure, through leadership(s), persuading the other person, conforming to a set of rules and conditions, and through sales and marketing. There are three categories of social influence as identified by a psychologist who worked at Harvard University, Herbert Kelman, 1958. He categorized social influence into, compliance, identification and internalization. Whereby, compliance occurs when a person does seem to agree with another person but does not air their opinions to the other person. Identification occurs when an individual is influenced by a person who is widely known, and many like him/her and has gained respect from many people. On the other hand, internalization occurs if a person does accept the beliefs and opinions of another person and their opinions do concur with the other persons opinions or beliefs (Kelman, 1958).

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Appearance is defined as how a person looks or the impression given by a person to others. A persons appearance maybe affected by several factors that lead to how this person looks or the impression he/she may give to other people. A persons appearance may be learned in that, an individual can be taught the ideal appearance and how it can be acquired and how to present themselves in front of other people in the society. There are certain external determinants and internal ones in the environment of an individual that may results to shaping a persons appearance. These determinants may be found in a persons culture or class or even status that makes them appear in a certain way as compared to other people who are from a different culture, status or class. Many are times ones appearance can be forced upon them. This maybe as a result of them being controlled on how to act, behave and carry themselves around the society. This is usually observed in children whereby their appearance is forced upon them by their parents, in that they are controlled on how they should appear to the society (Maslow, 1970).

Social influence has a large impact on the way people form their appearance. This influence may come from the closest people around us to people whom we barely know. The image of our bodies is formed and changed every day as we interact with people, receive criticism whether positive or negative or when we acquire messages and information from the world over about how we are to appear, that we internalize and make reforms to our bodies based on this information. Families, friends and the society at large play a huge role in this sector (Turner & Oakes, 1986).

Our families are the closest people around us and the ones from whom our understanding about things in life is gained. They nurture us from the time we come into this world until the day they feel that one is grown enough to be set free into the big world. Our families assert views and opinions on us on how it is to be a person in the world. It is from here that we primarily gain understanding and knowledge on the expectations of how we should appear. What is considered beautiful in our families? What is acceptable? With the knowledge and understanding that we acquire from our families, we create, change or transform our appearance so as to meet these expectations. It is from here that the subjective pictures of how our appearance should be begin at (Turner & Oakes, 1986). We learn our own definitions from our families and through the definitions we acquire, we stand by them. For instance, if a girl child hears her sister being referred to as pretty since may be the sister has blonde hair and the child does not have blonde hair, she will grow up knowing that for one to be pretty, they do need to have blonde hair. It is from our families, that we begin to learn what is to be considered good and bad when it comes to ones self.

In most cases, childrens views on how one should appear are influenced by the toys they play with in addition to the many films they get to watch while growing up. This influence portrays the ideal appearance that one should have to them. Thus, influencing the childrens view of how one should appear. Almost 90% of the girls in the ages ranging from 3 years to 10 years have the doll known as Barbie (Cash & Pruzinsky, 2002). This doll has a thin and curvy structure that is hard to attain in real life. This may form an expectation on the little girl in that that is how the body of a lady should be or look like. On the other hand, the boys too have toys that depict the figure of a male person should be muscular. Therefore, most boys would grow up wanting to look like these toy figures.

As we grow older, we get to interact with more people outside our family circle. We make new friends, in school, work places and other places away from home. At this stage the influence that was exerted by our families upon us, starts declining. Friends start playing a huge role in shaping our appearance. The influence from our friends becomes greater making our attractiveness and appearance become too important to us (Cash & Pruzinsky, 2002). Our friends exert a lot of pressure upon us on how we should appear. They set a standard on how we should appear to the world. The influence that comes from friends is the greatest kind of social influences that can be exerted upon a person. Friends exchange information on how one should look, how one can manage their own appearance, what should be done so that one can attain a certain level of attractiveness. It is from these kinds of discussions we learn on and how to internalize the ideals of the body images. Many adolescents are most vulnerable when it comes to this time. This is because it is at the adolescent stage that these teenagers undergo major body transformations and self-consciousness about ones appearance increases.

The influences that come from our families, friends or even the toys that we buy our children, cannot all be the same. Some are controversial. However, all what we acquire from our families and friends gets reinforced by the society at large. With the numerous technological advancements, many people can access the internet through various social media platforms. The media has a great influence upon the whole world. Though, most of these influences tend to be controversial. Each awakening day, we are bombarded with messages from the social sites and other forms of media. We see voluptuous women and muscular men everywhere. These images have a huge impact on what we perceive to be desirable. The exposure of these images occurs repeatedly and talks on how one should appear occur almost each day. This increases the dissatisfaction that one may have with their appearance. Thus resulting to the person ending up changing how they appear due to a certain image they saw on media, or according to a certain advice that was given by an expert. Many are times that the media uses images that are not realistic. Some of the appearance images that are posted on the social media platforms are unattainable.

These images are manipulated, airbrushed so as to remove the flaws that one may have. They use make-up artists, hairstylists and proper lighting which enhance the appearances of most people on the internet. Hence creating a huge difference between what is seen and thought to be beautiful and the appearance that can be attainable in real life. Therefore, when people are exposed to images that are constructed by the digital works, then they will end up going for appearances that are non-existent. The influence from the society tends to be multi-faceted. Numerous sources of information collaborate to come up with what is taken to be an ideal appearance.

A study (Shaw & Stice, 1994) was conducted on women to assess the consequences resulted by the media to the perceived ideal of what thinness is to the society, the satisfaction of how their body are plus the endorsement of the stereotype of what is perceived to be the ideal thinness. This was the primary aim of the study whereas the second aim was to link the reputed mediators to bulimic symptomatology. The study was conducted at Arizona State University whereby 157 female undergraduates were randomly selected and exposed to images on magazines of models who ranged from ultra-thin size to the average size and magazines which had no models. The results obtained showed that the exposure of these ladies to these images that depicted the ideal kind of thinness, resulted to stress, depression, shame, guilt, the dissatisfaction of ones body and one being insecure of their body. Multiple analyses of regression showed that the negative affect, ones dissatisfaction of their body and the subscription to the ideal kind of thinness led to the prediction of the symptoms of bulimia (Shaw & Stice, 1994).

Another study was conducted by Heinberg and Thompson, 1995 whereby, a hundred and thirty nine women watched commercials on the television that either had commercials that talked about appearances which demonstrated images of what the society deemed to be thin and attractive and they also had to watch commercials that did not talk about appearances. The results were cases and measures of anxiety, depression, anger and the dissatisfaction of ones body. The women who participated in this study had been blocked by a slip, a middle split on levels of disposition of the disturbance caused by the images of the body and the attitude imposed by the societies and cultures regarding ones appearance. The individuals who had high measures were more depressed after being exposed to the videotapes that talked about appearance and became less depressed after watching the commercials that were not related to appearance. Furthermore, the people who were more informed and knowledgeable about the awareness of the societies and cultures on appearance were angry and the individuals who had been disturbed by the body images were dissatisfied with how they appeared after watching the commercials that illustrated thinness. The ones who scored below the middle mark on the levels of dispositional disturbance, had improved or had not shown any changes on measures of dependency on the commercials that were about appearance and the commercials that were not related to appearance.

From these studies we can ascertain that the society has a huge influence on peoples appearance. This influence might have positive or negative impact on people. Family and friends may have an impact on our appearances but it is the social media that has a large influence. Researches have been conducted to establish if there is any relationship between peoples appearances and the social media. Many are the results that discovered that there is a relationship between these two. The standards of beauty of the female gender are presented on almost all platforms of social media if not all. These social media platforms show images that depict the ideal appearance that a woman should have. Most of the images have been manipulated thereby showing beauty/appearance standards that are unattainable to many women and dangerous to attain. These images have an influence that is too powerful on how the females see themselves. Most models and ladies who are displayed on commercials and the internet are below the body weight t...

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