ISSUE-054

People's attitudes are determined more by their immediate situation or surroundings than by society as a whole.


Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.


It has been demonstrated by various psychological studies that external factors have a strong influence on the behaviors of human beings. Between, one’s immediate surroundings and the society as a whole, which factor plays a more crucial role in determining our behavior? Admittedly, social norms are certainly important from a theoretical point of view, but in reality it is our immediate situation that plays a more influential role.


To begin with, psychological theories argue that human behaviors are deeply rooted in our social norms because human beings by nature are social animals. As a result, conforming to the society becomes a requirement for any individual who wishes to stay inside the group; on the other hand, those who refuse to obey the social norms will be expelled from the society and likely face death. Over time, our behaviors are deeply influenced by the society we live in, evidenced by people’s different attitude towards homosexuality. From a purely biological point of view, it can be assumed that there should be no difference in people’s opinion because we are a single species. Yet, the truth is that due to reasons like religious and cultural doctrines, people’s attitude towards homosexuality drastically differ across the world. On one hand there are regions in the world where coming out as gays or lesbians could result in penalties or even executions; on the other hand, many countries have legalized marriage of same-sex couples. This example demonstrates how our altitude towards the same issue is determined by society as a whole.


While I do not deny that society as a whole can and does in certain cases influence human behaviors, it should be noted that our altitude is more heavily influenced by our immediate surroundings. For example, jaywalking is undoubtedly not endorsed by the society as a whole for the reason that it breaks the law, which represents the collective agreement on how our world should function. Yet in our real life, there are people crossing the road when the red light is on everyday, especially in large cities such as New York and Paris. One interesting observation is that as soon as one individual begins to jaywalk, others around him or her will follow suit. This example clearly illustrates that between immediate situations and distant social disciplines, people will be more responsive to the former. Another example is the presence of housing district. In theory if the society is ruled based on laws and order, where people live should matter little in determining people’s quality of life. However, it is commonly accepted that one’s immediate neighborhood can affect the quality of living substantially, hence prompting people to choose a better neighborhood allowed by their financial capabilities. To understand why people’s behaviors are sometimes against the will of the society as a whole, we should not forget that the reason for obedience is the fear of exclusion. That said, in our daily life, not all actions will be examined under the light of the entire society, so as long as our behaviors do not cross the red line and represent a blatant challenge to the social norms, we can disregard what the society as a whole thinks. Instead, we will be more heavily influenced by our immediate surroundings because it pertains more directly to our personal interest.


To sum up, I concede that in theory our behaviors must obey the social norms dictated by the society as a whole, in reality it is often acceptable that we disregard the will of the collective mind. In this light, our behaviors and attitude are more directly linked to our immediate surroundings and situations.

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