5 types of people who influence us (besides celebrities and our parents)

  1. Friends 
    1. As you get older, your friends start to influence you a lot more than they did when you were a young child. Teens spend a lot of time with their friends - often discussing things like relationships, fashion, music and even what career to do. Friends can influence us in both good and bad ways. Friends can help boost our self-esteem and help us get through bad times, like break-ups. But they can also get us into trouble… sometimes they might push you to do things you know you shouldn’t (peer pressure), like drinking alcohol or messing around at school. Friends can also influence our attitudes towards other groups, like people of different races or religions. Sometimes our opinions can change so that they’re more similar to our friends’ opinions and maybe less similar to our parents’. Professor Miles Hewstone, a social psychologist at the University of Oxford, leads research in schools with pupils from different ethnicities. Friendships amongst students at these schools not only influenced the attitudes of the students towards pupils of different races but also had a positive impact on racism across the whole town! 
  2. Fictional characters (TV/films and literature) 
    1. TV, films and books can also have a big influence on us, particularly on our ideas about relationships and morals. Films are sometimes criticised for giving unrealistic ideas of romantic relationships. Lots of films, like Disney, have happily-ever-afters and often show characters falling in love at first sight. Do you think these clichés give us unrealistic expectations of relationships? Or maybe they don’t really have much of an influence on us at all? Books and films often have morals in them. In the film 'Frozen', lots of characters make sacrifices for the benefit of their family and friends, like Princess Elsa hiding away from her sister Anna so she doesn’t hurt her with her special powers. Are films and books partly how we learn about morals? What influence have your favourite films and books had on you?
  3. Politicians 
    1. Because of TV and social media, the faces of key politicians like Theresa May are well known to us. They're on our TV screens most days, and in the case of Donald Trump, his comments are all over Twitter! Live TV debates are now common in the UK before major elections, giving politicians plenty of opportunities to influence our opinions. But before TV and social media, politicians still found ways to influence the public. For example, Adolf Hitler in the 1930s and 40s used carefully targeted propaganda to sway public opinion against minority groups like Jewish people and homosexuals. In some countries like China and North Korea, the government have blocked certain internet sites like Facebook and Wikipedia- what effect do you think this might have on the government’s ability to influence opinion? According to Social Psychology, persuasion is the use of rational or emotional arguments to convince others to change their attitudes or behaviours. Politicians and the media use both types of arguments to influence us. Our job is to decide which arguments are most convincing and who to trust!
  4. Teachers
    1. Love or hate it, teens spend a lot of time at school! So it’s not surprising that teachers can have a big influence on us. Bet your parents, and even grandparents can remember some of their teachers! Teachers can have a big impact on our career choices, like whether or not to go to university or what subjects to study. Good teachers can also really inspire us and influence our whole attitudes to learning. But, some can have a negative influence on us… like knocking your confidence in a certain subject or putting you off a subject because it was taught in a boring way. Researchers at the University of Oxford, led by Professor Cohen Kadosh, study maths anxiety. They study young people and adults who find maths difficult and even frightening. They've found that sometimes their anxiety is related to how they were taught maths at school. Which teachers do you think will stay in your memory?
  5. Religious leaders
    1. Religion has and continues to have a massive influence on people’s lifestyles all around the world. Religious leaders can provide moral guidance leading us to do more of some things, e.g. donating money to charity, and to avoid or do less of other things, like swearing or eating certain foods. Religion can also impact on major decisions in our lives like who to marry or whether or not to have sex before marriage. For some people, religion can even lead them to completely change their lifestyles, like Buddhist monks who live solely off donations from others. How do religious leaders influence you and your friends- if at all?