Starting with psychology
Starting with psychology

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Starting with psychology

6.2 Multiple influences

Human beings are complex and it's rarely easy to work out exactly why someone thinks or behaves in a certain way. An interplay of factors are invariably involved both within the individual themselves and outside to do with their wider social context. Factors within the individual include their biology, their thoughts and their feelings. Influencing factors coming from outside include things like relationships, social identities and the wider culture.

However, what is happening ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ a person is invariably interconnected. For example, when we think about something, it's usually related to something outside ourselves. Other psychologists argue that the inside is really a reflection of what's going on outside so it can't be separated out. ‘There is no inner man’, a philosopher called Maurice Merleau-Ponty explains, ‘man is in the world, and only in the world does he know himself’ (1962, p. xi). That said, the words ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ offer a useful short-hand description (and one that fits this course nicely): ‘inside’ factors are the ones discussed in Sections 2 and 3 while the ‘outside’ factors are explored in Sections 4 and 5. Looked at another way, you can see the ‘inside’ referring to personal factors to do with the individual themselves, while the ‘outside’ relates to social influences where other people are involved.

What follows is a case study which will give you an opportunity to think about a number of different influences on a person's behaviour.


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