An enormous amount of psychological research went into the children's TV program Sesame Street, which had been produced specifically with the deliberate intention of influencing children to read (Wright & Huston,1995). The research showed that small, non-obvious details mattered enormously in overcoming resistance and often contradicted previous educational psychology assumptions. Secondly, the style and design of the programs made what is usually a passive medium an interactive one, asking the children to respond.
The research demonstrated that children did not require interest to watch but rather they watched what they understood and lost interest when they did not understand. The startling result of the program, was that not only was there very little resistance to this deliberate influence, but the improved learning outcomes continued well into adolescence (Recontact project, 1995). Research on Resistance to Crime & Disorder Influences
Zimbardo's famous experiment (Haney et al 1973) into role playing where volunteers cast as prison guards became sadistically cruel to fellow volunteers cast as prisoners shows that social influence profoundly affects behaviour. This also opens up the idea that far from criminal behaviour being oblivious of social effects, it is exquisitely sensitive to it. Once again this research supports the idea that bodily movement acting in concert with mental activity is an extremely powerful combination. Conclusion
The research I have described has told us that while, superficially, resisting social influence depends on a variety of unconnected factors, in fact there may be general principles arising from a broad spectrum consideration. In many cases it seems physical mimicry of a mental activity massively reinforces the influence whether it is 'pretending' to be a guard or imitating a 'yes' by the shake of the head. Interactive TV programmes are more effective than passive ones and seeing you are one of 38 people witnessing a crime seemingly leads to duplicating the passive physical actions (or inactions) of the others.
All of this points to social influence being proportional to the level of synchronised and empathetical human interaction with a physical component and if there is no direct person to mimic then the imagination creates a person to mimic. Thus smoking is the mimicry of the imagination's creation of a 'cool person'. This is a natural facility of human beings but is more developed in some than others. In fact there is an interesting theory that the reason human beings have much larger brains is not for greater intellectual capability but rather to deal with greater levels and complexities of social interaction (Dunbar 1992).
In fact it has been found that for primates, neocortex relative to brain size correlates most closely with group size of the animal (Dunbar 1992). Research has apparently told us in these examples that social influence may follows the old adage "fake it till you make it" and so long as you both think it and do it will work. More than this, psychological research has told us that the topic of resisting social influence is amenable to research study and can produce interesting, surprising and useful results in a subject of monumental importance.