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Social influence occurs when an individual's thoughts or actions are affected consciously or unconsciously by other people and groups. Social influence takes many forms and would include:
- Ethnic values
- Interpersonal influences
- Mass media
- Self brand
- Social approval
- Social desirability
- Social norms
- Social values
The effects of these social influences can be seen in a number of areas studied in social psychology in conformity, socialization, peer pressure, obedience, leadership, persuasion, sales, and marketing, social change, social control and social facilitation.
- Compliance is when people appear to agree with others, but actually keep their dissenting opinions private.
- Identification is when people are influenced by someone who is liked and respected, such as a famous celebrity or a favorite uncle.
- Internalization is when people accept a belief or behavior and agree both publicly and privately.
Morton Deutsch and Harold Gerard described two psychological needs that lead humans to conform to the expectations of others. These include our need to be right (informational social influence), and our need to be liked (normative social influence). Informational influence is an influence to accept information from another as evidence about reality. Informational influence comes into play when people are uncertain, either because stimuli are intrinsically ambiguous or because there is social disagreement. Normative influence is an influence to conform to the positive expectations of others. In terms of Kelman's typology, normative influence leads to public compliance, whereas informational influence leads to private acceptance.
Social influence can also be described as power - the ability to influence a person/group of people to one's own will. Usually people who possess beauty, significant sums of money, good jobs and so on will possess social influence on other, "ordinary" people. So even if the person doesn't possess any "real" or political power but possesses the things listed above (good looks, money, etc.), he could persuade other people into doing something. However, good looks are not solely why attractive people are able to exert more influence than average looking people, e.g. confidence is the by-product of good looks. Therefore, the individual's self-esteem and perceived Persona is the critical factor in determining the amount of influence one exerts.
Those perceived as experts may exert social influence as a result of their perceived expertise. This involves credibility, a form of social influence from which one draws upon the notion of trust. People believe an individual to be credible for a variety of reasons, such as perceived experience, attractiveness, etc. Additionally, pressure to maintain one's reputation and not be viewed as fringe may increase the tendency to agree with the group, known as groupthink.
In the case of peer pressure, a person is convinced to do something (such as illegal drugs) which they might not want to do, but which they perceive as "necessary" to keep a positive relationship with other people, such as the friends.
In 2009, a study concluded that fear increases the chance of agreeing with the group, while romance or lust increases the chance of going against the group.
In his book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell discusses the way new ideas are transmitted by social influence. New products or fashions are introduced by innovators, who tend to be creative and nonconforming. Then early adopters join in, followed by the early majority. By this time, a substantial number of people are using the idea or product, and normative and informational influence encourages others to conform as well. The early majority is followed by a second group that Gladwell calls the late majority, and then finally by the laggards, who tend to be highly conventional and resistant to change.
- Minority influence
- Milgram experiment
- Psychosocial factors
- Reference groups
- Role models
- Social behavior
- Social comparison
- Social determinants of health
- Social movements
- Social reinforcement
- Structural inequality
- Kelman, H. (1958). Compliance, identification, and internalization: Three processes of attitude change. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 1, 51-60.
- Deutsch, M. & Gerard, H. B. (1955). A study of normative and informational social influences upon individual judgment. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 51, 629-636.
- Ivory Tower Unswayed by Crashing Economy. New York Times.
- EurekAlert. (2009). Fear or romance could make you change your mind, U of Minnesota study finds.
- Gladwell, M. (2000). The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, first published by Little Brown. ISBN 0-316-31696-2
- Cialdini, Robert B. (2001). ‘‘Influence: Science and practice (4th ed.)’’. Boston: Allyn & Bacon. ISBN 0321011473.
- Hogan, Kevin (2004) The Science of Influence: How to Get Anyone to Say "Yes" in 8 Minutes or Less! (ISBN 978-0471670513 ).
- Influence At Work, Robert Cialdini's official web site, and Influence at Work: UK in the United Kingdom
- 5 Ways to be Influential Article is on a Canadian politics website.
- Working Psychology Website A webpage written by a professor at University of Southern California, devoted to social influence.
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