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Social Impact Theory

 

Explanations > Theories > Social Impact Theory

Description | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

This theory states that the likelihood that a person will respond to social influence will increase with:

  • Strength: how important the influencing group of people are to you.
  • Immediacy: how close the group are to you (in space and time) at the time of the influence attempt.
  • Number: How many people there are in the group.

Increasing the numbers has a decreasing incremental effect (going from 2 to 3 has more effect than going from 66 to 67). In fact beyond four or five, the effect tails off rapidly. This is the Social Influence Model.

The effect is most powerful when everyone in the group (apart from the person being persuaded) clearly agree.

Example

In meetings in the workplace, few will speak out if their opinion differs from the majority.

So what?

Using it

Convince one person about something. Then collaborate with them on persuading a friend (find out first who will most easily be convinced). Then work through the group, one at a time. Also work out through interconnected groups.

Defending

When your friends try to persuade you about something, find out who is behind it, and who is just going along with things. Divide and conquer: set up a counter-group. Or expose the situation for what it is.

See also

Normative Social Influence, Social Norms

http://www.dushkin.com/connectext/psy/ch15/impact.mhtml

References

Latané (1981), Latané and Wolf (1981), Tanford and Penrod (1984)

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