Social Influence Online

Social Influence Online

Patrick J. Ewell (University of Alabama, USA), Jessica A. Minney (University of Alabama, USA) and Rosanna E. Guadagno (The National Science Foundation, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch665
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Background

Social Influence

As indicated above, social influence appeals target an individual’s attitudes or behavior in an effort to change that individual’s pre-existing response (Cialdini, 2009). Despite the best of intentions (and skill on the part of the influence practitioner), not all social influence attempts are successful. Influence attempts that are unsuccessful do not influence, thus, for the purposes of this review, social influence synonymously referred to as influence, only pertains to examples in which an attempt is successful. The social influence agent or practitioner (i.e., a car salesperson) refers to the person attempting to exert social influence, while the influence target (i.e., a potential customer) refers to the person being targeted in an influence attempt.

The social influence literature generally differentiates between two primary, related types of social influence: compliance and persuasion (Cialdini, 2009). Compliance refers to a change in behavior resulting from a direct request. For example, if a student receives an email from his/her university asking them to fill out a questionnaire on the quality of the recreation center and s/he agrees to fill it out, we would say s/he complied with the request. The influence target (student) may not have changed his/her attitude about the university, the center, working out, or agreeing to requests from his/her university as a result of complying with the request. Persuasion involves changing an attitude or belief. A person browsing his/her social networking news feed before a Presidential election may be bombarded by arguments intended to persuade them to change their political opinion. While these messages may or may not be persuasive, they are unlikely to be related to actual voting behavior. Thus, while there are differences between the two forms of social influence; persuasion and compliance are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC): Any communication mediated by some type of technology medium such as a computer, tablet, cellphone etc.

Heuristic: A mental shortcut for problem solving designed to conserve time and cognitive load but may not deliver the optimal solution.

Influence Target: The person being targeted in an influence attempt.

Social Influence: Change in an individual’s attitudes, behaviors or beliefs due to real, or imagined, external pressure.

Persuasion: A change in an attitude or belief resulting from an influence attempt, direct or indirect.

Compliance: A change in behavior resulting from a direct request.

Social Influence Agent: The person attempting to exert social influence,

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