What Does Social Influence Theory Say?


Martha Robinson

Social influence theory is a psychological concept that explains how individuals are influenced by others in society. It suggests that people tend to conform to the behavior, attitudes, and beliefs of the group they are a part of, or aspire to be a part of. This theory has been studied extensively in social psychology and has many practical applications in everyday life.

Types of Social Influence

Social influence can be broadly classified into three types:

  • Conformity: This occurs when an individual changes their behavior or beliefs to match those of the group they belong to.
  • Compliance: Compliance refers to when an individual changes their behavior or beliefs due to a request or demand from another person, even if they do not agree with it.
  • Obedience: Obedience occurs when an individual changes their behavior or beliefs due to direct orders from an authority figure.

The Factors That Affect Social Influence

There are several factors that can affect social influence. Some of these include:

  • Social Norms: These are unwritten rules that dictate acceptable behavior within a particular group. Individuals are more likely to conform if they believe their actions align with these norms.
  • Status: Individuals with higher status within a group are often more influential than those with lower status.
  • Social Support: The presence of others who share similar views can increase an individual’s willingness to conform.
  • Anonymity: Individuals may be more likely to engage in non-conformist behavior if they feel anonymous or less visible within their group.

The Importance of Social Influence

Social influence is an essential aspect of social behavior. It plays a crucial role in shaping our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Social influence can help us learn from others, adapt to new situations, and develop a sense of shared identity with those around us.

However, social influence can also have negative effects. It can lead to groupthink, where individuals prioritize group harmony over critical thinking. It can also result in conformity pressure, where individuals may feel pressured to conform to group norms even if they disagree with them.


In conclusion, social influence theory is an important concept that helps us understand how individuals are influenced by their social environment. By understanding the factors that affect social influence and its potential benefits and drawbacks, we can make more informed decisions about our own behavior and the behavior of those around us.