What Is Social Thinking and Social Influence in Psychology?


Vincent White

Social thinking and social influence are two important concepts in the field of psychology. They both play a significant role in shaping our thoughts, behaviors, and actions in social situations. In this article, we will explore what social thinking and social influence are and how they impact our daily lives.

Social Thinking

Social thinking refers to the process of how individuals make sense of their own and others’ thoughts, feelings, intentions, and behaviors in social interactions. It involves interpreting and understanding the social cues and context to form impressions and make judgments about others.

Why is Social Thinking Important?

Social thinking is crucial for effective communication and interaction with others. It helps us understand the intentions underlying other people’s behaviors, predict their future actions, and adjust our own behavior accordingly. By being aware of social cues such as body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and verbal content, we can better navigate social situations.

Components of Social Thinking

Social thinking comprises several components that work together to help us make sense of social interactions:

  • Attribution: Attribution involves explaining the causes behind someone’s behavior. We tend to attribute behavior either to internal factors (personal characteristics) or external factors (situational factors).
  • Impression Formation: Impression formation refers to how we form opinions or judgments about others based on limited information.

    We often rely on stereotypes or previous experiences when forming these impressions.

  • Attitude Formation: Attitude formation involves developing positive or negative evaluations towards people, objects, or ideas based on past experiences or beliefs.
  • Perspective Taking: Perspective taking is the ability to understand and consider someone else’s point of view, thoughts, and feelings. It helps improve empathy and fosters better social interactions.

Social Influence

Social influence refers to the ways in which people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by others. It is the power of social situations and the impact they have on individuals.

Types of Social Influence

Social influence can occur in various forms. Here are some common types:

  • Conformity: Conformity is the tendency to adjust our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors to match those of a group or society.
  • Compliance: Compliance refers to changing one’s behavior in response to a direct request or command from another person or authority figure.
  • Obedience: Obedience involves following orders or instructions from an authority figure, even if it goes against one’s personal beliefs or values.
  • Persuasion: Persuasion is the process of intentionally influencing someone’s attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors through communication or manipulation techniques.

Factors Influencing Social Influence

The extent of social influence can be influenced by various factors:

  • Situational Factors: The nature of the situation can greatly impact social influence. Factors such as group size, unanimity, and presence of an authority figure can affect how much individuals conform or comply.
  • Individual Differences: People differ in their susceptibility to social influence based on personality traits like self-esteem, need for affiliation, and desire for autonomy.
  • Cultural Factors: Cultural norms and values play a significant role in determining the level of conformity or obedience within a society.

In conclusion, social thinking and social influence are fundamental concepts in psychology that help us understand how we perceive and interact with others. By being aware of these concepts, we can develop better social skills, make informed decisions, and navigate various social situations more effectively.