A History of Social Influence Research

Authored by: Radmila Prislin , William D. Crano

Handbook of the History of Social Psychology

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  October  2012

Print ISBN: 9781848728684
eBook ISBN: 9780203808498
Adobe ISBN: 9781136668999


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The study of social influence has been a defining feature of social psychology since it helped to bring social psychology to the family of psychological sciences more than a century ago. Social influence was incorporated in early definitions of social psychology (e.g., Allport, 1924; Gault, 1921; Sprowls, 1927), and it is included in Gordon Allport’s (1954, p. 5) widely quoted manifesto that social psychology seeks “to understand and explain how the thought, feeling, and behavior of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of other human beings.” Thus, it could be argued that a history of social influence research is a history of social psychology. The goal of this chapter, however, is to provide not a history of the entire field, but rather a focused historical overview of research on how individuals’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are affected by real or imagined normative pressure. How individuals respond to pressure that originates from what others deem appropriate is essential for regulation of social life. It is not surprising, therefore, that understanding social influence is a core necessity for understanding social psychology.

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