Social Influence 2023-24
School of Psychology & Sport Science
Module - Semester 1
We examine different forms of social influence, and some of the many ways people can alter the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours of others. The topic is important because the influence we have on one other both shapes our society and affects us as individuals. We also look at problems around unwanted influence, and ways in which people and large organisations seek to change our behaviour, often without our awareness.
The module has essentially four parts. The first addresses some of the evolutionary psychology behind social influence, and why we humans are so readily influenced by others of our species. The second part looks at some key principles around social norms and their persuasive power. In the third part, we consider a number of influence techniques and how we can (sometimes) defend against them. Finally, we look at some cases studies of mass persuasion, where large corporations are seek to change our behaviours for their own benefit.
Human evolution, social selection, and droup living. How evolution has led humans to be highly susceptible to influence and manipulation
Different kinds of beliefs and the importance of social norms. Ways that social norms can (sometimes) be changed. We will consider some successful examples of social norm change relating to gender inequality and child marriage ; and sanitation in rural India.
Basic principles of persuasion, including associations, reciprocity, loss aversion, social proof, authority, and commitment
The "hook" model and case studies in mass persuasion. We consider two case studies on how the hook model is used to drive revenues in the gambling industry; and social media companies.
-threshold -Some basic consideration of the applications of social influence in the real world.Adequate knowledge of some of the key concepts in social influence. Some errors in use of material covered in class lectures. Weaknesses in understanding theoretical issues with multiple or significant factual errors.Limited evidence of critical analysis and evaluation of theory and research.Arguments are weak with no synthesis and without careful application to the question.Answer only briefly focussed on question and with some irrelevant material and poor structure.Grades in this criteria would range from a D- to a D+.
-good -Clear insight into the applications of social influence in the real world. Substantial knowledge of key concepts in social influence, with evidence of knowledge from recommended further reading. Solid understanding and original interpretation of theoretical issues, mostly free of factual errors. Evidence of critical analysis and evaluation of theory and research. Logically presented and defended arguments presented with some original interpretation. Answer focussed on question, with little irrelevant material and clear structure. Grades in this criteria would range from a B- to a B+.
-excellent -Depth of insight into the applications of social influence in the real world. Comprehensive and detailed knowledge of key concepts in social influence and evidence, going beyond what is covered in class lectures, to include further readings. Excellent understanding and original interpretation of theoretical issues with no factual errors. Clear evidence of critical analysis and evaluation of theory and research. Logically presented and defended arguments presented with coherent synthesis and original interpretation. Answer focussed on question, with no irrelevant material and clear structure. Grades in this criteria would range from a A- to a A*.
-another level-Some insight into the applications of social influence in the real world. Knowledge of key concepts in social influence, that stays close to what is covered in class lectures. Some understanding of theoretical issues, in which the interpretation stays close to what is covered in class lectures. Some evidence of critical analysis and evaluation of theory and research. Some arguments presented but with little synthesis or original interpretation. Answer focussed on question, with some irrelevant material and disorganised structure. Grades in this criteria would range from a C- to a C+.
- Describe basic techniques of social influence, and be able to identify the use of these techniques in practice
- Describe how human social evolution may be tied to human social influence
- Empirically test and evaluate the effectiveness of attempts at social influence
Exam (Centrally Scheduled)
Four MCQ exams will be assigned throughout the term. In total they account for 30% of the module mark. These are completed online in the student's own time. Each exam is one hour, and students have one week to complete the exam from the time of assignment.
Influencing social norms. In this assignment, students use the principles of social norms to describe a campaign to change a collective behaviour.
Assess and Reflect. This final assessment consists of two parts. In the first part, students assess their own and the group's sensitivity to the use of associations, and whether that sensitivity has changed over the course of the module. In the second and more heavily weighted section, students describe an incident from their own experience involving the use of the persuasion principles covered in class, and describe how the attempt at influence might have been made more effective, or might have been better defended.