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social impact theory


Subject Psychology

Key-Topics social issues

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631202899.1996.x


A general theory claiming that all forms of social influence , whatever the specific social process, will be proportional to a multiplicative function of the strength, immediacy, and number of people who are the sources of influence, and inversely proportional to the strength, immediacy, and number of people being influenced. In addition to its direct utility in making quantitative predictions about a wide variety of social phenomena, it forms the basis for dynamic social impact theory, which predicts the group-level consequences of individual influence processes in spatially distributed populations of people interacting with each other. Social impact theory was introduced in 1981 by Latané, who defined social impact as “any of the great variety of changes in physiological states and subjective feelings, motives and emotions, cognitions and beliefs, values and behavior, that occur in an individual, human or animal, as a result of the real, implied, or imagined presence or actions of other individuals” ( Latané, 1981 , p. 343). The basic metaphor underlying social impact theory is the social force field. Social impact is seen as resulting from social forces (like the physical forces of light, sound, gravity, and magnetism) operating in a spatio-temporal social force field or structure. Social impact theory is a metatheory, rather than a theory of specific social processes. It does ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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