Social influence refers to a change in behavior caused on a person by another because of their interactions. According to sociological scholars, this can either occur intentionally or unintentionally either through conformity compliance or obedience. In the long run, individuals end up changing their perceptions towards themselves, others and the general society (Merton, R.K, 2008).
In other words, a person’s thinking and attitude in life is directly dependant on the surrounding. How they behave is determined by the way they relate with others. So, an individual may, as a result of his interactions, decide to conform, be lured or coerced to behave in a certain manner that reflects that of significant other. In order to explain this concept, sociologists came up with the Cognitive Dissonance Theory; Social Judgment Theory and the Theory of Reasoned Action to make us understand how a person can totally alter his behavior due to external influence.
Cognitive Dissonance Theory
According to this theory, people’s attitude can be changed by the effects of discomfort, doubt, guilt and consistencies. Everyone is sensitive to inconsistencies and contradictions in their lives. They all want to be associated to consistency hence receiving approval from others. Otherwise, they will undergo stressful, uncomfortable and tense experiences. So, individuals will change their attitude and behave in a way that will please others without being contradicted (Hogan, K., 2004).
At the same time, this theory explains that a person’s conduct can be transformed due to persuasions from others. In this situation, a person is begged to behave in a manner that will conform to that of the other interested in shaping him. However, this should be done voluntarily without any form of force or intimidation. All these, when done in an organized manner, will obviously cause a great change in the individual behaviors, attitudes and their interactions with the general community. A positive change will bring harmony, understanding, identity and unity amongst in those interactions.
Social Judgment Theory
This theory states that attitude change only occurs accepts to change his attitude after understanding the message and compares the position it advocates for to his own on that issue. However, this decision is dependent on an individual’s anchor point; judgment and his level of ego- involvement concerning the perceived issue. Meaning, influencing other people does not occur accidentally: it is a process that judgment in reference to his most preferred position (Merton, R.K., 2008).
In this context, an individual will have to make the most appropriate choice from the various options at his disposal. In doing this, they will consider their personal stance in line with that of others within his reach. Therefore, he will opt for the most acceptable choice to him and his peers. If he does this, he will definitely be contented, develop a self fulfillment besides getting acceptance from those he is interacting with.
Theory of Reasoned Action
This theory suggests that human behavior is influenced by an individual’s attitude, the immediate environment and the general subjective societal standard norms about the intended behavior. Besides, it suggests that all these processes occur as a result of learning. Hence, a person gets to understand that his conducts are directly influenced by the environmental factors that are subject to lots of changes that they are to cope up with at whatever costs (Merton, R.K., 2008).
For one to perform a given duty, they must be well acquainted with it, its requirements and the expectations of others about it. Eventually, they either get to accomplish their goals by setting personal goals, imitating others or getting reinforcements from others in case they approve to them.
Hogan, K. (2004) The Science of Influence: How to Get Anyone to Say "Yes" in 8 Minutes or
Less! Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Merton, R.K (2008). Social Theory and Social Structure. New York: Free Press.