Not available in 2015/16
PS464      Half Unit
Social Influence

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Martin Bauer B804

This is taught jointly with Dr Gordon Sammut, Lecturer at University of Malta, and Visiting Fellow to the Department of Social Psychology.


This course is available on the MSc in Health, Community and Development, MSc in Organisational and Social Psychology, MSc in Social Research Methods, MSc in Social and Cultural Psychology and MSc in Social and Public Communication. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


The course is primarily intended for MSc and PhD students in Social Psychology, in particular those who follow PS429 Social Psychology of Communication or equivalent core modules in Social Psychology. But, conditional to available space, it will be open to any interested MSc or Research Student from across the school.

Course content

This course explores the many modes and modalities of social influence which social psychology has studied and developed concepts for. Modalities of social influence cover processes by which social groups and actors influence private and public opinion, attitudes, social stereotypes, institute norms and ways of life, and achieve recognition and social change. We will discusses the social psychological traditions of social influence analysis (such as rhetoric, crowd behaviour, public opinion, leadership, norm formation, majority and minority influence, resistance, obedience, persuasion, attitudes, mass media effects; inter-subjectivity and inter-objectivity). This discussion will unfold under three parallel perspectives: a) the theoretical and empirical grounding of models, b) the socio-historical context of developments; many social influence models came about in the context of Total War Propaganda of WWII and Cold War mobilisation efforts, and c) in the mirror of current developments which often deploy new language without necessarily treading new ground. The course will discuss contemporary ideas of social influence with reference to canonical paradigms in order to assess scientific progress of what often seems ‘old wine in new bottles’. The course builds a theoretical integration of modalities of social influence in the ‘cycle of normativity and common sense’ including processes of normalisation, assimilation and accommodation of social diversity (Sammut & Bauer, 2011). The moral ambiguity of social influence treads a fine line between promoting wellbeing and social recognition, and manipulating beliefs, opinion and attitudes. This raises ethical issues involved in the study and exercise of social influence in the context of modern public spheres.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT.

Teaching arrangement: the course will be taught as a combination of weekly lecture and discussion seminar. Participants are expected to prepare at least one seminar discussion.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay and 1 presentation in the LT.

Participants will contribute to the reading seminars with a presentation, and they will be able to present an essay plan for formative feedback before the end of term.

Indicative reading

Some key references:

  • Billig M (1987) Arguing and thinking – a rhetorical approach to social psychology, Cambridge, CUP;
  • Habermas J (1989) The structural transformation of the public sphere, Cambridge, Polity Press;
  • Paicheler G (1988) The psychology of social influence, Cambridge, CUP;
  • Pratkanis AR (2007) The Science of Social Influence, NY, Psychology Press;
  • Sloane T O (ed) (2001) Encyclopedia of Rhetoric, Oxford, OUP [various entries: logos, pathos, ethos, argumentation, audience, classical rhetoric, persuasion, rhetorical situation];
  • Sammut G and MW Bauer (2011)  Social influence: modes and  modalities, in: DW Hook, B Franks & MW Bauer (eds) The Social Psychology of Communicaition, London, Palgrave, pp87-106.

Each session will have its own particular readings, separated in essential texts and additional readings. This will be revised on an annual basis.


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in April.

Key facts

Department: Social Psychology

Total students 2014/15: 19

Average class size 2014/15: 10

Controlled access 2014/15: Yes

Lecture capture used 2014/15: Yes (LT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication