Not available in 2020/21
PB430      Half Unit
Social Influence

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Martin Bauer QUE.3.04

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


This course is available on the MSc in Organisational and Social Psychology, MSc in Psychology of Economic Life, 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 PB404 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 normalise, assimilate and accommodate private and public opinion, attitudes, social stereotypes, institute normative expectations and ways of life, and achieve recognition and social change. We will discuss the social psychological traditions such as rhetoric, crowd behaviour, public opinion, leadership, norms, opinion and attitude formation, majority and minority influence, resistance and obedience to authority, dual-processes of persuasion, mass media effect models; fait-accompli, inter-subjectivity and inter-objectivity. This discussion will unfold under three parallel perspectives: 1) the theoretical and empirical grounding of influence models; 2) the socio-historical context of their formulation, many models came out of WWII and Cold War; and 3) in the mirror of current formulations which often deploy new language without necessarily treading new ground. The course will discuss current ideas and models in comparison with canonical paradigms in order to assess 'real progress' of what often seems 'old wine in new bottles'. The course builds a theoretical integration of modalities of influence in the 'cycle of normativity and common sense' including the 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 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;
  • Gigerenzer G (2007) Gut feelings, New York: Viking;
  • Habermas J (1989) The structural transformation of the public sphere, Cambridge, Polity Press;
  • Kahnemann D (2011) Thinking, fast and slow; London: Penguin Books.
  • 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: D W Hook, B Franks & M W Bauer (Eds) The Social Psychology of Communication, 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. No one book covers the entire syllabus; students' will be expected to read widely in appropriate journals, and a list of references will be provided at the start of the course.


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in April.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2019/20: Unavailable

Average class size 2019/20: Unavailable

Controlled access 2019/20: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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