Not available in 2022/23
PB430      Half Unit
Social Influence Modes and Modalities

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Gordon Sammut

This course will be offered by Dr Gordon Sammut, Lecturer at University of Malta, and Visiting Fellow to the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science, and co-author of the key text for this course, Sammut & Bauer (2021).



This course is available on the MSc in Behavioural Science, 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 as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


Previous exposure to social psychology concepts and research will be an advantage. Otherwise, the course is open to any MSc or Research Student interested in ‘soft power’ from across the school.

Course content

Starting from the distinction between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ powers, this course covers the options of ‘soft power’, or the modes and modalities of social influence (Sammut & Bauer, 2021). Over the years, social psychology has developed these options both conceptually and empirically. Modalities of social influence cover processes by which social actors normalise, assimilate and accommodate opinion, attitudes, stereotypes, institute normative expectations and ways of life, and achieve recognition and social change. We will discuss the social psychology of inter-subjectivity and inter-objectivity through rhetoric, crowd behaviour, public opinion, leadership, norm and attitude formation, majority and minority influence, resistance and obedience to and compliance with authority, dual-processes of persuasion, mass media effect models; and the designs of fait-accompli. This discussion will unfold three 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 the Cold War efforts); and 3) in current reformulations which often deploy new language without necessarily treading new ground in what is often 'old wine in new bottles'. The course builds up the Periodic Table of Social Influence [PTSI] with the 'cycle of normativity and common sense' and including the normalisation, assimilation and accommodation of social diversity (Sammut & Bauer, 2021). 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 with the 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.

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay outline (max 1000 words) and students are expected to contribute 1 seminar presentation in the LT to receive feedback.

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.

• Moscovici, S, G Mugny and E VanAvermaet (1985) Perspectives on Minority Influence, Cambridge and Paris, CUP and edition MSH

• 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.

• G Sammut and MW Bauer (2021) The Psychology of Social Influence – Modes and Modalities of Shifting Common Sense, Cambridge, CUP

While the course will take Sammut & Bauer (2021) as a textbook, each session will have its own additional readings. Students' will be expected to read widely in appropriate journals, and a list of references will be provided at the start of the course.

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 the ST.

Key facts

Department: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2021/22: 10

Average class size 2021/22: 9

Controlled access 2021/22: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

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Personal development skills

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