Summary. The authors present a reformulation of social influence theory as a taxonomy, decision tree, and glossary sorted through the basis of “Four Fundamental Interpersonal Influence Distinctions,” cognitive processing (conscious/unconscious), perceived intentionality, relative social status, and direction of change. (p. 715). The authors suggest that this reformulation suggests several directions for further research by asking as many questions as it answers. Of particular personal interest in this summary is the perceived intentionality, specifically Unintentional Influence (imitation/antiimitation) that breaks down into indirect conformity, anticonformity, identification, disinhibitory contagion, and residual influence types.
Questions/Problems. The authors explain that there are two areas where issues arise when distinguishing Social Influence from other topics in social psychology. In fact, in most social psychology textbooks, social psychology IS social influence. So the authors propose a definition that is more specific rather than broad to distinguish from sweeping generalities that do nothing more than using a concept to define a concept without really explaining anything. That is the challenge of this new model of approaching the topic. The authors also recognize another challenge: distinguishing among concepts within a traditional sphere of social influence. There is no agreement among scholars regarding concepts, hence the basic reasoning for the authors’ new model.
Methods/The Model. Rather than categorize key concepts into very minute and specific categories that have no means of interacting and overlapping each other, the authors propose a set of elemental characteristics that can be combined into various combinations in order to define much larger sets of terms that occur in discussions and studies of interpersonal influence. They identified the fewest number of “elemental characteristics” in order to distinguish the greatest number of varieties of social influence in the literature. Thus they created, “Four Fundamental Interpersonal Influence Distinctions.” (p. 718).
Conclusion. The authors delineate a set of logically partitioned definitions in the appendix that are most frequently used in social influence literature. With the twenty-four social influence types, the authors construct what they describe as a “periodic table” of social influence elements that are capable of 72 combinations. The authors also include a glossary of each of social influence terms to describe each aspect of social influence possibilities. (p. 726) Yet, they do not include every possible form of influence, including environmental reward, punishment, or result of interdependence. Neither is the status of the influencer included. Several other areas of influence are not included according to the authors that leave much room available for further study. But the vast majority of what they do include covers a wide area of social influence. As mentioned earlier, I am particularly intrigued by the unintentional vs. orthogonal variety of social influence.
Levy, D. A., Collins, B. E., & Nail, P. R. (1998). A new model of interpersonal influence characteristics. Journal of Social Behavior & Personality.