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Social influence by artefacts

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A review of the paradigms of social influence – suggestion, imitation, normalization, conformity, compliance, conversion – leads me to diagnose a triple malaise: the shrinkage of paradigms to cognitive dual-processing theories of information; the dominant methodology of laboratory experiments falls short of the reality of (mass) communication; and the focus of social influence on inter-subjectivity is only half of the story. I will suggest two extensions of social influence theory to include mass media communication and the inter-objectivity of artefacts. We need to be able to conceptualize the modalities of why, how and to what effect somebody might put up a wall to influence neighbours instead of contenting themselves with putting up a public note ‘Do not trespass!’. Social influence by fait accompli needs to be within the remit of social psychology, otherwise it loses its relevance in a technological society where artefacts mediate most inter-personal relations.

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