Every person has a type of social influence around them. Its is one of the prominent factors which help shape a persons thought process. UPSC mains GS paper 4 helps us understand the social influences people could have and what are the social factors which can persuade a person. It is important for an IAS aspirant to have a basic knowledge of this. So let us read this article.


  • Social Influence
  • Social Persuasion


Social influence refers to the ways people influence the attitudes, valuesbeliefs, feelings, and behaviors of others. Each day we are bombarded by countless attempts by others to influence us.

Consider our daily exposure to radio and television commercials, newspaper ads, direct requests, influence attempts by salespersons, politicians, and so forth.

 Theorists have broadly classified the social influence into three forms – conformity, compliance, and obedience. The key difference between them is as below.

  1. Conformity – Behavior change in response to real or imagined social pressure.
  2. Compliance – Behavior change in response to an explicit request to perform some action.
  3. Obedience – Behavior change in response to an Extreme pressure demand to perform some action.

Social influence varies according to how much pressure is involved. Imitation involves no pressure, conformity involves peer pressure, compliance involves an explicit request to perform some behavior, and obedience is a response to a direct order to perform some action.

In other words, Imitation is the behavior change in the absence of social pressure. The pressure for a behavioural change increases from Conformity → Obedience. Obedience the most direct form of social influence, Conformity is the most indirect form of social influence; compliance is in-between the two.


Persuasion refers to an active attempt to change another person’s attitudes, beliefs, or feelings, usually via some form of communication. Typically, persuasion is treated as a form distinct from that of the other three forms of social influence. As you can rightly guess, it is more related to conformity and compliance.

Persuasion is an active form of influence and is internal in its focus. Change in people’s beliefs or feelings are the goal of such influence.

Systematic persuasion is the process through which attitudes or beliefs are leveraged by appeals to logic and reason. Heuristic persuasion, on the other hand, is the process through which attitudes or beliefs are leveraged by appeals to habit or emotion.

This is a small article which tells you very clearly how social influence shapes a persons thoughts and behaviour. To read more articles on ethics , click here