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Opinion Leaders

  • By: Christopher J. Carpenter
  • In: Encyclopedia of Health Communication
  • Edited by: Teresa L. Thompson
  • Subject:Public Health Education & Health Promotion, Health Psychology, Health Communication

Opinion leaders are people who, through some combination of their abilities and their location in their social network, are able to effectively persuade many people to change their attitudes and/or behaviors. The study of opinion leaders has its roots in many fields and, as a result, there is a constellation of related concepts such as champions, influentials, facilitators, change agents, lay health advisors, and others. What unites these various terms is the focus on people who are able to informally influence others.

Researchers have identified many traits that they believe allow opinion leaders to influence others, but there is unfortunately little agreement about what represents the core traits needed for an individual to be an opinion leader. This may be because the effects of opinion leaders ...

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