Social influence is a process by which beliefs, attitudes, motivations, impressions, and behaviors are created, modified, or reinforced. While some scholars use the terms social influence and persuasion interchangeably (as this entry does), others suggest that social influence is a more comprehensive term, encompassing verbal messages that are communicated with intent, as well as nonsymbolic stimuli that sway people unintentionally. Insomuch as this is the case, being convinced by a politician’s well-reasoned arguments would be an example of persuasion and social influence, while perceiving the politician’s perspiration during a debate as a sign of dishonesty would be an example of social influence but not persuasion.

Scholars also disagree about the distinction between persuasion–social influence and coercion. Some, for instance, argue that persuasion requires complete and ...

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