By Noah E. Friedkin
This publication describes how a community of interpersonal impact can function to shape agreements between people who occupy diverse positions in a gaggle or association. It offers an account of consensus formation that's specific in its integration of labor from the fields of social psychology and sociology interested by staff dynamics and social buildings.
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Additional resources for A Structural Theory of Social Influence (Structural Analysis in the Social Sciences)
First, it should be clear from the discussion in Chapter 1 that structuralists following Merton do not assume that a role structure automatically implies consensus and coordinated behavior among actors who occupy different positions. Mechanisms for the articulation of role-sets and, more broadly, mechanisms for the formation of consensus and coordinated action have been a key concern of structural analysis for some time. 3 Moreover, similarity of opinion does not lessen social conflict. Although proximate (nonidentical) social positions imply similar initial opinions, even slight differences of opinion among actors are a potential source of concern and conflict for actors.
It is useful, for reasons outlined below, to assume a correspondence between these two types of positions; that is, I shall assume that actors who are structurally equivalent in W also have identical row vectors in X (and, therefore, identical initial opinions). , the exogenous determinants of the opinions of actors. As a theoretical construct, X contains all the conditions that affect the initial opinions of actors, and it also may contain a random component. These social positions may be based on individual attributes such as gender, age, and socioeconomic status; they also may be based on ubiquitous roles (physician, father, husband), local status (gang member, community leader), and locations in networks of social relations (friendship networks, authority structures).
I contrast two extreme viewpoints on the effects of social structure. According to one viewpoint, interpersonal influences simply reflect institutionalized elements of social organization and, therefore, the outcomes of such processes are obvious once the institutionalized features of the social structure are laid bare. According to the other viewpoint, institutionalized features of social structure weakly constrain outcomes, and the opinions and behaviors of actors can be understood only by taking into account the informal network of interpersonal influences that connects actors who occupy different social positions.