Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Award Winner

Recipient of the 2009 Outstanding Master's Thesis Award - Third Place.

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Open Access Thesis


Social impact theory (Latane, 1981) explains social influence as a multiplicative function of strength, immediacy, and number. Dynamic social impact theory (Latane, 1996a) states that four phenomena occur as a result of social influence: a) clustering (those living close together have similar attitudes), b) correlation (once unrelated attitudes become associated), c) consolidation (reduction in overall attitude variance), and d) continuing diversity (in spite of social influence attitudes diversity persists). This study used these two theories to examine how facial attractiveness, weight, and immediacy affect social influence. It. was expected that clustering, correlation, and consolidation would occur to a greater extent when strength was high or when immediacy was high, but especially when both were high. Participants discussed social issues in dyads using an instant messaging program. Target participants received a picture of what they believed their chat partner looked like and information on which university they believed their chat partner attended. Source participants did not receive information about their chat partner. Pictures previously rated for facial attractiveness (low versus high) and weight (average versus overweight) were used to manipulate strength, and I manipulated immediacy by telling participants that their chat partner was from the same university (University of Northern Iowa) or a different university (North Dakota State University) than themselves. Participants' attitudes became more similar to their partners' (clustered) and became more interrelated ( correlated) over time. Furthermore, the strength and immediacy variables affected the degree of influence. When immediacy was high, clustering was greatest when chat partners were believed to be low in attractiveness and average weight, followed by those who were believed to be high in attractiveness and overweight. Participants seemed to be more influenced by those with one, but not two "flaws." Unexpectedly, when immediacy was low, target participants were most influenced by a chat partner believed to be low in attractiveness and overweight. There was limited evidence for consolidation, consistent with previous DSIT research in which there was not an initial majority, as was the case in the current study. The increases in clustering and correlation provides further support for DSIT, and also provides some of the first support using dyads rather than larger groups. The individual level variables that DSIT predicts will affect influence did impact these grouplevel outcomes, but not necessarily in the directions predicted. Facial attractiveness and weight may not be as important as cues for strength in online communications as in faceto-face ones. These results have implications for sales situations and prevention programs. If immediacy is high (such as in face-to-face situations), individuals may want to emphasize a flaw as it could make them more likeable and relatable. In situations where immediacy is low, such as radio or print advertising and public service announcements, appearances may matter less, and an emphasis on the message being portrayed rather than who is portraying the message, may be more effective.

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Helen C. Harton, Chair, Thesis Committee


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Date Original


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1 PDF file (vi, 82 pages)



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