Understanding Social Influence Differently: A Discursive Study of Livery Yards

Smart, Cordet Anne (2014). Understanding Social Influence Differently: A Discursive Study of Livery Yards. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f09e


The present thesis offers a synthetic, discursive psychological investigation into social influence, as manifested in an everyday context - a livery yard in the south-west of England. Drawing on insights from Conversation Analysis, Discursive Psychology and Critical Discursive Psychology, the thesis demonstrates the limitations of traditional social psychological approaches to social influence, especially in terms of our understanding of how influence manifests itself in everyday life. The thesis argues that in order to understand social influence in practice it is important to study language in action, that is, the discursive and interactional practices through which influence is produced and through which people orient towards the possibility of influence. Also, the thesis examines how influence is mediated by other social actions including the demonstration of competence, exercise of leadership or the production of identity.

The research presented in the thesis is based on the analysis of over 200 hours of audio and video data collected over eleven months of ethnographic work in a livery yard. The livery yard was chosen as the appropriate setting because social influence, in terms of giving, accepting or resisting advice, is a frequent concern both for the owners and the users of the livery yard. Also, the nature of the interactions in a livery yard, and the complexity of the social relationships between the management, staff and the customers meant that different forms of advice giving and orientations to influence could be readily observed, recorded and analysed.

By examining how social influence is produced, oriented to and resisted in an everyday context, and by promoting a synthetic discursive approach to this quintessential social psychological topic, the thesis offers a timely critique of traditional research into social influence and contributes to the broader project of re-specifying social psychology in discursive, social constructionist terms.

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