Norm formation in social influence networks
I propose a mechanism of norm formation and maintenance that combines classical theory in social psychology on attitudes and social comparisons with a formal network theory of social influence. Underlying the formation of norms is the ubiquitous belief that there is a correct response for every situation and an abiding interest for persons to base their responses on these correct foundations. Given such a belief, a normative evaluation of a feeling, thought or action is likely to arise when persons perceive that their positive or negative attitudinal evaluation is shared by one or more influential others. If interpersonal agreements validate attitudes and transform attitudes into norms, then the development of a theory of norm formation may draw on extant "combinatorial" theories of consensus production that describe how shared attitudes are produced and maintained in groups. The network theory of social influence that I employ is one such combinatorial approach. An important sociological implication of this network theory is that the content of norms must be consistent with the social stratification (or more general pattern of inequality) of interpersonal influences in a group. I illustrate the theory with an analysis of Roethlisberger and Dickson’s (1939) classic observations on the Bank Wiring Observation Room.