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Social Change: Definition, Factors And Theories

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What’s social change?

It’s referring to any major change with time in cultural values, behavior patterns,& norms. Through “Major” change, sociologists mean changes yielding deep social concerns. Cases of major social changes having lasting effects include the feminist movement, the abolition of slavery, and the industrial revolution.

Sociologists’ today willingly readily accepted the important part that social movements play in motivating dissatisfied members of society to talk about social change. Efforts to comprehend the nature of lasting social change, plus looking for patterns and causes has led sociologists to suggest the evolutionary, functionalist, and conflict theories of change. All theories of social change also confess the possibility of opposition to change, especially when people with vested interests feel anxious and endangered by possible changes.

Social Processes lead to Social Change (Discovery, invention, and diffusion.)

Social Process

A process is a sequence of phases that lead slowly to a result. Cultures and societies understanding of social process that result in major changes. They are discovery, invention, and diffusion.


Discovery the process by which something is learned or reinterpreted. It effects alteration by causing people to hear different things that might alter their perspectives, or alter their monotonous to improve themselves built off of the new information established through discovery. For instance, when travelers started to explore the ocean, they revealed that the Earth wasn't flat, but quite round. This lead to new maps being made, as well as new canals and trade-routes emerging due to new exploration under the indication that there was no 'end of the Earth' to fall off of.


Invention the creation of something new from previously existing items or processes. Invention alters society by providing it with new things and thoughts which remain to progress into easier, more resourceful procedures. Let's say, when the airplane was created, it leads to quicker transportation, and space investigation. Inventions assist as indicators as to how fast a society will alter in arrears to the fact that the mineral creations present, then the more creations can be established from those creations, and so forth.


Diffusion the process by which one culture or society borrows from another culture or society. Diffusion is generally influenced by the communication that one society has with another; the more communication societies have, the easier their cultures will start to blend together. Obviously, a part from single culture has to blend well with the existence and actions of another before its embraced. Diffusion happened within America multiple times, when the English colonists developed new planting and reaping ways from the Native Americans; the Native American’s culture gave the colonists means of survival, and therefore the colonists easily embraced their culture.

Factors influencing social change (Technology, Population, Natural Environment)

Other than the three processes for social change. Sociologists have revealed a couple major forces that lead to alteration.

  • Cultural Factors: Our social life depends on our principles, ideas, values, and customs. When there’s an alteration in these, it affects the social life. For example, the associations with the children and parents have endured a huge alteration. The love and need for working has replaced as a cause of huge alteration in family affairs and culture. So, socio-economic and cultural factors act as great and challenging factors of social change.
  • Biological Factors: Are those aspects which define the structure, selection and hereditary assets of generations. The human group is always altering. Every different generation is unalike the one before it. It’s different in ideas and in many other ways.
  • Socio-economic Factors: Marx said that the whole social structure of a country is determined by economic aspects specifically the resources of manufacture and distribution of substantial means of manufacture and distribution. When there are alterations in the means of production it always alters the social organization.

Defining Collective Behavior and its types (rumors, legends, fads, and fashions)

Collective behavior is speaking of the unplanned actions of people who are reacting to the same circumstances.

What’s meant by collective?

When sociologists use this word, they’re speaking about a big number of people who don’t usually work together and who don’t automatically share norms. Sociologists call such gatherings of people collectivity. Circumstances are external actions that cause a retort. Collective behavior includes impulsive social communication in which loosely connected members affect one another’s behavior.

The learning of collective behavior postures a huge problem. Sociologists are used to learning organized not unintended behavior. How’re researchers going to explore a social phenomenon that happens impulsively? In spite of this effort, sociologists have established captivating theories of collective behavior. It turns out that collective behavior includes more configuration and sensibility than seem on the exterior. Sociologists classify multiple types of collective behavior. In the more controlled forms, like crowds and social movements people have physical interaction. We'll see those interactions in the next part. In a dispersed collectivity people are scattered. On the other hand, they’re in some way following shared rules or reacting to shared circumstances. Behavior between members of dispersed collectivities isn’t very adapted.

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People will usually react to specific info in parallel ways, even when physically divided. Fads, fashions, & rumors are collective behaviors typical of dispersed collectivities.

What’s a Rumor?

Rumor is a scheming story of a truth that’s uncertain. They’re normally spread by people about events or other people. The media abuses the public’s appeal with rumors. Entertainment magazines dedicate themselves solely to singers and actors; newspapers are loaded with assumption. These cases propose that rumors and gossip aren’t that different.

An example of a rumor is when there was a warning that when merging a cola and Mentos which is a mixture that would lead to the stomach to blowup. No rumor is true; even so people still spread it and others believe it partially because they’re close to people’s insecurities.

Urban legends

Linked with rumors are urban legends:- are moralistic tales passed along people who swear those stories happened to someone they know. Instead of fairy tales, legends take place in shopping mall, schools and other efficient places. They usually focus on worries and present distress like in-city gangs. A classic story defines alligators wandering the sewers of cities. As warning tales, they advise us against engaging in dangerous behaviors by saying what allegedly happened to someone that did that before. Resembling rumors, they authorize us to play out some of our worries by being terrified by others behavior.


A fad is a fashion that gains devotion rapidly in a culture, and stays popular for a short time before losing its appeal. The common popularity of a fad rests mainly on its freshness. Recent fads include tattoos, piercings,& snowboarding.


A fashion is behavior pattern that’s commonly accepted but is predicted to change from time to time. Fad is embraced by a specific group; fashion is much more common. Fashion changes show up often in stuffs that include personal look like jewelry, clothing; but, architecture and politics are also issue to fashion. Slang is a verbal created fashion. For example, cool, sick, & rad those are all slang terms that were common between young people of multiple decades.

Mass hysteria and panics

Mass hysteria is common, extreme fear and distress for a risk that goes out to be false or blown out of proportions. Periods of mass hysteria are quite rare. One that is frequently-cited is the “War of the Worlds” period. On October 30, 1938, actor Orson Welles aired a radio version of this famous story by H. G. Wells, which included a Martian attack of Earth. The show portrayed the attack happening in New Jersey, and multiple of viewers allegedly thought that an attack was actually happening. This was periods before the Internet, so they called the police, National Guard, hospitals, and got in touch with friends and family members to share their fears. While the next day newspapers carried many stories of stampedes in heart attacks, suicides, and other strong responses to the radio show, these stories turned out to not true.

Defining crowds and its types

A crowd is well-defined as a reasonably huge number of people in close nearness to each other. The crowd responds at once to a shared concern.

There are four types of crowds that’ll be discussed down below:

  • Action crowds are brought together by some mutual purpose. The crowd that partakes in an impulsive burst of joy or hatred, or in a strike demonstration, is in this group.
  • Casual crowd, “there is a common external focus of interest but not a common interest”. So when a crowd meets to see a street incident, the people who create the crowd seek just to please their prying. Occasionally such crowds may meet out of pure panic. These crowds have nothing else to achieve. Sometimes such a crowd is also considered as a spectator crowd.
  • Conventionalized Crowd: Sometimes people are permitted on specific events to be non-traditional in reverence of specific social norms in order to give release to bottled up emotions. For example, while celebrating ‘holi’, holi-celebrators show in their behavior some of the features of crowd behavior. Crowds of this sort are known as conventionalized crowd.
  • Expressive Crowd: Sometimes a group of people show in their behavior all the traits of crowd behavior in order to express their feelings. For example, football supporters show their joy by dancing and singing mottos. Same thing goes for grief & sorrow on an accident or any other incident also show the features of crowd behavior.

Contagion Theory

Contagion usually talks about the extent of a disease from a person to another like contagious. But, Contagion theory is the extent of emotion in crowd or gathering. As emotional strength within the crowd raises people will momentarily lose their personality to the crowd. This gives a chance for a manipultive leader to control crowd behavior.

The root of this theory in Gustave Le Bon work of classic 1885, Gustave was a french aristocrat who hated crowds that were made up of many prople. He thought of the people that participated in the crowds to be reduced to subhuman level.

Another version was offered by Herbert Blumer, an American sociologist have abstracted the collective behavior in a more precise way. He presented the term “milling” and according to him while milling, people become very aware and react to each other freely dodging the outer hassles. A person’s liberated movements are removed through milling which results in showing of nosy and irrational behavioral patterns. So in a crowd the separate behavior of members is joined and they do stuff which they thought difficult. He decided his results with the likelihood of appearance of a new social organization or a social change as the outcome of this extreme collective behavior.


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  4. “Crowd Types: 4 Main Types of Crowd.” Sociology Discussion - Discuss Anything About Sociology, 18 June 2016,
  5. Group Communication, and Interpersonal Communication. “CONTAGION THEORY.” Communication Theory, 10 July 2014,
  8. Baratam, Chinaraja. “The Factors Influencing for the Social Change.” LinkedIn SlideShare, 14 Oct. 2015,
  9. “What Is Mass Hysteria?” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International,
  10. Types of Collective Behavior,
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Social Change: Definition, Factors And Theories. (2021, September 20). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 7, 2023, from
“Social Change: Definition, Factors And Theories.” Edubirdie, 20 Sept. 2021,
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