Social Proof, at some point most of us will have succumbed to its powerful draw. PerhapsÂ we’veÂ chosen the busy restaurant over the quieter one, been carried along by the momentum of the Mexican wave at a sports stadium or simply joined the burgeoning line at the airport without really knowing for sure if we are in the right line.Â
Regardless of âthe whatâ and âthe whereâ there is a universal truth at play. Witnessing others behaving in a particular way will often lead to us following, in a largely automatic and unthinking fashion.
That a context of consensus will frequently trump cognition is both worrisome and comforting. We worry about being seen as lemming-like, of submitting control of our decisions to the crowd, even if doing so allows us to gain command of some of the more important decisions that we need to make in our daily lives. And yet we can take comfort because such submissions mostly lead us to the right decisions regardless of their magnitude. If my work colleagues are all talking about how they enjoyed that latest movie then I will likely enjoy it too. And if hundreds of them rush from the office building shouting âFIREâ, it probably makes sense to follow them.Â Â Â
Of course not everyone follows the crowd in every context. In some instances some people will purposely not follow the crowd because they want to be different. And some new research is shedding light on when people are most likely to diverge from the social proof of a situation. Understanding these insights could be very useful for anyone looking to ethically and effectively influence others.