Social Proof is a powerful form of influence, but what is it and are you being influenced yourself?
What is Social Proof?
Social Proof is when people look for others for cues on correct or acceptable behavior. To look for approval for doing something or acting a particular way. A good example of social proof being used in order to influence is when fake laughter is used on comedy shows. The canned laughter acts as a social proof trigger, it can greatly influence the viewer to laugh along with the canned laughter. The canned laughter is basically suggesting that something is funny, others find it funny and you should be laughing as well.
Have you ever looked at someone else for a cue for when to laugh or how funny something actually is? It’s actually a very common occurrence. Even if you can’t relate to this example there will be plenty that will. Many people will not be aware that they actually do this.
Social proof is especially apparent in comedy when a potentially offensive joke is told. Some people may be unsure if they should laugh, due to the potentially offensive content of the joke. However when a few people lead the way, others will follow suit and create a type of chain reaction of laughter.
There are many examples of social proof being used as a marketing tactic. Product reviews are great for this, and it isn’t just about the positive reviews. The fact that other people have bought a particular product can encourage others to do the same.
Those with high social status, for example famous actors have a greater influence when it comes to social proof. This is why companies often get celebrities to endorse their products and appear in television advertisements, posters and other advertising forms.
Dark side of Social Proof
There have been several reports and studies that show some disturbing statistics when it comes to the influences of social proof. For example suicide rates have shown to increase after a suicide was reported on in the mainstream media. The best example would be when a well known figure or celebrity committed suicide and it was widely covered and made public by large media outlets.
The same is true for acts of crime including murder. Murder rates and violent crime all increase after a major incident was covered by the media and gains a large audience. These disturbing reports and studies might make you think differently about the information that is made public.
Social proof is like getting validation from others for doing something. Whether it’s to purchase something, or to act in a particular way, whether we laugh or not and even influence and justify how we think and what we think about.