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Source: Farnam Street
Published: September 2009

Social Proof

Circulated: February 06, 2020

Social proof is the psychological concept that when we feel uncertain, we tend to look to others for answers as to how we should behave and think. It is driven by the assumption that the surrounding people possess more knowledge about the current situation. It is problematic in that groups of people can reach suboptimal or even outright wrong decisions driven by a natural desire to fit in with others (i.e., groupthink).

Examples

  • Theaters and operas in the 1800s would hire a claque, an organized group that would applaud at pre-arranged times, so that the rest of the audience followed. (Wikipedia)
  • Celebrities will pay for fake social media followers and likes so that they are perceived as more reputable, leading to growth of real followers. (NYT)

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