Simon Says

Wednesday, November 05, 2008 3 comments

If you are human, no matter how self-confident you are, we all have that voice within that gives us varying degrees of doubt. We all feel the need to fit in, and no-one wants to be wrong, because if we are wrong, then we have failed in some way. Even though a mistake is a vital step in learning and becoming better, a mistake is still perceived as a failure.

If we fail we may be rejected. There again, none of us want to be rejected. If someone rejects us, there must be something wrong with us. If there is something wrong with us, we have failed in someway. We are always looking around us to figure out our place in this world.

As children we learn by observing what all those around us are doing, and by mimicking what we see and hear. Many of us have even played the game “Simon Says”, as children, where we learn to prefect the art.

As we grow we gravitate towards the things that are familiar to us for comfort. When my son was growing up, and his father and I were going through a divorce, my son started changing the friends he chose. I realized that the reason he was choosing those friends was, because they all came from broken families, or had lost one of their parents by death. He felt comfortable with them, because he felt they were the same.

One of the principles they teach to all salesmen, politicians, religions, cults, etc., is the Principle of Social Proof, which is one of the avenues that we use to determine what is correct. When we are unfamiliar with a situation, we look to those around us to see what others are doing, for clues as to how we should behave. If we match up our behavior to what those around us are doing, we are less likely to make a social blunder, and stand out as unacceptable, and feel less vulnerable.

At Christmas time especially, the sales industry uses this powerful effect by making some toy perceived to be extremely popular, so that all the children will believe that they just have to have this toy to be like everyone else. Parents will literally fight for the last one on the shelf. But then, in this example, the sales industry also uses the principle of scarcity to compound the phenomenon, by only producing a limited number, therefore creating even more demand. Toys aren’t the only item that this is used with.

The person most noted for studying this principle is Dr. Robert Cialdini, a social psychologist, who wrote the books, “Influence: Science and Practice”, “Influence: The Psy”, and “Yes, 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive”, which he authored along with Dr. Noah Goldstein and Steve J. Martin, along with several other books and publications. There are five other principles that he talks about, but they will be addressed in other articles.

Sometimes using “Social Proof”, can lead to “pluralistic ignorance”. A common example of this, and one that Cialdini uses to illustrate this phenomenon, is where Catherine Genovese was stabbed to death in 1964, over a grueling 35 minute period, which was witnessed by at least 38 people. Not one of those people telephoned the police until after the woman had died. This very same thing has happened time and time again. Studies have shown that as the number of witness increases, the likelihood of someone in need receiving help decreases.

Social proof is also powerfully influenced by similarity. We trust those that are similar to ourselves, much more readily than we do those that are different from ourselves. Not only that, but say you are an alcoholic. You will gravitate towards those that are also alcoholics or at least drinkers, because your behavior is acceptable to them, and we feel that we belong, whereas, you may not be accepted by others.

“We will use the actions of others to decide on proper behavior for ourselves, especially when we view those others as similar to ourselves.” Dr. Robert Cialdini.

More than 200 years ago, a German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote the book, “The Sorrows of Young Werther”, where Werther ends up dressing himself in boots, a blue coat, yellow vest, sits at his desk with an open book, and shoots himself. The book was later banned in many countries, because following the book’s publication, several young men copied Werther, by dressing themselves in boots, a blue coat, yellow vest, at a desk with an open book, and also committed suicide. It is said that in the year 1962 following the death of Marilyn Monroe, there were over 200 suicides in the next month.

David Phillips studied the suicide statistics in America from 1947 through 1968, and found that following every front page suicide article in the New York Daily News or the New York Times, there would be an increase in others committing suicide by 58%, and this effect has been called, “The Werther Effect”.

Another factor that strongly plays into this effect is the fact that we have a tendency to follow our leaders, and people that we perceive to be in authority, or people that we admire. The Miligram Experiment, is a prime example. That is why advertisers like to use Sports figures, and doctors in their advertising.

Social Proof creates perceived value. How many times have you passed a restaurant that always has a lot of cars parked there, and made the assumption that “they must have great food”?

Don’t forget, “It’s all just an illusion.”

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3 comments: to “ Simon Says so far...

  • spirituality and self help 11/5/08, 2:25 PM

    Great post I agree social proof is something that we all should pay more attention to. However I don't think that people gravitate to each other because of it, I think that they gravitate because of the law of attraction.

  • searchingwithin 11/6/08, 11:17 AM

    Human nature has everything to do with how we behave, although the law of attraction does apply, if you can overcome human nature to benefit from its rewards.

    Like attracts like, vibration attracts like vibration.

    In the case of my son, and his choice of friends, not only were their circumstances similar, their vibration was similar because of it.

    Both are laws of nature.

    ~Best Wishes, and thanks for leaving your handprint behind.~

  • do my essay 4/15/11, 7:15 AM

    An old, but anyway cool game. I guess everyone played it in the childhood. At least I - did