The Power of Social Proof

May 5, 2014

Ren and Hiedi

I watched this video clip by Bill Whittle about Social proof that just made a lot of sense to me.

Sociologist tell us that one of the biggest forces acting on our individual psyche is the phenomenon known as social proof.

social Proof

We use to call social proof peer pressure.

Social Proof is the almost overpowering psychological need for most people to do what others are doing and to not stand out in a crowd.

Peer Pressure

To get an idea of the power of social proof.

One psychologist suggests that if you should have a heart attack on a busy street in New York City let’s say.

If you go down and the first person behind you looks at you and then just keeps on walking well that will establish a behavioral precedent for everyone else and you very likely will just die there with people walking right past you.

It’s not that they’re bad people and it’s not that they lack compassion.

It’s just that in a stressful situation the compulsion to do what everyone else is doing is almost overwhelming.

Social proof is what makes you keep quiet when other people are spouting nonsense.

Psychologists have discovered that most of us would rather bury our most deeply held core values then be seen to be different especially when different is perceived to be worse.

Here’s my point.

Let’s go to the classic tale of social proof by Hans Christian Andersen.

Hans Christian Anderson

A vain emperor delights in showing off his vast wealth.

A pair of swindlers posing as clothing designers promise to create for him a suit of such splendor and magnificence that only those unfit for office or irredeemably stupid cannot see it.

A few weeks later they return with arm loads of nothing and pretend to drape this fine clothing over the emperor who is too terrified as being seen as stupid or unfit to say anything.

He ooohs and ahhs and when his ministers who also know that only stupid or incompetent people cannot see the fabric. Well they oohs and ahhs as well.

The word gets out and the Emperor parades in his underwear down the street to the capital city and every single person yells and cheers for the sheer magnificence of the clothes that are not there.

Finally a small boy who didn’t get the memo shouts out:

“But he’s not wearing any clothes!”

Emperiors new cloths

So in reality he was naked! It was a Joke! He was so scared what other people might say.

Sometimes I feel like this in life. Everyone is screaming out.

Don’t you see how great this is!

Look how happy I am!

But in reality they are just walking around in their underwear claiming to be so much more.

The crazy part is that sometimes I actually start to feel bad about myself for not just following along and doing what everyone else is doing.

When I was a kid I remember a stain would appear on the carpet. Understandably my parents would get upset. Who spilled juice on the carpet? All the evidence pointed at me but I knew I didn’t do it.

Carpet Stain

They would scream and yell. Just tell us if you did it and it will be over! Sometimes the pressure was so intense that I just wanted to scream out “Fine I did it!” just so the pressure would stop but I didn’t.

This is how I feel sometimes today. People will yell out!!!

That’s crazy!

Why would you do that?

No one else is doing that!

Honestly sometimes the pressure is so intense I want to just say “Fine! I spilled the punch on the carpet just so the pressure will go away but deep down I know it would be a lie and I’m driven by more than what other people think.

I think of Lehi’s dream and the people on the other side of the river in the spacious building making fun of those partaking of the precious fruit.

Lehis Dream

There were even some that had partaken of the fruit yet still fell away because the ridicule and disapproval was just so intense.

My goal in life is to do everything in my power to do what God wants me to do despite anyone or any kind of circumstance.

All the Best!

If you enjoyed this post please comment and share…

PS: Click here to learn more about Ren’s story or Hiedi’s story.

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