Social Influence and Crossing the Street…

You are walking down the 16th Street Mall (or any other street in an urban environment). One of the traffic signals which controls the flow of foot and bus traffic along the Mall is red. A person steps out, looks for oncoming traffic, then walks.
 As soon as this one person crosses, others start to follow. Ever wonder why this phenomenon occurs? Hint, it is not because people are stupid… Well, not all of them…

In times of uncertainty, we tend to look to the actions of others in an attempt to ascertain the correct behavior. Commonly, you will hear this referred to as the theory of social proof.

Social proof is utilized in many different situations. Watch any set of commercials and you will see it utilized. Marketers depict actors playing with a product (or test driving a car) and make it appear as if this is candid or hidden camera footage. It’s not…

Where some commercials are more subtle in their approach, the hope is that you will find one of the actors very similar to yourself. The logic then follows, if they like or can afford a certain product, then perhaps I can too.

Now that you know about social proof, you will be amazed by how often it is used to influence people. If you choose to use it yourself, remember… with great power comes great responsibility. Be careful crossing the street.

This was Article 18 from the Studio Quick Facts Series.


Works Cited
Becker, G. (1974). A theory of social interactions.

Cialdini, R. B. (1987). Influence (Vol. 3). Port Harcourt: A. Michel.

Cialdini, R. B., & Trost, M. R. (1998). Social in uence: Social norms, conformity and compliance.

Spears, R., & Lea, M. (1992). Social in uence and the in uence of the’social’in computer-mediated communication. Harvester Wheat- sheaf.

Weinschenk, S. M. (2009). Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click?. New Riders Publishing.

Weinschenk, S. (2011). 100 things every designer needs to know about people. Pearson Education.