Tag Archives: Social Proof

Are You Influenced By Social Proof?

The other day I was waiting on the corner for a light to change. At some intersections in my city, they two way traffic for cars, and four way traffic for pedestrians. So if you are a pedestrian, you have to wait until the traffic going both in your direction and perpendicular to your direction have a chance to go, before you can walk. But when you do cross, you can either cross directly across, or diagonally. It’s a pretty good system, which many cities use, at least in some of the larger intersections.

I was reminded of back when I was in first grade, and our class was out walking around on the streets outside of school. We were crossing a major intersection, and the teachers (we had a couple of classes joined together) were telling us the importance of staying inside the lines on the crosswalk. This was a long, long time ago, and I’ve killed many brain cells between then and now, but I’m pretty sure one of the teachers put the fear of death into us to keep us inside the lines. We were told that if we stepped outside the lines while crossing the street, we were likely to be run over, as cars only had to stop if we were inside the lines.

And as I walked across the street, my mind drifted onto another conundrum. When does social proof overcome childhood conditioning? I’ve noticed that many times people here will stay firmly inside the lines of the crosswalk. No doubt that people around the world were taught a similar lesson about staying between the lines.

But sometimes, during say a nice Sunday afternoon when there are many people out window-shopping and such, the streets can get pretty crowded. And a large crowd can cross at once. And I’ve noticed while there is a big crowd, even though there is enough space to stay inside the lines, people seem to drift out and walk completely out in the open. Keep in mind that traffic is stopped from all directions; it’s even illegal to make a right or left turns at this point.

In a book on social influence, experimenters went out and stood in crowds waiting to cross a street. They would cross while the light was still red, and more often than not, people would join in. A few times, nobody crossed along with the experimenter disguised as a crosswalk rebel, but usually at least a few people did.

The funny thing is, that when asked about it afterwards, when it was explained that it was a social research experiment for a local university, even the people that didn’t cross when the rebel did explained that they felt an unconscious urge to do so.

Which again, begs the question I posed above. When does social proof, the unconscious desire programmed into our brains by evolution to go along with the crowd, override the messages taught to us as children? Obviously, everybody knows that you have to stay inside the lines, and wait until the light turns green.

Buy why do people feel such a strong pull to overcome these truths taught to us by our parents? At what point do we disregard what we’ve brought up to believe is right and correct, and simply follow the crowd without question?

In the past, our distant, pre-agriculture past, following the crowd meant safety. But what about today? Is it always a good idea to follow the crowd? I doubt a German Jew from the last century would agree that it is.

Usually, you won’t get into too much trouble by simply allowing yourself to be persuaded by the behaviors of large groups. You might buy some junk product that isn’t all that, or be caught on video doing the Macarena at a baseball game, but you usually won’t get into too much trouble.

But one powerful question to ask yourself, if you ever find yourself blindly following the crowd is:

“Would I be doing this if nobody else was?”

And really be honest with yourself, you may be surprised what happens.

I was once in High School, sitting and talking to a friend of mine in algebra class. The teacher usually had us work by ourselves in the last ten or fifteen minutes of class. My buddy and I were talking about the mindless sheep attitude of most people (we were both in our high school rebellion stage). We decided to give the system the finger, break from the crowd and stand up to leave before the bell rang.

Much to our surprise, as soon as we stood, so did everybody else. And while everybody filed out of class before the bell rang, the teacher didn’t even blink.

When you choose not to follow, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to lead.

Join countless others and sign up for our email list! If you don’t follow the crowd and join our list, you’ll be left out in the cold. You don’t want that, do you?

Two Powerful But Little Known Secets Of Persuasion That You Can Use Today

There are two powerful and almost irresistible elements of persuasion that when used correctly, can have a profound effect on the target of your influence. Without these two items, you will have to put a gun to somebody’s head, or implicitly promise some kind of sexual or monetary reward in order to move their thinking towards what you want them to do.

The fact that many advertisements you see today blatantly (and some very covertly) use sex in any way possible to promote products and services shows that even huge marketing and advertising companies are unaware of the power of these two elements.

Because you’ve come across this blog today, you are about to learn them. When you finish reading this, you’ll have a firm understanding of how and why they work, and some sneaky tricks that will allow you to use them starting today to get other people to do what you want.

So what are they?

Social Proof, and Authority.

Humans are hard wired to make decisions quickly. Back in the old days, before agriculture, people lived in small groups of around 200 people. If you made a wrong decision, you usually didn’t last long. Because the environment and living conditions were extremely dangerous, you couldn’t afford to make any mistakes.

Imagine going out chasing a woolly mammoth, and you always had the fear that if you twisted your ankle, or tripped over a rock, or got an infection from a small cut on branch, you were done. Game over. You’d likely be left behind, and probably wouldn’t last long. That’s hard to imagine today when almost any kind of medical ailment is easily treatable.

So humans developed a few shortcuts in decision making. One was social proof. Social proof is a powerful influential factor that causes people to get rid of logic and rational thinking and simply follow the crowd.

This worked beautifully on a woolly mammoth hunt. It kept everybody together and safe from predators. It worked terribly in Nazi Germany when everybody agreed it was ok to murder Jews. It is still working everywhere you look today, from fashion trends, to car styles, to popular restaurants. People don’t like to admit it, but at our core, humans are pack animals.

The second “shortcut” in thinking is authority. Whoever is recognized as the authority in the group will usually be obeyed without question. This goes hand in hand with social proof. The more people follow a leader, the more authority he will have, which of course gives him or her more social proof as a leader.

If you were walking down the street and some homeless guy that reeked of alcohol asked you for your drivers license, you’d laugh. But if a well built police officer with two smaller officers following obediently behind him asked for your drivers license, you probably couldn’t get it out quick enough.

If the man that collects your garbage told you that eating three raw onions a day is the secret to a hundred and fifty years of good health, you’d think he was a nut case. But if you heard a famous doctor, who has written several best selling, and well regarded books on health, say the same thing, you’d likely head straight over to the onion shop. And if you saw many others buying onions by the cartload, that would cement your decision even further to eat three raw onions a day.

The same message from two different sources can have a widely different effect, based only on the source. Shortcuts in thinking.

So how do you apply this to your own persuasion? Simply suggest that some kind of authority agrees with whatever you are saying. And suggest or imply that many people have already done what you are suggesting your target (or mark) do.

For example, if you are selling cars, which do you think is more persuasive:

This is a great car. It gets great gas mileage and will fit nicely in your garage. It’s got many safety features that will keep you and your family safe. It’s red, and red is a good color. I think you should buy this car. Whatta ya say?


Car and Driver is just one of many leading consumer magazines that has given this car a five star rating, based on many factors. When this model first came out it won three awards at the International Car Show in Italy. And of all the thousands of people that have bought this car already, two of the reasons they like it is the great gas mileage, and the incredible safety features. Of course it’s red, which is a very popular color. Many people have found that when they drive a red car, for some crazy reason they feel a boost in self-confidence. Leading Psychological experts have shown that driving a red car boosts your sex appeal as well. Of course, because this model is so popular, you’ll have to make a decision pretty quickly. I have three more appointments today that want to take a look at this car.

Which do you think is more persuasive?

Many experts in the science of persuasion have shown time and time again that the leading sales people who use these two powerful techniques of social proof and authority have quickly become the leaders in their field. Not only that but they get a lot more money and sex. And when you begin to use these powerful techniques in your daily conversation, you’ll be amazed how effective you will be.

Have fun.

Break with Tradition and Choose Your Own Bliss

Once upon a time there was a young peacock, named Roberto. He was a happy peacock, he got enough food, and he had enough friends to play with. One of his favorite games to play with his friends was go see how close they could get to the alligators before running away. Because peacocks can’t fly, it was extremely fun to have to scurry quickly away before getting eaten by the alligator. They didn’t know anybody that had actually been eaten by the alligators, but they all heard of a friend of a next-door neighbors cousin that had tripped while running away, and had never been seen or heard from again. Perhaps this was just a story, or maybe there is some truth to this. Either way they were able to use this to have fun while playing and running away from the alligators.

Lately, though, the young peacocks were talking about a great big meeting of the adult peacocks. Apparently the men and the women would go and meet in a special place, and they would do some kind of secret adult peacock ritual thing, like church or something. The young peacocks didn’t really know what it was all about. And they were too scared to ask the peahens, because well, everybody knows that peacocks and peahens don’t hang out together. It just isn’t cool.

That’s when the rumors started. They said that when young peacocks turn into adults, their feathers change colors. And depending on how much their feathers change, they will become really popular, or not so popular, depending on the color. This caused a great deal of confusion among the young peacocks. Weren’t they already popular? Why did your feathers have anything to do with whether people liked you or not? Pretty soon the two groups, the young peacocks and the young peahens would gather. The peacocks were certain that the peahens were talking about them. They were always whispering and pointing and giggling.

Then one horrible day, young Roberto learned the terrible truth. His father took him aside, and told him how things really were.

“Son, some day you are going to grow some extra feathers. And if you grow really good feathers, you will be popular.”
Roberto gulped, too afraid to ask what would happen if he didn’t grow “really good feathers,” whatever that meant.
His father seemed to sense his apprehension.
“Don’t worry son, you’ll be fine. My father had good feathers, his father had good feathers, and my feathers aren’t too shabby. You’ll be allright.”
Young Roberto, however, wasn’t convinced.
“But what happens if I don’t?”
His father only stood, and walked away.

Three weeks later, Roberto noticed that his feathers were indeed changing. He rushed to meet his friends, some of them also had changing feathers, and some didn’t. They were all confused, and scared. The peahens continued to gather and giggle and point. With every passing day, Roberto and his friends grew more and more anxious. Then one night, he got up the courage to speak with his father.

“Why do they only care about feathers? Isn’t anything else important?” Roberto asked.
His father scratched his head.
“I don’t know son, that’s the way it’s always been.”
“But does it have to be that way?” Robert asked, sensing that his father didn’t have the answers he was looking for.
“I think it does. That’s the way it has always been.” He answered, sounding unsure of himself.
Roberto wasn’t convinced. At all.

The next day he decided to try something different. He gathered his friends, and his courage. He stood up to speak to them.

“Just because everybody before has only cared about feathers, doesn’t mean it has to be that way. You are more than your feathers. It doesn’t matter if your feathers are blue, or green, or the same stupid color as they are now. Who you are on the inside is more important. Your ideas and dreams and goals are what are important. If somebody thinks you are popular only because of your feathers, that’s their problem.”

The crowd of young peacocks was joined, for the first time, by a few brave peahens.

“You mean we can choose on something besides feathers?” A peahen asked.
“Yes!” Roberto answered, the crowd starting to cheer him.
“You can choose based on whatever you want! You don’t have to choose based only on what people before you chose!” The crowd cheered again, the young peahens now mingling with all the young peacocks. They mingled and talked and explored each other’s personalities. Everybody was happy. Everybody was popular, in their own way.

The adult peacocks watched in interest, as the young peacocks and peahens broke with tradition to their own delight and happiness.

“Can they do that?” One older peacock with large, fading red feathers asked.
“I guess they can.” Said another, with a dull set of yellow and oranges feathers, and a large grin on his face.
“I guess they can do whatever they want.” He added.

And from that day on, peacock feathers became only an interesting footnote in peacock history.

How to Lead People Anywhere, Anytime

I was watching this really whacked out cartoon the other day. I rarely watch cartoons, let alone whacked out ones. These two spaceships were fighting each other, and they kept pulling out these different weapons. Each time they shot all their “bullets,” or whatever they were, the enemies ship would lose its shields. But for each weapon that the “good guy” ship would pull out, the enemy ship would come up with a new force field/shield specifically to combat that particular weapon. It was as if the same manufacturer of cartoon space weapons was colluding with the manufacturer of cartoon space weapon defense shields.

For some reason it reminded me of a book I read once on personal auras. It said that people’s auras have many layers. The layer that most people can see is the outer layer, and that is the layer that interacts with other people. Depending on how “in tune” the person in question is, the subsequent layers of their aura are congruent, or matched in aura frequency. I’m not sure of the physics behind it, but it sounded pretty interesting. When a person is really congruent in whom they are, personally, physically, spiritually, their auras will all be in alignment and they will project a powerful presence. It will have an incredible attractive quality to it. If you’ve ever been around somebody that you just could feel really good in this person’s presence, they likely had fairly congruent set of auras. You know the kind of person I’m talking about. The person that when they walk into a room, everybody just kind of pauses in their conversation slightly, and says “whoa…”

The generally overlooked aspect is that people can be powerfully charismatic without regard to their “moral” outlook. Charles Manson, David Koresh, Jim Jones, that crazy Korean cult guy that has a thousand wives. All these guys are incredibly charismatic and attractive, but they are kind of dangerous. OK, really dangerous. Because their underlying message is ultimately one of self destruction. Simply because they are incredibly congruent with their self-destructive message, they come across as being somebody that many people will naturally follow. They are a great example of the fact that whatever ideas you have, whether they be an idea to save the world, or to lead a band of crazy drug crazed hippies into the jungle, if you are consistent with your beliefs and how you present them, people will follow you.

I think one of the strengths, and weaknesses of human nature is that we will follow a leader at the drop of a hat. If somebody stands up and presents a seemingly congruent message with an easy to understand call for action, we will likely follow them. Even if they are a little bit crazy. One of the interesting phenomena regarding this is despite the members of the group; there will always be one that is the de-facto leader. It’s one of those leftover traits from evolution. When we lived in hunter/gatherer bands out on the African Savannah, we needed to rely on a leader. Otherwise we’d wander cluelessly around and get eaten by tigers. It can be a great resource, both to be a follower, and a leader. Especially if the leader is kind and honest and really is concerned about his or her people. Many great leaders in history demonstrate this.

It can also be dangerous to follow somebody if they happen to be the only one you’ve got. It’s hard to ignore the million year old programmed desire to follow an authority figure. It’s much easier to give up rational thought and go behind somebody. Sometimes, though, we need to accept the fact that one of the responsibilities of being an evolved human is to always question authority, and always be on the lookout for your own interests. Always judge how they match up with the interests of the current leader. There are too many horrors of history that illustrate what happens when people have neglected to do this.

As far as auras go, I’ve never really been able to see them. I even bought a special pair of goggles, that were supposed to train your eyes, but I didn’t have the discipline to practice consistently. Maybe I’ll get lucky someday.

Unfortunately, the warring cartoon spaceships never resolved their issue. They each had to return to their respective space colonies to recharge and repair, so they could meet again. I think my friend told me that in the next episode they have to become friends, because they have to unite against a common enemy. We’ll see.


What’s the Plan?

I was having a drink with a couple of friends the other night. We went to a pretty popular bar downtown. It’s kind of a small “warm up” bar that you go to on the way to someplace else. Or sometimes you just go there and hang out for the whole night, because you can get involved in some pretty decent conversations. It is pretty small, and many nights it fills up, so if you are planning on going to a place like this for the night, it’s best to get there a bit early, otherwise you’ll have to find an interesting experience somewhere else. Which isn’t really hard to do, since you can create an interesting experience pretty much anywhere you go. But this particular evening, we were lucky enough to get a table to sit all three of us. We had planned only to have a maximum of two drinks, as we each had other plans we had to be getting to.

Plans are an interesting thing. You never really know if you are in charge of your plans, or if your plans are in charge of you. And when you involve other people, everyone’s plans can merge together into one super plan that is bigger than everyone. And before you know it, you are all collectively submitting yourselves to some nefarious “plan” that has overtaken all your conscious reason. You begin to make sacrifices in the name of the “plan.” It’s like you voluntarily give up your capacity to think for yourself, and choose your own direction. And even when there isn’t a “plan” to submit your higher intelligence to as an offering in exchange for imagined safety, you pretend there is one anyways.

I’m sure you’ve had this experience. You are with a few friends, sitting there, on a Friday or Saturday evening, or whatever evening is your night to relax. You sit around looking at each other, and keep asking yourselves “So, what’s the plan?” Your lack of a plan keeps you from making the most of your time so that you can enjoy yourself. Sometimes you’ll go out and have a fantastic night, all planned by somebody else. Or sometimes not planned by somebody else. Sometimes events are just random strings of overlapping coincidence, which when strung together seem to serendipitously give you a night of fortuitousness enjoyment. What is the difference between luck and chance?

Of course, when you do make a plan, and it comes off without any major hitches, you feel really good. Because you have given yourself a strong message. You can plan and choose your reality. You can choose to live your life however you want. And if you are really bold, you can ask yourself after your plans have flawlessly come out, “Aw, geeze, why didn’t I plan something even better?” I’m sure you know what that is like, right?

So we sat there in the bar, hanging on to our self imposed two-drink minimum. The place filled rather soon after we luckily got our favorite table. So naturally, we were reluctant to leave our seats. If so many people wanted to sit where we were sitting, our seats must be pretty important right? More important than anything else we could do by going out and creating something new, right? Or maybe not. Maybe we were just fooled that because other people wanted what we had, we thought it must be important. And here we were thinking that we were following our own plans. Funny when that happens.


Social Proof – Good or Bad?

I was riding my bike through a park near my house this morning. I saw this old guy next to a small stream. The stream is actually a drainage trough that leads to the ocean. They have built so there are several steps going down as the stream flows out. That way the water can pool in each area between the steps. In a few steps, where the man was looking, there were several fish. He explained to me that these were poi fish. When I asked him why they were so big, he explained that there was an elementary school nearby, and the kids would feed them on the way home. Because they can eat anything, the poi eagerly gobbled up anything the kids threw at them, providing it was edible.

One of the friends I used to work with was a very picky eater. She would take forever to choose what she wanted from the menu. Whenever somebody suggested something, she’d come up with a reason why it wouldn’t be good. Not fresh. Too expensive. Vegetables out of season. And the funny thing was whenever she finally decided to order something, she would invariably see something that somebody else had ordered and decide to change her order. Many times it was something that somebody had suggested earlier, and she’d dismissed for some reason or another. I always felt sorry for the waiter or waitress that had to go back and explain to the chef that he or she would have to start over again.

It’s funny how social proof works. You see somebody standing on a street corner looking up at the sky, and you look at the person. But if you see ten people looking up at the sky, you will almost automatically look up at the sky. This phenomenon has been described by many scientists as a shortcut of thinking. Instead of walking up and asking each person what they are looking at, and then making a determination whether or not to take a gander, the brain automatically floods the body with a strong desire to follow the crowd. It’s as if the ability to think for yourself gets temporarily shut off. This can be helpful, and invariably was helpful during our period of evolution. If you saw a bunch of your cavemen neighbors running very fast one direction, you either had the instinct to immediately join them or get eaten by whatever was chasing them. It can have huge negative effects when you are following the crowd in a bad direction, like in Nazi Germany, for example. Certain traits of human nature can be used both for good and evil. It’s important to monitor your thoughts and actions, and make sure they are your thoughts and actions, and not because somebody or some group of people have hijacked your brain.

But my friend finally realized that it was ok to take the advice of friends. And she learned to take her time to make a decision, so that when she finally made it, she was able to stick with it. And the rest of us were happy because we were all secretly a little bit embarrassed for the waiter. All in all it was a good decision.

And since I’ve been feeding the fish, my favorite part is watching how all the fish that are nowhere near the place where I throw the bread into the water come rushing over as soon as they see one of their fish buddies eating. I guess they follow the rules of social proof as well.


Use Two Simple Social Principles to Create Irresistible Charisma

How would you like to develop an almost psychic ability to determine if other people were attracted to you or not? How would you like to develop such irresistible powers of charisma that people of the opposite sex would melt whenever you showed up?

Not as far fetched as it sounds when you combine two simple but fascinating concepts. You’ll see why in a minute. But first I want to say thanks for all the positive responses I’ve received so far for other articles. It always feels good to get nice feedback.

The first concept involves a study that was done in a university class. The professor was doing an experiment to see if pair bonding in humans follows the rule that like generally attracts like. That is, high status people attract high status people, medium status people attract medium status people and so on. Keep in mind this is not any law of nature or anything set in stone. It was just a simple experiment to show a simple phenomenon.

What they did was give a bunch of students some Popsicle sticks (or something resembling Popsicle sticks) with a number written on them. The numbers ranged from one to thirty, as there were thirty members of the class. The goal was that they all had to pair up, but they each had to pair up with the highest number that they could. The trick was that nobody could see their own number. So the unfortunate folks that had low numbers kept going around trying to pair up with high numbers, and were rejected over and over again. The people that had high numbers suddenly found themselves surrounded by people begging for their attention. All they had to do was to pick the highest number of the group clamoring for their attention.

So then, here is concept number one: 

People tend to set their level of status, at least in part, based on how others treat them.

Now we move on to concept number two. The self fulfilling prophecy. Imagine you are going a party. You are in a bummed out mood, you don’t think anybody will talk to you. So you already have a belief that you are uninteresting. You don’t put on your favorite shirt, you don’t spend too much time getting dressed. When you walk into the party, since you’ve already determined that nobody wants to talk to you, you keep your eyes lowered, you mumble a lot. And guess what? Nobody wants to talk to you.

Have you ever experienced the opposite? You do something really well, and because you are in such a fantastic mood, people treat you like a king. Even people that have never met you before, and have no idea you’ve just done something really awesome.

So then, here is concept number two:

People will treat you, at least in part, based on the level of status you give yourself.

Now imagine if you have these two working against you. You think you are a terrible loser. You walk around, acting like a terrible loser. Because you are acing like a terrible loser, people treat you like a terrible loser. Which makes you feel even more like a terrible loser, which makes people…..  You get the idea.

Now imagine the opposite. Nobody knows you from Adam. But because you feel really good, you walk upright, straight posture, smile on your face, and people naturally treat you kindly and with respect. Which makes you feel better, so you act bolder, more outgoing, with more charisma. Which makes people even notice you even more, and so on and so on.

So if you notice yourself in situation number one, how do you bust out and move into situation number two? Give yourself and others the benefit of the doubt. Briefly turn your focus in on yourself, and cheer yourself up. Give yourself a pep talk. Say nice things to yourself. After a few minutes of this, go out into the world and give others the benefit of the doubt. You smile at somebody and they don’t smile back? No problem, they’re too busy. They’re worried about something. Feel kindness for them, and silently wish them luck. You sit down and somebody fidgets a little bit? That’s ok. That just means that you made them a little nervous because your charisma is naturally growing. Be kind to them.

The trick is once you start paying attention to other people, simply allow yourself to interpret their actions in a favorable light. Who really knows what’s going on in their mind. They more you look for and expect positive feedback from others, the more you’ll naturally be able to see it and appreciate it for what it is.

Proof that you are incredibly charismatic and irresistibly drawing the uncontrollable desire of all those around you.