Imagine yourself walking on the side of the road, pre-occupied with your next world changing idea and daydreaming about the possibility of money and fame it might bring to you. Suddenly a panicked group of strangers run past you as if they are being chased by something. What do you do?
Do you stop and then casually turn around to visually scan the area? Do you analyse the threat and then make a decision whether to follow the running crowd or just ignore them?
Well if you are a normal human being, chances are high that you would start running with the crowd and postpone the task of analysing the threat level.
Of course, the likelihood of a lion chasing you on a busy city street is miniscule. And at the same the chances are reasonable that the running crowd will suddenly turn around and start laughing at you and shouting “Bakraa!” (Hindi term for someone who got fooled)
You might end up looking like a fool but the “fight or flight” instinct endowed by nature prefers you to be alive and considered fool instead of being torn apart by a ferocious lion in the middle of the street. And for that matter, lions don’t give any specific concessions to rational humans.
As per Wikipedia, social proof is –
A psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation. This effect is prominent in ambiguous social situations where people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior, and is driven by the assumption that surrounding people possess more knowledge about the situation.
In short, monkey see, monkey do. That’s how you can explain the social proof tendency to your kids. Social proof, also known as herding, is a terribly useful mental model from psychology. So let’s dig deeper.
Humans are social animals. We want what others want and we tend to avoid what others avoid. When we’re uncertain, in an unfamiliar environment, we try to resolve the ambiguity by following others
But why is it so? Why do we follow the herd? The answer is evolution – the theory of natural selection.
In the hunter gatherer environment, if you saw a group of panic struck homo sapiens running past you, the obvious conclusion was that they were being chased by a ferocious lion. It gave you a tremendous evolutionary advantage if you started following the herd behaviour under such circumstances. So that’s how the social proof tendency has been wired in human behaviour.
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