Essay On Social Proof

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Social Proof

The objective of this paper is to examine social proof, which is one of the psychological principles of human behavior. The paper will examine the situations in which this psychological principle is applied. It will also explain the principle of social proof from an historical perspective. This will enhance the understanding of the principle of social proof. By the end of the paper, the reader will have understood what the principle of social proof his and how the principle is applied, particularly from an historical perspective.

Social proof, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon where a person or a group of people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect the correct behavior for a given situation. This mostly happens in ambiguous social interactions where a person is unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior. It is driven by assuming that the people that are in the surrounding possess more knowledge about the situation.

The effects of social influence have been seen where there has been a tendency of big groups of people to conform to choices that may be either mistaken or correct. This phenomenon is sometimes called herd behavior. Despite the fact that social proof is a reflection of a rational motive to consider the information possessed by others, formal analysis done shows that it may cause persons to resort too quickly to follow a single choice, such that decisions of large groups are based on very little information.

This psychological principle is a form of conformity. When persons are in situations where they are not sure of the correct behavior, they often look for cues that will show them the correct behavior. In conformity, we believe that the interpretation by others of a situation that is ambiguous is more accurate that ours, and will enable us to be able to choose the most appropriate course of action in that particular situation. Also, a person may conform so that they might be liked or accepted by others.

Social proof does not only lead to public compliance (publicly conforming to the behavior of others without necessarily holding the belief that the behavior is correct), but also private acceptance (conforming to the behavior of others with the genuine belief that they are correct). This psychological principle is more powerful when accuracy is more important and also when there is the perception that others are especially knowledgeable.

One of the mechanisms in which social proof is exhibited is the multiple source effect. This effect occurs when people give more credence to an idea or ideas that have been stated by multiple sources. For instance, there was a study that was carried out that showed that people who hear six positive reviews on a book that has been read by five different people will perceive that book more favorably than if they got the positive review from only one person.

This paper seeks to examine the understanding of one specific psychological principle from a historical perspective. As explained above, the psychological principle under study is social proof. To complete the historical perspective requirement, this paper will discuss cases in history where social proof was applied. For instance, in the history of writing novels and other books, there have been increased sales of books that have got positive reviews from different sources. This is because people tend to believe that the books are better based on the reviews that come from a multitude of people.
The personal interest in the topic is to try and understand the principle of social proof. This is because this is a principle that is applied in everyday life. Readers of this paper will be amazed at the various situations in their lives when they applied the principle of social proof, whether knowingly or unknowingly. They will have a better appreciation of the concept of social proof.


Aronson, E., Wilson, T.D., & Akert, A.M. (2005) Social Psychology (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Kelman, H.C. (1958). Compliance, identification, and internalization three processes of attitude change. Journal of Conflict Resolution 2 (1): 51-60
Platow et al (2005). It’s not funny they are laughing: Self categorization, social influence, and responses to canned laughter. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 41(5): 542-550