Noted Harvard professor Dr Robert Cialdini, described 6 fascinating principles of persuasion in his famous book ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’ which went on to sell over 2 million copies. The principle of ‘social proof’ is when we subconsciously look to see what others are doing to help us determine what we should do in a given situation.
Now, if I were to ask 100 random people if they are influenced by what others are doing, I estimate that the vast majority would say they are not. Perhaps even as you read this you may think you are immune to social proof but let me tell you – you are not!
Canned laughter or applause on is an example. Everyone hates it and thinks it’s phony. We can usually tell when it’s being used on television. Yet research has shown time and time again that canned laughter causes an audience to laugh longer and more often and to rate the joke as funnier.
People who make a living out of influencing others discovered how to manipulate others using social proof long ago:
- Bartenders and buskers ‘salt’ their jars with a couple of notes to give the impression that tipping notes is normal behaviour.
- Charity fundraisers on television constantly display and communicate how much money other people have donated to reinforce the message that giving money is the correct behaviour.
- Website owners have learned that showing how many facebook ‘followers’ you have keeps readers interested and more engaged (see my followers at the top of this page).
- Theaters plant audience members to clap at the appropriate times and the rest of the audience follows.
Generally we will make fewer mistakes in life by acting in accordance with social evidence than against it. It acts as a convenient shortcut for our brain, which simultaneously makes a strength into a weakness because this automatic subconscious reflex can be manipulated (as above).
So what do we do?
Let’s accept that it took thousands of years for this ‘wiring’ to go in – we are not going to change it easily. Use it to your benefit by putting yourself amongst bright successful people. You will automatically imitate some of their behaviour. This will make you a better investor. I practise what I preach – last year I created a group called the Tycoon Genius Partnership for this purpose. 15 successful investors from all walks of life get together every quarter and talk about what they are doing.
A couple of weeks ago we heard how 3 members of the group formed a small partnership, found a lead in London and are set to make over £600,000 from this contact. Another member took us to his farm and showed us how he manages over 130 tenants. These experiences act as positive social proof and there is no reason why you cannot use this powerful principle to improve your results.