This is part of a series of information/stories delivered from the INCREDIBLE book,  “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini.     If you work or live a life where you have to get people to do thing, Influence studies and explains the 6 most powerful forces to persuade people.  No other book has been recommended to me more, by people smarter than both of us.

In short, they are:

1) Reciprocation

2) Social proof

3) Commitment & Consistency

4) Liking: People prefer to say ” yes” to those they know

5) Authority

6) Scarcity

And they will be a game changer for you and your business.

Today we elaborate on Social Proof.


‘The principle of social proof says so: The greater the number of people who find any idea correct, the more the idea will be correct.  All the weapons of influence discussed in this book work better under some conditions than under others.  In general, when we are unsure of ourselves, when the situation is unclear or ambiguous, when uncertainty reigns, we are most likely to look to and accept the actions of others as correct. In the process of examining the reactions of other people to resolve our uncertainty, however, we are likely to overlook a subtle but important fact. Those people are probably examining the social evidence, too.

Especially in an ambiguous situation, the tendency for everyone to be looking to see what everyone else is doing can lead to a fascinating phenomenon called “pluralistic ignorance.” A thorough understanding of the pluralistic ignorance phenomenon helps immeasurably to explain a regular occurrence in our country that has been termed both a riddle and a national disgrace: the failure of entire groups of bystanders to aid victims in agonizing need of help.

It is founded on the principle of social proof and involves the pluralistic ignorance effect. Very often an emergency is not obviously an emergency. Is the man lying in the alley a heart-attack victim or a drunk sleeping one off?  Is the commotion next door an assault requiring the police or an especially loud marital spat where intervention would be inappropriate and unwelcome?

In times of such uncertainty, the natural tendency is to look around at the actions of others for clues.  We can learn, from the way the other witnesses are reacting, whether the event is or is not an emergency. What is easy to forget, though, is that everybody else observing the event is likely to be looking for social evidence, too. And because we all prefer to appear poised and unflustered among others, we are likely to search for that evidence placidly, with brief, camouflaged glances at those around us. Therefore everyone is likely to see everyone else looking unruffled and failing to act. As a result, and by the principle of social proof, the event will be roundly interpreted as a non-emergency.

In the first experiment, a New York college student who appeared to be having an epileptic seizure received help 85 percent of the time when there was a single bystander present but only 31 percent of the time with five bystanders present.  in another New York—based experiment, 75 percent of lone individuals who observed smoke seeping from under a door reported the leak; however, when similar leaks were observed by three-person groups, the smoke was reported only 38 percent of the time.