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Conform to the social norm: why people follow what other people do

http://theconversation.com/conform-to-the-social-norm-why-people-follow-what-other-people-do-107446

theconversation.com

Conform to the social norm: why people follow what other people do
Why do people tend to do what others do, prefer what others prefer, and choose what others choose? Our study, published today in Nature Human Behaviour, shows that people tend to copy other people's choices, even when they know that those people did not make their choices freely, and when the decision does not reflect their own actual preferences.

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Social norms

People tend to conform to behaviors that are common among other people, even when they know that those people did not make their choices freely, and when the decision does not mirror their own desires. 

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Common reasons for conforming

  • One common explanation: we that if everyone else is choosing to do one thing, it is probably a good thing to do.
  • Another common explanation: we fear that failing to follow a norm may have negative social consequences.

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The self-categorization theory

The idea of the self-categorization theory is that people conform to the norms of certain social groups whenever they have a personal desire to feel like they belong.

It is irrelevant whether a norm reflects people's preference, as long as the behavior is associated with the group.

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The cascade effect

We follow arbitrary norms that offer no rational reason for us to conform to them. The norms can snowball when we are influenced by people's earlier decisions.

For instance, if we see a packed restaurant next to an empty one, we assume the packed restaurant must be better. It is possible that an initial arbitrary decision by some early restaurant-goers cascaded into one restaurant being popular and the other one not.

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Conforming to good behavior

Increasingly, social norms are being used to encourage pro-social behavior. They have been successfully used to encourage:

  • Healthy eating
  • Increase attendance at doctor appointments
  • To reduce tax evasion
  • To increase towel reuse at hotels
  • To decrease long-term energy use
  • To increase organ donor registrations.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

How We Copy The Choices Of Others

While eating out, shopping, or during a donation drive, some of us make choices that we wouldn’t normally make.

Studies on consumer behaviour show that while some would mimic or copy the be...

Choices And Social Signals

Our choices become influenced by society, and this creates a vicious circle where what is being done by the other person is seen as appropriate to others.

Extensive studies show people replicate parts of behaviour in a social setting while showing their own preference towards some aspects of the decision. Example: While opting to donate in charitable institutions, people would match the amount but choose a charity of their own preference.

The Allure Of Authority

The Allure Of Authority

Many people are susceptible to follow and be ruled by an authority figure and obey commands that defy logic, reasoning and are also unfair or dangerous to others.

F...

Reasons How Authoritarians Control People

  1. Most people blindly follow a figure of authority due to an inbuilt culture of obedience, where positional power eclipses any sound judgement.
  2. Authoritarians ensure most of the information never reaches people, by discrediting or cutting off the information sources.
  3. They use incremental action by gradually increasing the demands that are made on others.
  4. They ensure that people don’t have any personal responsibility for their actions. Example: Managers hiding behind company policy to justify unfairness at the workplace.
  5. They use the power of fear by discrediting facts, scapegoating, polarization, and divide and rule tactics.

The Two Roads Of Our Brain

Normally, we utilize the ‘high road’, the main regions of the brain (thoughtfulness and reasoning) before any information reaches the amygdala (region of emotional response).

When a brain reacts due to any kind of threat, the main brain regions are skipped as the ‘low road’ is taken, sending the information directly to the emotional processing region, activating stress, anxiety and fear-based reactions.

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The bandwagon effect

It's a cognitive bias that causes people to think or act in a certain manner because they believe that other people are doing the same.

For example, the bandwagon effect might cause...

Examples of the bandwagon effect

  • The bandwagon effect can influence people’s political choices.
  • It can influence consumers’ decisions regarding which products to buy.
  • It can influence users’ decisions regarding how to rate stories or comments.
  • It can influence investors’ financial choices.
  • It can influence doctors’ medical decisions.
  • It can influence organizations’ implementation of new technologies.

Why the bandwagon effect happens

It serves as a mental shortcut that people instinctively use in order to make a decision quickly.

Specifically, bandwagon cues, which are signs that other people believe something or are doing something, can trigger the thought that “if other people like this, then I should too”.