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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.

@christopher_gc489

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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. 

  • 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.

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.

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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RELATED IDEAS

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.

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IDEAS

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.

Take advantage of the bandwagon effect

For example, you could choose to openly display social proof or bandwagon cues, in order to signal to other people that there is support for whatever it is you are promoting

Video-sharing sites demonstrate the benefits of displaying these cues, since people often use popularity cues such as the number of views that a video has in order to decide whether to watch it or not.