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

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

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

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Key Ideas

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

EXPLORE MORE AROUND THESE TOPICS:

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

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”.

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Primary factors that make horror films alluring
  • Tension - Generated by suspense, mystery, terror, shock and gore.
  • Relevance - The horror film may relate to personal relevance, cultural meaningfulness, the fea...
Viewing motivators for horror movies
  • Gore watchers typically have low empathy, high sensation seeking, and a strong identification with the killer.
  • Thrill watchers typically have both high empathy and sensation seeking;they identify themselves more with the victims and like the suspense of the film.
  • Independent watchers typically have a high empathy for the victim along with a high positive effect for overcoming fear.
  • Problem watchers typically have high empathy for the victim but are characterized by negative effect (particularly a sense of helplessness).
Theories on why we love to watch horror films
  • Dr. Carl Jung believed horror films “tapped into primordial archetypes buried deep in our collective subconscious – images like shadow and mother play important role in the horror genre”.
  • Horror films are watched as a way of purging negative emotions and/or as a way to relieve pent-up aggression.
  • Horror movies are enjoyed because the people on screen getting killed deserve it.
  • Cultural historian David Skal has argued that horror films simply reflect our societal fears.
Missing the signs
Missing the signs

There are many known psychological processes that cause individuals and organizations to miss the signs of a coming crisis – even when the signs are noticeable.

One reason is known as the...

Optimism bias

One possible reason for the "optimism bias" is found in the way we learn new information. People are quicker to change their beliefs when the information is better than expected, compared to information that is worse than expected.

  • If people were told that lockdown would be eased in two weeks, people would quickly update their beliefs. But if experts said it would last longer, people would be less likely to update their beliefs. They will make statements like "I don't really believe it" or "things change."
  • People may underestimate their personal risk of infection.
  • People may fail to adopt precautions like social distancing.
Outcomes bias

Outcomes bias it thinking that because things turned out reasonably good, we can underestimate how close they came to going wrong.

In the past 20 years, there have been two outbreaks of diseases caused by the new viruses. The outbreak of 2003 killed 774 people before it was contained, and the Mers outbreak in 2012 has killed 858. The new virus has far surpassed both.

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