Social validation sale
For the most part, we are all conformists. We will do what the crowd does. We may not like to admit that, but it’s true. Only 5 to 10 percent of the population has behaviors contrary to the social norm.
We see this law operating in groups, in organizations, in meetings, and in day-to-day public life. In all these circumstances, there is a certain standard or norm. In churches, the moral code determines the standard acceptable behavior for the group. In organizations, bylaws and years of tradition establish a standard operating procedure. Because we want to fit into these groups and maintain our membership with them, we adjust our actions to the norm.
We seek to discover what others are doing as a way to validate our own actions. This method is how we decide what constitutes “correct” behavior. We see behavior as more correct when we see others doing it. The more people do it, the more correct it becomes. Professor Kirk Hansen of the Stanford School of Business proved it when he boosted downloads of the best-selling files on the Web by downloading those files over and over again to make the counter artificially high. Later, he and his team observed that these enhanced downloaded files were downloaded more frequently. The high number on the counter indicates popularity, and people were more interested in downloading the files that were already ranked highest. If the question is what to do with an empty soda can in the park, how fast to drive in the city, or how to eat the soup in a restaurant, validation from others gives us our answers and therefore guides our actions.
We feel validated when we see others do what we want to do. We learned early in life that we make fewer mistakes when we follow the social norm. There are two types of rules: explicit and implicit. Explicit rules are openly spoken or written. For example, road signs, employee manuals, or rules of the game are examples of explicit rules. Implicit rules are not usually stated openly. For example, you usually don’t need to say hello or smile when you see someone, but you do it anyway. Or, somehow, you know not to put your feet on the table when you are a guest in someone’s home, even though your host will most likely not ask you to refrain from doing so.
If we don’t know the norm, we look around and find it. The Law of Social Validation becomes a way to save time and energy to discover what is the right thing to do. We use the behavior of others to guide our own actions, to validate what we should or should not do. We don’t always have to look at the positives and negatives in every situation. This self-timer keeps us from thinking. We compare what we do to the standard of what others do. If we find a discrepancy between what we observe and what we do, we tend to make changes in the direction of the social norm.
Social validation forces us to change our behaviors, our attitudes, and our actions, even when what we observe doesn’t really match our true feelings, style, and thoughts. We go against our better judgment because we want to be liked, accepted, and found in agreement with everyone else. When we are part of a crowd, “we no longer feel individually responsible for our emotions or actions. We can allow ourselves to yell, sing, cry, or hit without the temper imposed by personal responsibility.”
We look for social norms that help us know what we should feel or do. For the most part, this is not a conscious process. We unconsciously accept many forms of behavior that are determined by our environment and the actions of others, such as raising our hands to speak in class, tipping in a restaurant, or how we behave at a concert. When we become part of a group, our emotions and feelings, which were once divergent, tend to converge.
When we find ourselves in a strange situation where we feel uncomfortable or unsure of how to act, we look for those social cues that will dictate our behavior. This could be at a party, during freshman orientation, or even while attending a family reunion. When the social information we’re looking for is completely ambiguous, we don’t know how to respond and so we keep looking for social clues. Imagine if you were sitting in the theater enjoying your show when someone yelled, “FIRE!” Do you think you would jump and run for it? Well, if everyone else did, you would too. If everyone remained seated, you would remain seated too.
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