It’s apple picking time in New England.
It just so happens that I have an apple tree in my backyard.
90% of the apples are from my tree are inedible. “Picking” mainly means bending down and collecting apples in their various phases of rot up off of the grass. Some of the decaying fruit is slimy, smelly, and covered in ants.
This is not the most fun Fall activity, especially if you’re my 6 year old daughter, Miranda. Miranda usually runs away screaming when I ask her to help.
But this weekend was different. The neighbor boys, Jeff and Douglas, were in the backyard playing with Miranda, and I asked them if they wanted to help pick up apples. They were happy to help: Rotting, stinky stuff you could throw into a wheelbarrow as hard as you can? Cool!
Once Miranda saw how much fun the boys were having, she jumped into the act as well. (They’re all posing with their handiwork above.) The boys completely influenced Miranda.
This backyard activity is evidence of the power of social proof; the psychological phenomenon where people (thinking others must know more than them) follow their actions. The most famous example comes from Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, (where Tom gets his friends to whitewash the fence for him).
Do you remember when Apple (the company, that is) released the first iPod? At that time, there were other mp 3 players on the market. One thing those others all had in common: black headphones.
What did Apple do?
They made their headphones white. They stood out.
As more and more people walked down your street, wearing white headphones, you thought “If all these other people are wearing these headphones, this iPod must be a good product.” (It didn’t hurt that the advertising supported this feature of the product design.)
The influential might of social proof is that it works its magic at the subconscious level; without you even being aware of it.
Where have you been influenced (or influenced others) by social proof?