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The Psychology of Social Proof and Why It Makes Word-of-Mouth Marketing So Effective

Let’s Start from the Beginning: What is Social Proof?

Social proof is a result of a deeply rooted psychological bias. It implies trust in other people. The forms of this trust include the belief that the majority knows better and that the best way to make a decision is to look at people and see which decision they’ve made. As most psychological biases, this one generally makes sense.

Think of your behavior in any new environment: at a new workplace, or at a party where you don’t know anyone, or in a foreign country. Every reasonable person will first observe what others do before making any decisions regarding their own behavior. In the end, this is how evolution taught us to think. Humans that would appear in a new tribe and talk and dance without figuring out the language and rules of politeness were killed first.

And yet, relying on the behavior of others is a mental shortcut. We’re supposed to take the behavior of other people as a clue as opposed to a certain proof that the behavior is correct. But often, we see others and we simply copy their ways, ignoring or devaluing other clues.

The bias works best when we’re uncertain in what to do, whe… Read More

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