Law of Social Validation is in action all the time, everywhere:
publicly passing the donation plate to help with a community project;
doing the wave at sporting events; going to popular dance clubs
when you don’t enjoy the surroundings; being afraid to raise
your hand in class to ask a question; franchise owners having their
athletes sign their contracts in public; stacking the top ten most
popular books right in the entryway of a bookstore; the way we
choose restaurants (the ones with the longest lines or the most
cars); the way we choose movies (the ones everyone is talking about);
washing our hands in public restrooms only when somebody else is
watching; and restaurants seating their first patrons near the
window for everyone else to see.
Sometimes theaters even employ “professional audience members” to
start laughter, clapping, and even standing ovations! When audience
members see others stand and cheer or applaud, they are inclined
to do so too. Performers commonly “salt the tip jar” by
placing some money in there themselves. When people see money in
the jar and think that others have already made contributions,
they assume this is the appropriate and acceptable thing to do.
Salting the tip jar is done by pianists, bartenders, bus drivers,
and even the homeless on the street. Even in churches, the practice
of “salting the collection plate” is often employed.
People are more inclined to donate if they are passed a plate that
already holds some bills.
of his crusades, researchers from Arizona State University reported
that Billy Graham’s organization
had coached thousands of volunteers on when to come up front,
when to sing, and when
to clap — all to give the appearance of great, religious intensity.
People manning the phones were even instructed to pretend they
were talking to people when the camera came their way so it appeared
as though they were getting a huge volume of calls. This would
give social validation to the at-home audience that this charity
was popular and an acceptable organization to which to donate your
rental stores use social validity as a means of increasing rentals
on high-profit movies. Older movies return the highest
profit for video rental stores. Storeowners noticed that many customers
would check the return stacks to see what videos other people were
watching. Since the older the movie was, the more profit the store
gained, workers would put older movies into the return bin. Social
validation increased the rentals of the older movies significantly.
Do you recall MCI’s “Friends and Family” campaign?
The result was a gain of 10 million customers in less than ten
years! If we believe friends and family are doing it, then we feel
social proof and family pressure from these people whom we know
so well that it must be a good company or product. That’s
why referrals are some of your best prospects! Referrals are your
greatest source of social validation.
Etiquette is also a form of social validation. When we eat, what
we order, what we drink, where we put our napkins, and how we cross
our silverware when finished are all forms of social validation.
Have you ever noticed how no one wants to be the first to order
dessert? If the majority does not want dessert, most of the time,
no one will.
a powerful manifestation of social validation. New initiates
allow older members to beat them up,
just so they will
be able to belong. Fraternity hazings also reduce the initiate
to a subhuman level – all because of an overwhelming desire
to belong to a group. One fraternity hazing forced new members
to drink so much alcohol that one guy passed out. Members, oblivious
to the seriousness of the situation, thought he was asleep and
left him there to sleep it off. Unfortunately, it turned out he
was found dead the next day, in the same spot as they had left
him the night before. CNN reported on the vicious way in which
some Marines are initiated into the military. The initiation ritual
is called “blood pinning” where the recruits’ badges
are literally pinned into their chests. Psychologists have identified
people belonging to these organizations with what is now called “gang
syndrome.” Gang syndrome manifests itself when a participant
feels shame for the crimes they committed, but went through with
them anyway so they could finally have a sense of belonging, or
a sense of family – typically a feeling they never experienced
in their own home lives.
I once attended a college football game between
two, fierce cross-town rivals. Emotions were high, and we all
wanted our home team to
win. One of the fans near me was using a megaphone to taunt the
other team and its fans. He only meant it in good fun, but it was
not too long before a rent-a-cop came up to the man and told him
he could not use the megaphone during the game. The rent-a-cop
stood in the middle of the aisle of the sold-out game. The fan
said he was just having fun but the rent-a-cop stressed that it
was strictly against the rules. Then the social pressure and validation
kicked in. Other fans nearby told the rent-a-cop that the fan’s
overzealous actions were OK and that there was no problem. The
rent-a-cop tried to persist, but the crowd only grew louder in
their protests. Finally, the rent-a-cop decided it wasn’t
worth the hassle and left.
Even watching someone else “do what’s right” will
give your cause social validation. For example, one study asked
10,000 high school students to give blood. This study found that
those students who were exposed to 38 photos of high school blood
drive scenes were 17% more likely to donate blood than the students
who did not see the photos. Seeing others do the right thing prompts
us to socially validate the cause and jump on board.