We set fire to the head as a neighbor or about social influence

Illustration author: John Kenn Mortensen

Herding feeling or instinct - when reading these words, images of lemmings and crowds of people appear in my head. In fact, lemmings do not commit mass suicides during migration, and people believe in this behavior, as they themselves are influenced by the crowd. A vivid example is Johnstown and the Temple of the Nations.

1978, USA, Johnstown

Jim Jones is the founder and leader of the Temple of the Nations. In 78, he was charged with tax evasion, after which he gathered all his followers and took them to Guyana, where they founded Johnstown. And everything seemed to be quite good, but he soon received accusations of child abuse and torture, and then decided that it was necessary to poison all the inhabitants of the community. Someone, of course, resisted, but they surrendered to social pressure and followed a general example. As a result: the body found holding hands.

Here is one example of social influence and the manifestation of herd instinct. In this article I will try, on the basis of facts and research, to highlight the topic of social pressure. Let's get started!

The main forms of social influence

Find ten differences between pregnant Chinese women.

There are two main forms of social influence:

Informational - when most people think or act in a certain way, their actions set an example for us to follow.

The pressure of the environment - if someone cares about the opinions of others, it is better not to stand out from the crowd and repeat the actions of others, otherwise you can cause the anger of the group.

From examples:

The reason is simple: most people tend to adapt to their surroundings.


Many have known or heard about the test of social psychologist Solomon Asch in measuring the influence of the group on the subject's opinion. A group of six people was given a simple task - to the line on a large white sheet, you need to choose an equal length of three lines projected onto the screen.

The test runs smoothly and unmistakably until everyone responds independently. But as soon as five dummy subjects make a mistake, answering in turn before a real test subject, then he can make a mistake, having gone on about the group instead of the answer, which his senses suggest. The most interesting thing is that it happens quite often - more than a third of the subjects repeat the erroneous answer.

We already know two reasons: pressure from others and unwillingness to cause disapproval of the group, as well as information that is perceived from the responses of others. But there is another reason - people are more easily influenced by others if they know that their answers will be known to others. So with anonymous responses, the number of errors below.

Don't mess with texas

Severe Texans, or rather men from 18 to 24 years old, were heavily littered on the highways in the 70s, and to maintain cleanliness, the government conducted advertising campaigns, but to no avail. The call "not to litter" the people of Texas perceived as a challenge from the bureaucrats and littering even more.

Then the officials decided to turn directly and in accordance with the “true spirit of proud Texas” - directly to the most irresponsible audience.

To this end, the administration has attracted to the advertising team players "Dallas Cowboys". In commercials, they collected and crushed tin cans, and after - thrown into the ballot box with the words "Do not mess with Texas!".

Later, many products appeared with this slogan, singers and other stars were attracted to the advertisement. And in 2006, “Do not mess with Texas!” Was chosen as America’s best slogan.

But the most important thing is that in the six years since the start of the campaign, the amount of garbage thrown out was reduced by 72%, and in 2017 the campaign celebrates its thirtieth anniversary.

Details can be found on the thematic site .

Searchlight and its effect

Many people spend time and effort on conformity because of the fact that they are in the spotlight. As demonstrated by the experiment of Thomas Gilovich “Effect of the searchlight” :

To begin with, the most unfashionable singer was determined by a vote; Barry Manilow won. Then one student was asked to wear a Barry T-shirt and join a group of colleagues who participated in the definition of a unfashionable singer.

Somewhere in a minute the participant in a T-shirt was taken from the room and asked how many people, in his opinion, recognized the singer on the T-shirt. Student assumptions - up to 46%. In fact, only 21% of the participants in the experiment recognized the singer.

Conclusion: people pay much less attention to us than we think, but we believe that we are in the center of attention and try to meet our expected expectations.

Unpredictable popularity


Often, people believe that the popularity of a singer, a book, an actor, a musician or a publication on Habré is inevitable given the talent of the author or the participants, but this is not so. In proof of the experiment by Matthew Salganika :

For the experiment, a music site was created, which registered 14,341 people. The participants were offered a list of songs of unknown groups and a fragment for listening, after listening they had to choose whether to download the song or not, and then give it a rating.

Half of the participants made a decision regardless of the choice of others, based only on their preferences. The other half was divided into eight independent groups (“circle”), in each of which participants saw the number of downloads within their “circle”. The purpose of the experiment is to determine whether people are influenced by others, and whether the popularity of various songs in “circles” will depend on it.

As the experiment showed, in all eight "circles", the subjects more often downloaded songs that were loaded by others many times, and much less often - unpopular. At the same time predict the popularity of the songs was impossible. Songs that were popular inside one “circle” were not seen in the other, and often downloaded in the control group — they could have become popular in some “circles” and were not in demand in others.

In all groups, with the exception of the control group, most of the songs became popular independently of other “circles” based on the number of first downloads. Familiar?

Nicholas Kristakis talked about social influence quite well on TED'e:

At this point I’ll finish the article, and if you have any additions or questions, welcome to the discussion in the comments.


“Nudge. Selection Architecture
Authors: Thaler Richard, Sunstein Cass
Publisher: Mann, Ivanov and Ferber, 2017
ISBN: 978-5-00100-785-2

Source: https://habr.com/ru/post/408649/

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