Know Your Nuggets: Social Proof


You arrive at a party at an unfamiliar home. As you ring the bell, you rehearse the next few moments — explaining who you know, why you’re there, where you’ll place the bottle of wine you’re holding. Then the door opens, the hellos begin, and suddenly, there’s a powerful distraction. Out of the corner of your eye, you spot a pile of shoes in the entranceway — heels, dress shoes, boots. Immediately, your mind drops everything else, and now your most important task is pulling off your shoes before you take another step on your hosts’ immaculate floor. No words are exchanged. You know what to do, because everyone else is doing it.

That’s social proof.

When people are in unfamiliar circumstances, they naturally look around them for cues on how to act. If you attend a wedding or a funeral involving families of a new culture, you try to lay low and blend in. When you get a new job, you observe when people take breaks, or what the etiquette is for coffee runs.

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About Bob Sullivan 1638 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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