Social proof, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation. This effect is prominent in ambiguous social situations where people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior, and is driven by the assumption that surrounding people possess more knowledge about the situation.
The effects of social influence can be seen in the tendency of large groups to conform to choices which may be either correct or mistaken, a phenomenon sometimes referred to as herd behavior. Although social proof reflects a rational motive to take into account the information possessed by others, formal analysis shows that it can cause people to converge too quickly upon a single choice, so that decisions of even large groups of individuals may be grounded in very little information (see information cascades).
Within the context of psychology, social psychology is the scientific study of how people's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others. By this definition, scientific refers to the empirical method of investigation. The terms thoughts, feelings, and behaviors include all psychological variables that are measurable in a human being. The statement that others' presence may be imagined or implied suggests that we are prone to social influence even when no other people are present, such as when watching television, or following internalized cultural norms. Social psychologists typically explain human behavior as a result of the interaction of mental states and immediate social situations. In general, social psychologists have a preference for laboratory-based, empirical findings. Social psychology theories tend to be specific and focused, rather than global and general.
Social psychologists therefore deal with the factors that lead us to behave in a given way in the presence of others, and look at the conditions under which certain behavior/actions and feelings occur. Social psychology is concerned with the way these feelings, thoughts, beliefs, intentions and goals are constructed and how such psychological factors, in turn, influence our interactions with others.
Human behavior refers to the range of behaviors exhibited by humans and which are influenced by culture, attitudes, emotions, values, ethics, authority, rapport, hypnosis, persuasion, coercion and/or genetics.
The behavior of people (and other organisms or even mechanisms) falls within a range with some behavior being common, some unusual, some acceptable, and some outside acceptable limits. In sociology, behavior in general is characterised as having no meaning, being not directed at other people, and thus is the most basic human action. Behavior in this general sense should not be mistaken with social behavior, which is a more advanced action, as social behavior is behavior specifically directed at other people. The acceptability of behavior depends heavily upon social norms and is regulated by various means of social control. Human behavior is studied by the specialised academic disciplines of psychiatry, psychology, social work, sociology, economics, and anthropology.
Social philosophy is the philosophical study of questions about social behavior (typically, of humans). Social philosophy addresses a wide range of subjects, from individual meanings to legitimacy of laws, from the social contract to criteria for revolution, from the functions of everyday actions to the effects of science on culture, from changes in human demographics to the collective order of a wasp's nest.
The term behavioural sciences encompasses all the disciplines that explore the activities of and interactions among organisms in the natural world. It involves the systematic analysis and investigation of human and animal behaviour through controlled and naturalistic observation, and disciplined scientific experimentation. It attempts to accomplish legitimate, objective conclusions through rigorous formulations and observation. Examples of behavioural sciences include psychology, psychobiology, and cognitive science.
Sociology is the study of human social behavior and its origins, development, organizations, and institutions. It is a social science which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social actions, social structure and functions. A goal for many sociologists is to conduct research which may be applied directly to social policy and welfare, while others focus primarily on refining the theoretical understanding of social processes. Subject matter ranges from the micro level of individual agency and interaction to the macro level of systems and the social structure.
The traditional focuses of sociology include social stratification, social class, social mobility, religion, secularization, law, and deviance. As all spheres of human activity are affected by the interplay between social structure and individual agency, sociology has gradually expanded its focus to further subjects, such as health, medical, military and penal institutions, the Internet, environmental sociology, political economy and the role of social activity in the development of scientific knowledge.
Philosophy of law is a branch of philosophy and jurisprudence which studies basic questions about law and legal systems, such as "what is law?", "what are the criteria for legal validity?," "what is the relationship between law and morality?", and many other similar questions.
Normative social influence is a type of social influence leading to conformity. It is defined as "the influence of other people that leads us to conform in order to be liked and accepted by them." Normative social influence's power stems from the human identity as a social creature, with a need for companionship and association. This fact often leads to people exhibiting public compliance—but not necessarily private acceptance—of the group's social norms in order to be accepted by the group. Social norms refers to the unwritten rules that govern social behavior. These are customary standards for behavior that are widely shared by members of a culture.
Social influence occurs when one's emotions, opinions, or behaviors are affected by others. Social influence takes many forms and can be seen in conformity, socialization, peer pressure, obedience, leadership, persuasion, sales, and marketing. In 1958, Harvard psychologist, Herbert Kelman identified three broad varieties of social influence.
Morton Deutsch and Harold Gerard described two psychological needs that lead humans to conform to the expectations of others. These include our need to be right (informational social influence), and our need to be liked (normative social influence). Informational influence (or social proof) is an influence to accept information from another as evidence about reality. Informational influence comes into play when people are uncertain, either because stimuli are intrinsically ambiguous or because there is social disagreement. Normative influence is an influence to conform to the positive expectations of others. In terms of Kelman's typology, normative influence leads to public compliance, whereas informational influence leads to private acceptance.
A peer group is both a social group and a primary group of people. Peer group may be defined as a group of people who, through homophily, share similarities such as age, background, and social status. The members of this group are likely to influence the person’s beliefs and behaviour. Peer groups contain hierarchies and distinct patterns of behavior. 18 year olds are not in a peer group with 14 year olds even though they may be in school together. Just as teachers do not share students as a peer group.
During adolescence, peer groups tend to face dramatic changes. Adolescents tend to spend more time with their peers and have less adult supervision. Adolescents’ communication shifts during this time as well. They prefer to talk about school and their careers with their parents, and they enjoy talking about sex and other interpersonal relationships with their peers. Children look to join peer groups who accept them, even if the group is involved in negative activities. Children are less likely to accept those who are different from them.
A social issue (also called a social problem or a social situation) is an issue that relates to society's perception of a person's personal lives. Different cultures have different perceptions and what may be "normal" behavior in one society may be a significant social issue in another society. Social issues are distinguished from economic issues. Some issues have both social and economic aspects, such as immigration. There are also issues that don't fall into either category, such as wars.
Thomas Paine, in Rights of Man and Common Sense, addresses man's duty to "allow the same rights to others as we allow ourselves". The failure to do so causes the birth of a social issue.