The influence exerted by others on our behavior can be expressed as being either normative or informational. Normative influence implies conformity in order to be accepted or liked (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2005), while informational influence occurs in ambiguous situations where we are uncertain about how to behave and look to others for information or cues. Social proof is an informational influence (or descriptive norm) and can lead to herd behavior. It is also sometimes referred to as a heuristic. Research suggests that receiving information about how others behave (social proof) leads to greater compliance among people from collectivist cultures, whereas information on the individual’s past behavior (consistency/commitment) is associated with greater compliance for people from individualist cultures (Cialdini, Wosinska, Barrett, Butner, & Gornik-Durose, 1999).
Aronson, E., Wilson, T., & Akert, A. (2005). Social Psychology (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Cialdini, R. B., Wosinska, W., Barrett, D. W., Butner, J., Gornik-Durose, M. (1999). Compliance with a request in two cultures: The differential influence of social proof and commitment/consistency on collectivists and individualists. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 1242-1253.