The Truth About Social Proof
from Chase: this is our second guest post from Will Legend;
Will’s first article here was his piece on social anxiety. This article gives you some solid
reasons why guys getting started should not get too hung up worrying
about preselection and social proof and use the lack of these as an excuse
to not approach new women.
If you haven’t read Robert Cialdini’s Influence, I highly, highly recommend it. It explains the psychology of compliance and what the factors are that drive a person to say “yes”. Cialdini comes up with six factors that influence a person to comply with a request, and one of these six factors is social proof.
Now, social proof has been talked about as a critical component of seduction, and we’ll get into that in a bit. But first, let’s talk about what social proof is and give some examples of it.
What is Social Proof?
Social proof has existed since the beginning of time. When we are put in an uncertain situation we reference the behavior of others around us. If other people are doing something, it’s okay for us to do it too. But if other people are holding back from doing something, then it’s probably not okay for us to do it. This whole notion is driven by the impression that surrounding people have more information about a situation than we do.
How Powerful is Social Proof?
Social proof is the reason you hear laugh tracks on television sitcoms. Even though we know the laughter is phony, we are still more likely to laugh, and we are more likely to laugh for longer.
Social proof is a part of all types of social situations. Let me give you a familiar example. Let’s say your friend Freddy invites you to a party. He introduces you to Kevin, one of his best friends from out of town whom you’ve never met. Now, before you and Kevin shake hands and introduce yourselves, the only thing you can judge Kevin on is his appearance. And, sure enough, he’s judging you the same way.
You can’t reach into your mind and decipher what kind of person he is right off the bat. In your mind, you think, Well, Freddy is a cool guy, and any friend of his is probably cool too. Right as you’re lost in thought, Kevin says, “Nice to meet you. Any friend of Freddy’s is a friend of mine!” How many times has this happened to you? Even though we have no idea what type of person Kevin is, we look at Freddy’s behavior towards Kevin and follow suit.
Of course, this is a smaller scale example of social proof. But does this apply on a larger scale? Consider this social experiment that turned viral:
Basically, Brett Cohen, a 21-year-old student and average Joe, decided to walk a couple of blocks to Times Square with two bodyguards, an entourage, and photographers posing as the paparazzi. When onlookers asked who he was, his crew simply said he was Brett Cohen and that he was a big star.
The crowd started to grow with every block and soon onlookers mobbed Brett for photos. Somehow there was a buzz that Brett was in one of the “Spider-Man” movies. Not only that, but when interviewed by the crew, onlookers said that they loved his performance in the movie. By the end of the day, Brett had taken pictures with over three hundred people.
People of all types were enchanted. Girls mobbed him and were unbelievably excited after taking pictures with him. One girl said, “Best day of my life! I love him!” Even guys mobbed him and showered him with compliments afterwards.
As you can probably see, social proof is amazingly powerful. It works in a variety of situations, where there is uncertainty involved. Heck, if I weren’t so wary about social proof, I’d be mobbing Brett Cohen too, fighting through the crowd to get a picture with him.
Why Does Social Proof Work?
Humans are hard-wired to use other humans as points of reference in uncertain situations. Basically, we will assume that the behavior of others is the appropriate course of action. It’s a mental shortcut that facilitates not only our sociability but also our survival.
Sociability reason: As humans, we are tribal animals, and we care about what others think about us. That’s why we seek to belong by conforming to what others are doing.
Survival reason: The reason why humans today are hard-wired to conform to what others are doing is that the ones who didn’t conform – the ones who messed with the wrong animal when everyone else retreated, or the ones who drank from the murky puddle when everyone else drank from the clear puddle – are the ones who died a premature death and couldn’t pass on his or her genes.
Today, even though following other people’s lead usually isn’t the difference between life and death, we still do it. It’s ingrained in our DNA.
But Does Social Proof Work for Seduction? (The In-Depth Analysis)
Yes, and no. Probably not the answer you hoped for, but let me try to explain.
Here’s where it works. If you’re in a big city known for its nightclub scene, then social proof has its merits. Think about it this way: if you go to a nightclub that hundreds of other people go to, you differentiate yourself from the crowd if you know the promoters and bouncers. You skip the line, you get free drinks, the promoters introduce you to the girls they bring to the club, and boom, social proof. The girls’ mindset is: He must be a cool guy if the club promoter is going out of his way to introduce us to him.
You also differentiate yourself if you have a VIP table. It’s not a substitute for good game, but it does make you stand out in a sea of dark faces and deafening music. A table is a party within a party. If everyone at your table is having fun, some girls will take a mental note. These girls want to be part of the fun.
Here’s my take on social proof. Basically, in a nighttime venue where there’re hundreds of guys (or an insane ratio of guys compared to girls) social proof does somewhat matter. Think about it from a female perspective. Girls in these venues get approached many, many times on a given night. Sometimes dozens of times. With that type of abundance, girls don’t feel like they need to entertain every single guy who approaches them. Girls will filter out everyone except for the guys that they find super attractive, and social proof can get your foot in the door. In these situations, social proof is definitely a part of the equation. But it’s not everything.
In other situations, social proof is not nearly as important.
For instance: day game. When you approach a girl on the street, no one will be around to give you social proof – unless you’ve got friends who are willing to pose as your bodyguards and paparazzi (à la Brett Cohen).
Or let’s say you go to a more low-key place. A pub or bar. Or even a semi-popular nightclub. You roll in, and you want to build social proof, so you do what every pick-up artist recommends and start chatting up girls in hopes that other girls will take notice.
But most girls aren’t keeping track of who every single guy at a bar is talking to. They’re busy living inside the confines of their own world, minding their own business. They’re busy socializing with their own group of friends. They’re busy socializing with other guys who approach them.
Think about the last time you went to the bar. Did you keep track of any girls? Perhaps, but most likely you were minding your own business. But let’s just say you did keep track. The truth is, you don’t have the brainpower to keep tabs on every girl inside the bar. You’d only keep tabs on the girl who you’re most interested in. Same thing with girls. Some girls do keep track of guys – but only guys that they’re interested in to begin with. At that point, social proof is unnecessary. If a girl was keeping tabs on me the whole night, I wouldn’t need to talk to Girl A and Girl B before I approached her. I could’ve just approached her from the onset, and she would’ve been just as receptive.
That’s the problem I see with many guys. They think that Girl C isn’t “attainable” from the onset. That means they instead approach Girl A and Girl B before approaching Girl C. That’s a poor mentality to have. You haven’t even met Girl C, so why put her on a pedestal? Why wouldn’t you be worthy enough to talk to her right off the bat?
Okay, so say you approach Girls A and B first. As was discussed earlier, girls usually don’t keep track of who you’re talking to. Girl C might glance in your direction, but won’t think twice about it. Even if you’re making Girl A or Girl B laugh the whole time, Girl C won’t think twice. Trust me – in the context of a bar or club environment, laughter is so commonplace, and it won’t give you much social proof, if any.
In this scenario, after brief banter with Girls A and B, you make your way to Girl C. You have a sudden surge in confidence from being in state after socializing with a couple of sets. But the downside is that you’re now more emotionally invested in Girl C. At this point, you’re almost desperate for her approval, which, as you’d expect, is unattractive. Any social proof you have is temporary. The surge in confidence you have is temporary.
The underlying issue is that by working your way to Girl C, you believe that you’re weren’t worthy of her right away – but that you will be once you have accumulated enough social proof. See the problem? Clearly there’s a lack of assuredness. There’s not enough belief that you deserve a hot girl like Girl C. The truth is that social proof can get you noticed, but it’s not a substitute for confidence.
So What Should I Do?
Simple. Stop consciously worrying about social proof. The more you over think social situations, the less natural your interactions will be. The more you over analyze, the more social anxiety and mental paralysis you’ll have.
Instead of worrying about social proof, just be social. Be curious about people, and social proof will come naturally. Talk to anyone – girls and guys. There’ve been countless times where I’ve had a conversation with a guy, who then introduced me to his single female friends. There’ve been countless times where I’ve had a conversation with a girl, who then introduced me to her single female friends.
Of course, the number one thing to keep in mind is you do it to provide value. Are you genuinely interested in learning about someone? Can you make someone’s night more fun or memorable? You don’t do it for the social proof. You don’t do it because you want them to hook you up.
And if you see your own Girl C, approach her instead of using tactics that appear to work in your own head but not in anyone else’s. That “don’t give a damn” attitude is social proof enough.
Will Legend is the founder of DecodeHer. He has spent countless hours interviewing women to uncover what they really want. To get four free uncensored interviewson the juiciest dating and sex topics, click here.
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