attraction · social proof

Is Attraction a Choice? Social Proof (Part 4)

attraction 4There is a third factor that effects attractions called social proof. What is social proof? Wikipedia has a great article that summarizes this concept (http://bit.ly/16Sah4B) which I will summarize here.

Social proof is a psychological concept. It refers to the tendency of people to:

  • want things that others want,
  • agree with the group regardless of moral issues,
  • and conform based on the approval of their social group.

A couple of social proof aspects to note:

  • There is greater social proof when multiple sources say the same thing (all my friends say he’s a good guy).
  • Uncertainty about which decision to make, increases the influence of social proof on your decision (should I go out with him? I can’t decide. But all my friends say I should so I will).
  • Peer influence also increases the impact of social proof (if I perceive you as a peer or someone similar to me I will be more easily influenced by your social proof).
  • When someone thinks they are already an expert in the area of question or know more than their peers they will be less likely to choose based on social proof (I’ve had five boyfriend’s, you’ve never had any, you don’t know what you are talking about).

In dating this concept would come across as me liking a girl more because my friend also likes her. It also partially explains why some girls are attracted to “players”. If every other girl is with him there must be a good reason and I want to find out.

Now this is somewhat more under your control than nurture is. You can’t help your subconscious attraction to something that other people are also attracted to. But if you take a step back and realize why you are attracted, you may be able to curb the appeal.

Social proof isn’t exactly a healthy reason to make a relationship choice. Certainly, weighing advice from peers, elders, and authorities is helpful. But choosing a relationship based on the often subconscious effects of social proof can prove risky and perhaps disastrous.

Being familiar with the Christian subculture, I see the effects of social proof all the time. Certain celebrities who make public statements about Christ instantly become the most desirable men for women to date. Even some public figures in ministry have been grossly inflated in terms of relationship potential because of social proof.

Oddly the social proof in these cases has nothing to do with them being good potential for a relationship. In other words, you can be influenced in one area by social proof given for a totally different area (He’s a well-liked popular speaker. He must make a great future husband as well!).

Social proof influences every decision you make. Marketers internationally use it to sell their products. The restaurant with the most cars in the parking lot must have the best food. Learning make decisions that are best for you can be difficult with all this “proof” floating around.

Several things you can do:

  1. Have a good idea what you want and what you are attracted to before you seek it out. This way you won’t get caught up in the moment and forget who you are.
  2. Similarly, don’t wait till you are desperate for a relationship to start figuring out what you want. The first person your friends approve of or that popular guy at the party might end up being your husband (for better…or worse).
  3. Try to take a step back and thing as logically as possible about every decision you make before you make it (even if it’s just for 10 seconds, seriously, I’m not talking about meditation for weeks over making a decision).
  4. Finally, don’t make life changing decision too quickly. Go out with the guy. Enjoy a few dances with the girl. Talk for a while. Let the social proof loose its influence. Find out if YOU are truly attracted to him or her.
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15 thoughts on “Is Attraction a Choice? Social Proof (Part 4)

  1. Nothing wrong with meditating for weeks if that’s how long it takes to get an answer or make a wise decision. Great post. Neat blog too. Very helpful. Makes one think.

  2. Good advice. Sometimes you need to get out of your own way. There is a surprising amount of pride and prejudice that you need to acknowledge in yourself and peel back, in order to view a potential mate with any real honesty.

    1. Exactly. Pride kills us. I always say that the most confident man is the most humble. He is confident enough to admit he is wrong and change his ways and know that he will not always be right.

  3. I have been guilty of this. Sometimes I’ve felt like I was losing my mind being influenced by different opinions, so much that I forgot to make up my own mind.

    1. Its easy to do. I used to wonder why my socially awkward roommate would always hit on girls I brought over even though he’d never go out and meet them on his own. When I understood how social proof works it all made sense. I was the proof he needed to feel safe and comfortable talking to these women.

  4. I agree with everything said. Really, it’s about knowing who YOU are that will enable you to figure out what you want… I’m not sure I think girls go for “bad guys” because other girls have been with him, though… I’d have to think about that one more.

    Anyway, great post.

  5. Excellent point. Hah. One of my friends lost every girl he liked to his best friend. SO sad. But I see this with girls too for sure. There’s certain guys at the church that nearly every girl has had a crush on at some point – even though he clearly isn’t “the type” for every girl! Other great guys may be looked over. It’s kind of hit or miss.

    1. There are a number of reasons why a guy would lose every girl that he likes to his best friend. Often it is simply that his best friend puts out a sexual or romantic vibe. And he stays in the friend zone. Of course his friend could be incredibly good looking and charming too.

    2. As far as the guy at church that every girl has a crush on. I think that is similar to the Tim Tebow affect. Someone who has some sort of status, good looks, great personality, or other outstanding feature can attract a lot of women. However they may not truly be a great match for a long term relationship. They simply have what it takes to initiate that first attraction. So they are given a lot more opportunities to meet the girl of their dreams. Some would say this is unfair. I would say that most factors affecting how attractive a man is are factors that he can change. For example getting the gym , read, develop your personality, get a better job, etc.

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