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Social Influence: Why We So Easily Get Influenced (And How to Overcome It)

We all like to think we’re individuals who make our own choices. But the truth?

Our decisions get heavily influenced by those around us – often without realizing it.

This guide explores the powerful forces of social influence and how to overcome its sneaky effects.

Let’s dive in:

The Mindblowing Power of Social Influence

Have you ever eagerly bought something just because it was super popular?

You know, like waiting hours for the new iPhone because everyone else was?

Phones in line, Or maybe you tried a sketchy diet because all your friends were doing it?

Hot dog diet, if so, you’ve experienced the forces of social influence in action.

It’s the reason fads and trends take off so rapidly. When we see others doing something, we inherently want to follow along.

Like lemmings off a cliff! Social lemmings

For example:

Remember planking? People took pictures lying down like a plank in public places just because they saw others doing it.

planking prank

Or what about the Ice Bucket Challenge? Over 17 million people dumped freezing water on themselves…just because they saw videos of others doing it.

those poor souls

It’s fascinatingly mindless when you think about it.

But hey, at least the ALS Association raised over $115 million from that viral craze, right?

Why Do We So Easily Get Influenced?

According to psychologists, social influence stems from two key factors:

Our innate desire to be liked/approved of No one wants to feel rejected.

So we’re hardwired to unconsciously align with our peers because non-conformity makes us stick out (and fear getting shunned).

Our rational ability is limited. We can’t possibly scrutinize every choice and situation.

That’s too mentally taxing. So, we often default to just going along with the herd.

Now, I’m not saying we have zero autonomy. Some folks are just more susceptible to social currents than others.

But it’s naive to think we make 100% independent choices, at least some of the time. We all get unduly influenced – often without realizing it.

So, let me share a few research studies highlighting the bizarre effects of social influence:

The Asch Conformity Experiments

In 1951, psychologist Solomon Asch asked college students to complete an oddly simple visual test.

The students were shown two cards – one with a single vertical line and another with three lines of varying length.

Then, they had to identify which line matched the length of the line shown on the first card.

In reality, it was an easy, objective test. The participants weren’t alone, though – they were joined by 7-9 other accomplices hired to unanimously give the wrong answer.

And here’s what happened:

Surrounded by that unanimous yet blatantly mistaken majority, a shocking 75% of participants gave an incorrect answer at least once during the study.

Simply put, they conformed.

The students knew the accomplices’ answers were wrong. Yet the powerful force of majority peer pressure overrode their own perception of a simple, obvious reality.

This is another classic experiment proving how human nature defaults to following the herd mentality (even when it makes no sense).

The Xerox Profit Sharing Case Study

In the 1950s, Xerox installed a new profit-sharing program that proved wildly unpopular with most employees.

The execs couldn’t figure out why.

Eventually, researchers uncovered the shocking truth – most workers didn’t even understand how the profit-sharing system worked.

But their colleagues expressed negative views.

So they just followed the herd and criticized it too.

All because of word-of-mouth complaints spreading through office gossip like a virus.

This case study reveals how blindly we soak up outside opinions without thinking critically about an issue ourselves.

Now, being influenced by respected authorities in certain situations makes sense, like deferring to professors or medical professionals.

But why do we so easily fall in line with random peers and strangers too?

The next point explores this:

How Influencers Exploit Our “Social Proof” Bias

We’ve all seen the rise of influencers on YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, etc.

You know, like that girl who somehow got famous for watching and rating TV shows:


Or that guy who blows up watermelons with rubber bands:


While it’s easy to dismiss influencers as silly or trivial, they actually tap into a powerful psychological force: social proof.

Put simply, it’s that knee-jerk mentality of:

“If tons of others are doing it, it must be okay (or even great!).”

Think about it. That’s the only reason tons of people obsess over useless crap like hatching celebrity gossip, loathsome internet challenges, or absurd fashion trends.

We’re wired to shortcut thinking by just following the crowd.

And brands exploit this social proof force like crazy to boost consumer appeal and drive sales higher.

For example:

Restaurants display “Extremely Busy!” signs to make their place look popular, even when empty.

influencer proof cliche Infomercials plaster cheesy testimonials with headshots to create an “As seen on TV effect.”

As seen on the TV logo, Tech companies highlight “1 MILLION users and growing!” in their ads. Million users brag

Essentially, companies artificially instigate a herd mentality to manipulate us into conforming. And it works!


Because we’re hardwired to reduce confusion by aligning with the tribe and following the masses – even when that “mass” is completely fabricated.

So yeah, it’s pretty insane when you think about it. But don’t worry—there are strategies to combat social influence!

3 Simple Steps to Overcome Social Influence

At this point, the effects of social influence feel pretty inescapable.

Like, “Hey dude, guess I’ll believe anything anyone says from now on!”

But nah, you’ve got this.

Here are simple steps to avoid mindlessly conforming:

Spot when it’s happening

The first step is to recognize situations when you’re being socially influenced.

Context clues can include:

  • You’re going along with group decisions you disagree with.
  • You’re suddenly interested in something just because others are.
  • You feel pressured to publicly conform to norms or trends.
  • Spotting those mental patterns is the first step to regaining control.

Stop and think critically

Once you identify social currents impacting you, take a beat to scrutinize the situation.

Ask yourself:

“Am I doing this just because others are…or for a logical reason?”

“Is this really a valuable activity/trend…or am I just following irrational peer pressure?”

Analyze impartially without caving to mindless conformity.

Actively go against the grain

After steps one and two, you’ll have clarity on whether the social influence is rationally justified or random peer pressure.

If it’s the latter, make an active effort to zig when others zag.

Go against the herd.

Voice your disagreement with unpopular opinions.

Disengage from useless social fads.

Most importantly, make independent choices aligned with your authentic values and judgment, not just blindly follow the crowd.

Doing this consistently builds mental fortitude against the social influence forces trying to sway us at every turn.

Does this mean you can never enjoy “groupy” stuff like watching sports or joining clubs?

Of course not. It’s natural for social animals like humans to do social things in moderation.

But the key is recognizing situations that tap into blind conformity – and developing the mental discipline to stay true to your own beliefs.

Conclusion: We’re Wired for Social Influence, So Stay Woke

Here’s the reality, fam:

We’re hardwired to engage in social conformity as a survival instinct.

From an evolutionary psychology perspective, sticking with the tribe helped protect our ancestors from the potential dangers of isolation.

There’s a rational basis for why humans are so prone to senseless social influence, even if it’s irrational today.

But we’re not cavemen anymore. We have big, beautiful brains!

So, while we can’t fully escape the powerful gravitational pull of social currents, we can spot its effects and actively choose to think for ourselves.

The goal isn’t to be a lone weirdo opposing everything.

It’s about fostering independent mindsets while discerning actual value versus mindless conformity.

By staying socially aware and mentally disciplined, we liberate ourselves from blindly following the herd mentality.

So recognize those moments when you’re about to plank a video on TikTok and pause before becoming another lemming.

You’ve got this

Here are the good reads for social influence:

What is Normative Social Influence? | Examples & Its Impact on Marketing

What Is Informational Social Influence? | Role in Marketing & Buyer Behaviour

Picture of Krunal Vaghasiya
Krunal Vaghasiya
Krunal Vaghasiya is a marketing tech expert who boosts e-commerce conversion rates with automated social proof and FOMO strategies. He loves to keep posting insightful posts on online marketing software, marketing automations, and improving conversion rates.

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