I had never heard of Pluralistic Ignorance before, codified as such, but this is interesting concept.
Essentially it is that: We look to the behavior of others as a proxy for our own behavior – the issue being that everyone else is doing the same thing.
If most, go to college, get a job, and then buy a house – well that must be what I should do too.
Retirement, two weeks vacation each year, and television for a few hours after work is the way to go too, right?
And to signal to others that I am wealthy, I also should buy an expensive car, right?
Others use this idea to their advantage. Because social proof works in marketing.
And it can even make you laugh.
In the process of examining the reactions of other people to resolve our uncertainty, however, we are likely to overlook a subtle but important fact. Those people are probably examining the social evidence, too. Especially in an ambiguous situation, the tendency for everyone to be looking to see what everyone else is doing can lead to a fascinating phenomenon called “pluralistic ignorance.”
-Robert Cialdini, Influence