A great social proof example is canned laughter.
Quite simply, it is difficult to be in the minority. For without a good reason to do so, who among us is willing to stand alone?
I mean, I’ll stand up for something principled. Something ethical. But I sure don’t want to be the one rube who didn’t get a simple joke.
The point is that – right or wrong – we involuntarily look to each other for cues about how we should act.
I nearly always drive the speed limit. But if everyone else is speeding, it makes it so much easier to just follow right along with the majority.
To discover why canned laughter is so effective, we first need to understand the nature of yet another potent weapon of influence: the principle of social proof. It states that one means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct. The principle applies especially to the way we decide what constitutes correct behavior. We view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it. Whether the question is what to do with an empty popcorn box in a movie theater, how fast to drive on a certain stretch of highway, or how to eat the chicken at a dinner party, the actions of those around us will be important in defining the answer.
-Robert Cialdini, Influence