According to the principle of social proof, people look to others for guidance on what may be the correct behaviour in a certain situation (Lun et al, 2007). It is also widely known that cultures can vary, and are generally said to be either an individualistic or collectivist culture. These terms reflect a culture's tendency for its people to be independent from others (individualistic) or for them to have interdependence with others (collectivist) (Kagitcibasi, 2005).
Cialdini et al (1999) looked into whether or not these cultural differences could lead to a difference in the influence of social proof in Polish and American students. These students were asked to imagine that they were approached by a representative from Coca-Cola and asked to complete a survey. Participants were either in the "social proof (SP)" condition, in which they were asked to rate their willingness to comply while considering information about their peers, or a "commitment/consistency (C/C)" condition in which their compliance was tested while considering information about their own prior compliance. Each condition had a low, medium and high level of influence.
As can be seen from figure 1a, the effect of the manipulation on social proof was stronger for the Polish students than those in the US, and figure 1b shows a small effect of the C/C manipulation being stronger in the US. These results show that the social proof is more effective in Poland than the US, and commitment and consistency is more effective in the US.
However, Cialdini et al (1999) also tested participants' personal individualist/collectivist orientations and found that the effect of nation on compliance was completely wiped out when personal orientations were taken into account. It was still found that collectivists were more influenced by social proof and that individualists were slightly more influenced by commitment/consistency, as can be seen from figures 2a and 2b.
In conclusion, individualism and collectivism do have an effect on whether you are more influenced by your own decisions or other people, but you don't have to come from a collectivist culture to be collectivist.
Cialdini, R. B., Wosinska, W., Barrett, D. W., Butner, J., & Gornik-Durose, M. (1999). Compliance with a request in two cultures: The differential influence of social proof and commitment/consistency on collectivists and individualists. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 1242-1253.
Kagitcibasi, C. (2005). Autonomy and relatedness in cultural context: Implications for self and family. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 36, 403-422.
Lun. J., Sinclair, S., Whitchurch, E. R., & Glenn, C. (2007). (Why) do I think what you think? Epistemic social turning and implicit prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 957-972.
Xenia Millar (Blog 3)