It was one of those evenings where I couldn't be bothered to do much, and watching TV in my pj’s was calling when my housemates decided to go out clubbing. I really wasn't feeling it, yet somehow I found it hard to say no. They kept trying to persuade me with things like “oh you have to come, everyone else is! C’mon!” and reeled off a long list of names who were going. I then felt like I should make the effort, considering everyone else was it should be a good night.
My friends were using a persuasive tactic called social consensus. This tactic has been demonstrated by Milgram, Bickman and Berkiwitz (1969). In their study, they hired confederates to go onto a busy street and had them look up at a building. While they did this, the people who would walk past readily copied the confederates behavior and also look up. There was either 1, 2, 3, 5, 10 or 15 confederates who looked up for 60 seconds. Figure 1 shows the mean percentage of those who walked passed who also looked up and who stopped.
Figure 1: Mean percentage of passersby who look up and who stop, as a function of the size of the stimulus crowd
It was found that each additional confederate increased conformity rate of those who walked passed, but it was at a lower rate each time. It is believed that the pedestrians copied the confederate’s behaviour as they assumed that as others were doing it, there must be a good reason to do it and it is the correct behaviour. Social consensus also provides a normative influence, which make everyone feel pressured do what the group is doing. So for my situation, I felt pressured to go out due to the fact ‘everyone’ was also going and I should want to do what the group is doing.
Milgram, S., Bickman, L., & Berkowitz, L. (1969) Note on the drawing power of crowds of different size. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 13, 79-82.