People follow your words, not actions

When people conform, they conform to what others like and to others' attitudes

Ians July 02, 2015
When people conform, they conform to what others like and to others' attitudes.

NEW YORK: Turning conventional wisdom on its head, a study has found that you can attract more followers if you stress what you like, not what you do.

In other words, people want to like what others like, but they want to have or do what others do not have or do not do, the results said.

For example, when people mentally share an action, such as watching a friend eat a bowl of oatmeal over breakfast, they feel in a way that they ate the oatmeal too, so they seek to enrich their own experience by choosing something that is different, such as an omelette.

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But when people mentally share another person's preference, such as liking oatmeal more than omelette, they adopt the others' preference as their own and say they like oatmeal more than omelette.

"The tendency to conform is pervasive and rooted in human psychology," said one of the researchers, Ayelet Fishbach, professor at University of Chicago Booth School of Business in the US.

"When people conform, they conform to what others like and to others' attitudes. But in terms of what they do, they want to be different. So if you want to persuade people, you should talk about liking, not about having."

For the study, the researchers designed a series of experiments involving everyday activities such as choosing a type of chewing gum, shopping for groceries, picking a favourite mug design and watching a pet video on YouTube.

The researchers found that people conform to others' preferences at last partially because they adopt others' judgments as their own.

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The research has implications for online shopping, social media marketing and political campaigns. Marketers, for example, could collect "likes" from Facebook users, rather than collecting information on what users buy, eat or own.

Likewise, they could present products as "everyone likes it," rather than "everyone buys it."


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