If you’re like most people, you think that your choices and behaviors are driven by your individual, personal tastes and opinions.
You picked a jacket because you liked the way it looked. You picked a particular career because you found itinteresting. The notion that our choices are driven by our own personal thoughts and opinions seems so obvious that it is not even worth mentioning. Except that it’s wrong.
Without our realizing it, other people’s behavior – what psychologists call “social influence” – has a huge influence on everything we do at every moment of our lives, from the mundane (which movie to see or place to have lunch) to the momentous (which career path to take or person to marry).
We make riskier decisions because someone patted us on the shoulder. We like the name Mia because Madison and Sophia are popular names this year. Even strangers, or people we may never meet, have a startling impact on our judgments and decisions: our attitudes towards a welfare policy totally shift if we’re told it is supported by Democrats versus Republicans, even though the policy is the same in both cases.