Back on the pitch – social proof or just plain old copying?

Posted by on Jun 28, 2009 in Uncategorized | No Comments


Pic c/o

Back from my sojourn in Spain revived and with fresh eyes.

First thing up [hat tip Nico Herzog] is this neat little idea for social change which uses copying at its core mechanism (or what the great Cialdini – the inhouse scientist – calls 'social proof')

Positive Energy creates:

software that assesses energy usage by neighborhood. Results are sent
to consumers on behalf of their local utility, praising you with a row
of smiley faces (you’ve used 58 percent less electricity than your
neighbors this month!) or damning you with none (you used 39 percent
more electricity than your neighbors in the past 12 months, and it cost
you $741 extra)….

And of course it works in the same way as the big C has described previously for hotel towels (Monkey see, monkey do). As the Atlantic journo puts it:

In Positive Energy’s reports, a once-intangible bit of social
information—how much energy you use relative to your neighbors—is made

Or "visible" as Josh's supercool visualisation of Amazon's social design underscores. 

I know "social proof" seems nicer and more acceptable in mixed company, but can we just be honest here: we're talking about a when-in-Rome…copying type of behaviour; 'social proof" makes it sound like there's some deliberation going on – like individuals are prone to acting independently of others unless you force them to do otherwise – when what we're talking about is enabling folk to see each other so that they do what humans normally do i.e. copy their peers.

Shaping perceptions of what folk round here & folk like us do is what the whole game's about

Great initiative though and I'm sure Rory will be adding it to his list!