While dining in a restaurant, I searched for social proof that my method of consuming the meal was appropriate. The customs for this particular cultural food were unfamiliar and I did not want to do something uncouth. Not seeing anyone eating the same item, I went with my instinct and used my hands. After my first bite, I glance at another table and see a gentleman also eating with his hands. “Good,” I think to myself, “At least I’m not alone.”
And then it occurred to me that this gentleman may have easily seen me eating with my hands and decided it was appropriate. My validation could very well come from someone I had unwittingly validated.
Social proof is the concept that people will conform to the actions of others under the assumption that those actions are reflective of the correct behavior. It is also known as informational social influence.
So, where am I going with this?
For years, I have warned against a similar phenomena among many Oklahoma-based photographers. They will gleefully tell you that we are not New York or Los Angeles. They laugh if you suggest things should be done the same way here. Instead, they will focus on doing what everyone else in Oklahoma is doing because, well, it’s what Oklahoma does.
So long as that mentality prevails, nothing will change. I’m eating with my hands, so you do, too. I’m happy that you have validated my choice. We both consume our meals and move along and never ponder a different method. We have an established norm. To try and change it is to rock the boat.
In New York and Los Angeles, they move full speed ahead, occasionally taking a hard turn or rocking the boat.
In Oklahoma, we drift with the tide and wonder why nothing ever changes.