May 30

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Social Proof

Social proof is powerful. Scary powerful.

A reason so many students quit piano lessons going into middle school and high school is...so many other parents and students are throwing in the towel going into middle school and high school.

It makes us feel better about our choice. It eases the uncertainty. After all, if so many other people are doing it, surely it's a solid choice. Right?

Not so much.

At least, as far as research shows.

Social proof is powerful, but it can go both ways. It almost doesn't matter what the activity is. If lots of other people are doing it, we at least consider it.

For example, say a national park sign reads, "1 out of 3 visitors litter on our campground. Please be respectful." Research has shown in these situations the number of litterers increases.

As it turns out, people don't necessarily think, "Wow, that's a lot of people! I don't want to contribute to the problem."

They think, "Wow, that's a lot of people! What's one more, then."

Or if high school students are given the statistics about underage drinking, research shows that the number of underage drinkers increases. Presumably for the same reason.

Students don't see numbers as something to avoid, but as proof that something has become acceptable and can be considered. For better or worse.

The solutions? There are two.

The first is awareness; everyone should think about how their brains operate.

And the second is finding the tribe and community that exhibits the behaviors you want to be a part of. Thus, making social proof work for you rather than against you.

You've heard the phrase, "If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you do it?"

It turns out, the answer is, "Probably."

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About Jonathan Roberts

I am the founder and director of the South Shore Piano School, and I have been teaching the piano for nearly 20 years. My work centers around bringing music to the lives of kids, parents, and adults in an enriching, meaningful way. At the South Shore Piano School, my incredible colleagues and I accomplish this through skill-based teaching, community, and an innovative, people-first business model. You can read more about me here.


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