Conformity, Similarity, and Social Proof

… a core concept in Communication Skills and Atlas 109

Concept description

Gary Orren identifies conformity, social proof and similarity as one of the pathos (characteristics of audience) persuasion principles, and consensus is the sixth of Robert Cialdini’s 6 principles of persuasion science.

Orren notes power of social norms and that people are often persuaded to change their attitudes or behaviour in response to real or imagined group pressure. Conformity is a time-saving device that increases the chances of being correct, yields social approval or avoids disapproval. This suggests that one should ask:

  • Who else can speak for me or my cause?
  • Who can better invoke peer pressure than me?

Cialdini notes that, especially when they are uncertain, people will look to the actions and views of others to determine their own. He illustrates this with the effectiveness of different messages that hotels use to encourage people to reuse their towels and linens. A message that includes information on the percentage of people staying in that particular room who re-use their towels and linen was more effective than a message that simply emphasized the benefits to the environment.


Elizabeth Levey, How to Use the Principle of Social Proof in Persuasive Speeches, at, accessed 23 January 2016.

John Fallon, Principle of Social Proof, 1-minute YouTube video, at, accessed 23 January 2016.

Kendra Cherry, What is Conformity, at, accessed 23 January 2016.


Gary Orren, PowerPoint presentation in 2005 to the Mortgage Bankers Association, Persuasion: The Science and Art of Effective Communication, accessed 17 January 2016 and “Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion.” Robert Cialdini and Steve Martin, Secrets from the Science of Persuasion, published on YouTube 26 November 2012, at, accessed 17 January 2016.

Normed topic and synthetic course with which the concept is primarily associated

This concept is primarily associated with the core normed topic Practices of Persuasion and is included in the synthetic course outline Atlas109 Leadership and Communication Skills.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 12 February 2016.

Image: Robert Cialdini and Steve Martin, Secrets from the Science of Persuasion, published on YouTube 26 November 2012, at, accessed 17 January 2016.