The concept of looking to other people for guidance in situations is not a new one – we do this unconsciously and automatically when we aren’t certain what to do in a situation. This is true whether we’re looking for professional recommendations or we’re simply reading product reviews on Amazon prior to purchasing something. What is a bit more interesting, however, is that we also look to other people to validate our actions even when we are confident in our decisions.
But why do we do that?
It may go deeper than just the need for affirmation that we’re “doing a good job” or “doing the right thing” or “making a smart decision” – it also lies in the need for many of us to influence the opinions that people make about us. Our self-rating of our success depends on others’ recognition of a job well done; we need people to say that we’re more than capable – we need to hear that we were “just who was needed” to get the job done right.
Examples of the need for social validation can be found across cultures, across countries, and across academic and professional settings. It’s this social validation that reassures us that we are “on the right track” with our peers, that we are accepted, and that we are “good people” despite our shortcomings in our personal and professional lives.
Social validation is necessary, and it’s a positive force, whether it’s directed at children, office staff professionals, nurses, or anyone else.
Social Validation with Athletes
Basketball legend Michael Jordan in 2009 described his need for social validation as an athlete – even though he knew all along that he was a good basketball player. In his acceptance speech that year for induction into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, Jordan told a story about how his coach, Dean Smith, had once been featured in Sports Illustrated. In Smith’s interview, he listed only four starters on the basketball team, omitting Michael. Jordan said he was irate, and explained that the omission fueled his need to show Smith how great of a player he was. This need to be acknowledged and validated kept him going throughout not only his college ball years, but also through his years in the NBA. Jordan already knew he was a great player, but wanted to see that others saw it, too; he needed the validation.
Social Validation in Academics
In the popular TV show The Big Bang Theory, a group of friends comprised of an engineer and two physicists were working on proving a very advanced experimental theory. While the idea that served as the foundation for the theory came from one of the scientists, another friend in the group began to take much of the credit for the experiment, eventually garnering much more fame and attention for it than his friend. While the original thought leader of the group already knew that he was the one responsible for the initial idea, it wasn’t enough; he wanted in on the acknowledgment and the social validation. He needed to know that people were aware that it was actually his idea in order to be satisfied. It was important to him that his colleagues acknowledged his work and the fact that it was his original idea that led to the successful theory.
Social Validation in Marketing
Online marketing is an area that has come to rely heavily on social validation; since social media began, people have become more skeptical, less easily swayed, and more discerning of businesses. Companies are now finding that it’s more challenging to win the trust of consumers, but with social validation, that task becomes remarkably easier. True is a company that can facilitate this social validation for businesses; it offers them online customer activity notifications to show their customers how others are positively interacting with that business. True utilizes social influence to help businesses increase sales and customer trust at the same time. It’s modern-day social validation working for advertising and marketing, and it works.
How often do you read feedback and consumer reviews of products and/or services online before you make a purchase? In marketing, if a product receives positive reviews from users, other consumers become more likely to purchase it, too. The opposite holds true as well, of course: a product, company, or service with negative feedback can deter consumers in a heartbeat. Consumers have come to rely on other consumers to influence many of their purchasing decisions; people distrust brands more than in the past, so companies must cultivate validity from consumers in order to survive these days.