Social Validation and the Drive for Success

Just a quick post this time. I wanted to call attention to some insight that I read on a blog called The Psychology of Success, hosted by Dr. Bakari Akil II. In one of his recent posts, he notes the psychological force of social validation, and how it can act as a motivational force for success.

Akil references the work of Dr. Robert Cialdini, who wrote a very famous book called Influence. Cialdini identifies six¬†“weapons” of influence that people leverage upon one another in order to get what they want. One of the weapons he identifies is the concept of Social Proof…the idea that something is desirable and worth more simply because it is desired by many others.

Akil talks about the validating power of Social Proof using Michael Jordan as an example. He suggests that Jordan had some early experiences where he felt unrecognized, and that lack of validation was the final motivating factor that pressed Jordan to excellence in college.

Social Proof is an example of the Status Transaction at work. If many people show an interest in you, your status obviously goes up, but what may not be so obvious is that the status of those showing interest goes down. It’s a zero-sum game. That’s why people try very hard not to show that they’re too interested in someone, for example someone they’d like to date. The display of interest actually lowers one’s own value in the eyes the other.

I’ll be talking about Cialdini’s “weapons of influence” in some upcoming entries. His insights are very important, and I want to discuss them in detail and one at a time. I’m going back through the book right now to get some notes together.

In the meantime, go have a look at Psychology of Success. Leave some comments below about where you’ve seen examples of Social Proof (i.e. value based only on social validation). Have you ever seen anyone motivated to success by this need? Have you ever seen anyone get completely tripped up or trapped by this need?

Editor’s Note: As I was searching for a graphic to go with this entry, I found another great blog entry on Social Proof from It discusses the use of Social Proof as a marketing tool.

  1. May 11, 2010 at 7:52 PM

    Thank you for drawing attention to my blog post on Social Proof.
    I find the ‘Status Transaction’ to be quite fascinating. I see examples of this demonstrated through social media. Mainly via Facebook.
    Thank you for this great post.
    Best Regards,

  1. October 6, 2011 at 9:43 AM

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