Study Finds Social Proof Shifts Perceptions in Brain

February 25, 2009

Here is a somewhat recent CNN article which talks about the impact of social proof upon one's perceptions. Prior research has already shown that individuals will go along with a majority view, even if it is objectively incorrect in their minds. What is interesting about this recent study is they examined how people's ideas of physical beauty changed based on what they perceived to be the average, or norm ratings of their peers.  I believe this research has relevance for Asian Americans.

As one of the scientists put it:

"The two leading theories of conformity are that people look to the group because they're unsure of what to do, and that people go along with the norm because they are afraid of being different", said Dr. Gregory Berns, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.

The reason I find this new study interesting and also alarming, is that social proof and norms are tied into mass media and fashion images. What effect must this influence have on Asian American and Asian populations, which are constantly bombarded by what is usually White-centric global media? I have not come across any studies of this yet, but I would love to know to what degree Asian Americans, and also Asians in their respective nations, have internalized ideas of physical and facial beauty, as well as sexual attractiveness, based on the Western media they consume.


Alvin Lin


Alvin Lin was born in Taipei, Taiwan and hails from New England. He blogs about Asian American pop culture, film, music, literature and politics, as well as relevant news around the world. He also writes for Imprint Talk. Alvin has degrees from Cornell and MIT.