Behavioral Diagnostics Toolkit

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Social Proof

We tend to conform to socially acceptable behaviors or attitudes.

Social Desirability

The tendency to shape our behaviors and reported attitudes to conform with socially desirable norms.
For example: when asked “how often do you break the law?” the individual may be pressured by the social undesirability of illegal activity and may therefore be influenced to answer in a way that is not truthful.


When attempts to persuade or change our attitudes lead to the perception that our choices or actions are being limited, we may have an increased motivation to strengthen our initial position in order to reinforce our autonomy.

Outgroup Homogeneity

The tendency to believe that members of groups we are not a part of are more similar to each other than members of groups we are in.
For example: People rate students from another university as more homogeneous than students at their own university (Rothgerber, 1997).

Distinction Bias

They look nothing alike! This is the tendency to judge two options as more dissimilar when they are judged simultaneously than when they are judged separately. This can sometimes lead to irrational attributions of quality that depend on the way in which we compare options.
For example: when comparing two similar quality cameras side by side, the consumer may decide to purchase the costly slightly higher quality camera because they believe they can see the distinct quality difference even though they would not be able to notice this difference when viewing the cameras individually.

Descriptive/ Injunctive Social Norms

Social norms are either descriptive (what other people do) or instructive (what people should do). Norm-based messages are stronger when both are aligned.

Bandwagon Effect

The tendency to adopt commonly held beliefs or behaviors simply due to their popularity.
Related to descriptive social norms and herd behavior. For example, in an election the public may be more likely to vote for the candidate that is considered to be the most popular and likely to win.


People can be influenced to engage in otherwise unlikely behaviors merely because a perceived authority figure requests or endorses it.

Market / Social Norms

Thanks for dinner mom…here’s $20! Many of our interactions exist in the competing realms of social and market norms. Social norms include friendly requests that people make of one another. Market norms generally involve a more traditional cost-benefit analysis relating to wages, rents, or prices.