It’s your first time in New York and you’re at an off Broadway musical. The curtain closes and you immediately jump out of your seat to begin clapping. You quickly notice you are the only one standing. Embarrassed, you quickly start thinking to yourself, “Why isn’t anyone else standing?’ “Should I sit back down?” “Will anyone notice?”.

What if the roles were reversed and everyone was standing, but you found yourself sitting. Would it be just as awkward to change your mind? After much thought on the topic you realize something as simple as the decision to stand and clap or sit and clap is actually much more complicated. There is a lot more to it than the initial decision. The essence of the problem is that although people have their individual choice, there are no clear guidelines whether standing is appropriate and they are therefore persuaded by the actions of others.

The influence of others could be as simple as feeling uncomfortable being different than others. This is called peer effect. On the other hand, one could think others know the correct thing to do and this is informational influence. Although seemingly simple, there are a lot of social dynamics at play making it more complex. The model described here has many applications for social scientists.