Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mob Mentality

I could also have called this "The Power of Polls" or "Group Think," but whatever you call it, I have alway found it frightening. Well, okay, maybe not Always, but at least since 9th grade. That's when we read "The Lottery."

If the purpose of making 9th graders read that story is to help them avoid peer pressure, it worked on me, not that I had a prayer of fitting in well enough to be a follower, anyway. You have to be at least a little bit like the others to do that. Since I'm not, I just safely assumed that I was exactly the type of person who would wind up standing in the middle of the circle of angry people holding stones. This could be why I avoid crowds.

It's also why I find a lot of things scary these days. Election poll results can change the way people vote instead of the other way 'round. Reports of statistical findings can cause people to totally change the way they do things. Dad was thrilled to hear that a study didn't support the need to drink a lot of water. Never mind the hundreds of studies that went before or the fact that our bodies are 70% water, which might actually mean something. "The Study Said I Don't Have to Drink Water." That's all he heard because it was what he wanted to hear.

I think they need to republish "How to Lie with Statistics." We forget how easy it is. You can usually find a study to support you if you look hard enough.

On the other hand, my darling husband won't believe me no matter how many studies I find him that say reading in the dark won't make your eyesight worse, because that is not what he chooses to believe (I also can't convince him that being cold won't make you sick. It takes Germs, honey).

Speaking of statistical findings influencing people's actions - apparently library use goes way up in times of economic stress - so get yourself to a library right now!

1 comment:

Courtney said...

Cold temp and catching a cold... I have the same conversation with my Mom, often. Mob mentality can be scary. Thank God for the brave outcasts of the world that became great leaders and/or innovators.