Reality Blind - Vol. 1

Summary: We are social creatures. We do not act or make decisions in a vacuum but look to others to inform our behaviors. This social pressure to conform has been studied intensely and has various subcategories: ' groupthink ', the “ bandwagon effect ” , the “ bystander effect ” , and the “conformity effect” among others. We refer to these effects, in aggregate, as the consensus trance . We use it here to refer to the near-hypnotic power of conforming with the behaviors and beliefs of those around you. Because it is a trance, most people, most of the time, are unaware that they are in a trance. And if you do become aware, it is still very difficult to resist. As a eusocial primate, we nearly always do what those around us do and take our thoughts and opinions from them. Groupthink occurs when a number of people, alert to maintaining harmony and conformity within the group, make dysfunctional or incorrect decisions. The members of the group try to reach consensus while suppressing conflict and dissenting viewpoints. Taking a thoughtful and critical look at alternative viewpoints and outside sources is discouraged. In effect, the social unpleasantness from strong disagreement is tacitly considered a greater danger than the actual physical problem at hand. A famous example of groupthink occurred during the Cuban missile crisis when President Kennedy ’ s advisors all agreed with his analysis and statements - a consensus that brought us perilously close to a global nuclear war. (Kennedy afterwards required all people to speak their minds to the limits of their individual expertise even if the information was contradictory and unpopular). Examples of our consensus trances abound, including several famous controlled experiments. In a study called the “ smoke filled room ” , experimenters released smoke outside of a closed door 58 . When left alone in a room, 3/4 of people would report smoke unexpectedly coming from under the door. And for good reason, since dying in a building fire is one of the few major immediate dangers we are still subject to in our modern world. However, if a person was in a room with two other people who ignored the smoke, 90% ignored it too . Basically, the risk of minor social awkwardness was more threatening than the danger of fire . It ’ s almost as if our physical-world concerns are considered adequately dealt-with once others around us have the same information. Our evolved genetic and cultural tendency is to pass information on to the tribe, and then observe whether the tribe gets agitated. If the tribe gets agitated, some behavior then ensues which resolves the agitation, and we go along with it. And if the tribe doesn ’ t


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