"Without our realizing it, others have a huge influence on
almost every aspect of life. People vote because others are voting,
eat more when others are eating, and buy a new car because their
neighbors have recently done so. Social influence affects the
products people buy, health plans they choose, grades they get in
school, and careers they follow. It shapes whether people save for
retirement, invest in the stock market, donate money, join a
fraternity, save energy, or adopt new innovations. Social influence
even affects whether people engage in criminal activity or are
satisfied with their job. Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of all
decisions are shaped by others. It's hard to find a decision or
behavior that isn't affected by other people."
Jonah Berger predicts that two things will happen when someone
starts reading his Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces That Shape
Behavior. The reader will see this as being true for all the rest of
humanity. Oh, they're all a bunch of sheep. He/she will also see him/
herself as somehow being above all this conformity, making decisions
on the basis of personal values, likes, and dislikes. In a research
based, highly readable narrative, Berger contends that we're more like
everyone else than we'd care to admit. Whether our choices are
negatively or positively impacted by others, we aren't acting in a
Pure proximity has a positive influence on one's liking for
others. Contrary to an adage, familiarity breeds fondness. Often we
adapt our behavior to that of those around us. Group think in
meetings occurs when the first idea presented is the most
influential. And have you ever decided against the dessert you craved
when others in your dinner party did not share your desire?
On the other hand, we will go out of our way to not do what
certain others do. I breathed a deep sigh of relief when I learned
that Donald Trump does NOT read books. When status symbol objects are
pirated and the less well off, the wanna bes, acquire them, the rich
ditch them in favor of things that are still exclusive. In many
schools African American kids have underachieved when peers accused
achievers of acting white.
At the end of each chapter Berger gives suggestions on how to
make research findings work for you. Anonymous ballots, rather than a
show of hands, lessens the social influence in voting. Going first in
a group makes one able to shape a discussion. An aspect of
familiarity can help people accept a novel product or concept.
Invisible Influence gave me much food for thought. It's a very
insightful, interesting book. However, I think it's a must read in
today's us and them political climate. Our deep divisions give us
another example of Berger's premise. We (whoever we are: liberals,
conservatives, red, blue, Clinton voters, Trump voters...) act on
ethics and principals. They (our opposite) are mindless sheep.
Unless we can get out of this mindset, this divisiveness will only get
worse and continue to give those in power the ability to divide and
conquer the rest of us.
On a personal note, at UMaine we had an event called Peace Love
Pizza. Representatives from different activist groups had chances to
talk about groups' missions, activities, and needs. I really enjoyed
speaking on behalf of Real Food Challenge.
A great big shout out goes out to all who participated in that very
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