Peer pressure and the blind spot

(Many thanks to Richard Wiseman for the link.)

Did you notice the poor free-thinker (right hand side, second row)? Eventually, even she succumbed…

I wonder: is this how peer pressure works? When surrounded by folks behaving in a certain way, the urge to conform is tremendous. And the amount of effort required to change direction is enormous, given that more than half of the population in which one is immersed must be persuaded to change direction — preferably, all at the same time, since each and every ‘convert’ faces an up-hill struggle trying to maintain focus on the new direction in the face of the incumbent knee-jerkism.

To me, this seems a pretty clear explanation of why it is that even though many members of our society recognise that we’re heading for serious trouble, any attempts to change direction appear to have minimal, if any, effect on the prevailing thinking. This is exacerbated by the inordinate amount of power wielded by those at the top of the financial food chain. Our only hope is that we reach a tipping point of opinion to bring all those other nodding donkeys around (preferably well in time to turn the rudder on the ship — which will itself, like the poor, doomed Titanic, also take some time to respond; and if and when that rudder is finally turned, let’s hope that it’s turned in the right direction, too, not the wrong one, by mistake…).

Another aspect of the problem is that there are a great many different threads to the theme. Peak oil, population pressure, climate change, save the whale, save the Arctic, save the Sumatran tiger, save the rainforest… humans are physiologically incapable of focusing on many things at once (cue all the feminists claiming that they can multi-task, and pitying the poor one-track-mind males… oops. Did I hit any nerves?). Offered as proof (though I don’t doubt that many will dismiss it as a trick): this amazing (flash) widget demonstrating motion induced blindness (with thanks to Learning from Dogs).

Dr Jason Bradford makes what I think is a very astute observation. It’s buried in the middle of a film called ‘Blind Spot‘:

“… it’s gone on for so long, and we’ve met so many challenges, that in essence we’ve developed a culture that reinforces the idea that there are no real consequences to our actions; because even if there’s a short-term problem we will have the ingenuity and the ability to solve it.

The society in general, then, has, generation after generation going back with that belief system, and those sort of expectations. And so, to be able to turn that around, when all anyone who’s alive today can see is this era of human progress that goes back into the past and they assume is going to stretch out into the future. And it is embedded in the laws and the habits that people have. It’s sort of a positive feedback loop.

So you see this cultural restraint, then, on change. It becomes very, very dangerous because, when that is challenged, it is challenging generations of belief assumptions. And what happens is that those who challenge it are essentially putting themselves outside of their own culture. And that becomes very difficult to handle as an individual – psychologically and emotionally. Because you’re constantly looking at your own culture and saying “OMG man that’s crazy” — and yet your culture will look back at you, and say you are crazy.

Dr Albert Bartlett, the man responsible for the seminal talk Arithmetic, population and energy, also features in Blind Spot, and makes some more astute comments, which I’ll leave you with…

Blind Spot is available from Filmbaby.

About pendantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
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One Response to Peer pressure and the blind spot

  1. Pingback: Depressive alarmism | Wibble

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