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Psychology behind Majority Rule

Posted by karmakazi , 20 July 2012 · 648 views

Let’s imagine there is a group of 100 people in an auditorium, waiting for a performance to begin.  Going into the event, 90 of the people think the ticket price for the show was fair.  10 of the people think that the ticket price was unfairly high.  During the time before the performance, people are mingling and chatting, and those 10 people are sharing their opinion of the ticket price during the conversations.

Just those ten people – ten percent of the group – can shift the opinion of the majority of the group rapidly.  By the time people see the performance, it no longer matters how skilled the performers are, most of the people in the audience will be disappointed in the show overall because of their new opinion about the ticket price.

This effect has been tested, and 10% of a population seems to be the hinge-point as to whether the group can be swayed or not.  – http://www.livescien...ent.html</span>


There are also group influences [society] that have an effect on our opinions:

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within groups of people. It is the mode of thinking that happens when the desire for harmony in a decision-making group overrides a realistic appraisal of alternatives. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints. Antecedent factors such as group cohesiveness, structural faults, and situational context play into the likelihood of whether or not groupthink will impact the decision-making process.

Compliance refers to a response — specifically, a submission — made in reaction to a request. The request may be explicit (i.e., foot-in-the-door technique) or implicit (i.e., advertising). The target may or may not recognize that he or she is being urged to act in a particular way.

Conformity is the act of matching attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors to group norms.[1] Norms are implicit rules shared by a group of individuals, that guide their interactions with others and among society or social group. This tendency to conform occurs in small groups and/or society as a whole, and may result from subtle unconscious influences, or direct and overt social pressure. Conformity can occur in the presence of others, or when an individual is alone. For example, people tend to follow social norms when eating or watching television, even when alone.

In human behavior, obedience is a form of social influence in which a person yields to explicit instructions or orders from an authority figure’ (Coleman,2006)]]  Humans have been shown to be surprisingly obedient in the presence of perceived legitimate authority figures, as shown by the Milgram experiment in the 1960s, which was carried-out by Stanley Milgram to find how the Nazis managed to get ordinary people to take part in the mass murders of the Holocaust. The experiment showed that obedience to authority was the norm, not the exception. Regarding obedience, Stanley Milgram said that "Obedience is as basic an element in the structure of social life as one can point to; Some system of authority is a requirement of all communal living, and it is only the man dwelling in isolation who is not forced to respond, through defiance or submission, to the commands of others." [3] A similar conclusion was reached in the Stanford prison experiment.
(definitions from wiki)


These are psychological effects exerted upon a member of a group, society or class by the individual's own psyche.  It is an instinct we retained through evolution as a protective mechanism.  Examples in other animals include the tendacy to stampede and specifically in rodents and birds, a tendancy to watch other members of the group for signs of alarm.   These effects make themselves evident in conversations, particularly among groups; if members of the group have a differing opinion to the one being discussed, they are more likely to agree with the group than to speak their mind.

Humans have a tendency not only to follow other humans for safety reasons, but also to do so out of a desire for acceptance.  It is typically preferable to remain a part of the group rather than to fracture the group into varying opinions.

Our society views certain things as authority, though they are not specific to an individual or group.  Examples include advertisements, news papers and television, radio programs and literature.  The unspoken reasoning behind this can be described as the assumption that information which makes it into a form requiring an outlay of cost, time, or manpower, must have intrinsic value and truth to it.  In other words, the information is assumed to have been validated by the people doing the publishing.  It is a form of group think where the individual accepts material presented by peers on the basis that those peers have accepted it already.  The downside of such a function within society is that most things are published via funding rather than validation.

Ironcially, most of the people who operate under these effects are at least marginally aware that these effects exist, but they fail to observe their own complicity to the effects.

Implied majority “opinion” via the media has a strong influence as well, an example would be headlines claiming “most Americans think….”   These types of headlines tell the reader that everyone else in the country is on the same page, and most readers will decide that they should be on that page as well.  It doesn’t matter whether the information is true or not, its presentation by an “authority” expressing a unified “group opinion” is enough to cement it as truth for many people – especially if it is repeated.


First, we have the media presenting information, assumed by the majority who see it to be peer validated.
Next, those people share the information with others they know, who typically accept what they are told out of complicity.
Then, they share the information as well, leading to the effect of a belief held by ten or more percent of society spreading throughout that society.


These psychological traits of human beings make it very easy and very effective to control majority opinion – one merely needs to have the credibility (politicians), the money, or the admiration (celebrities) to make society at large bend to their will.  That, is how majority rule turns sour and oppresses not only the minority, but also the majority.


That’s right… a majority mis-lead into accepting or demanding an idea/change/law can unknowingly oppress themselves.




nm
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“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it”

Adolf Hitler
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We all have to struggle to free ourselves from the times we live in.  Brain washing is something that affects all of us I believe.  True reality is diffiuclt to find, if it is even possible I don't know.  Perhaps it is a two edge sword, if we did not bind ourselves together in this way then any kind of culture would be impossible.  In any event, socities tend to die, at times from outside forces, at others times from inner 'rot', then something new comes along.  Today the news is the worst of the worst in how it controls our thinking, be  it on the left or the right, I see no way out of this delima.
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I agree Mark, it is definitely a two edged sword... people would need to remain conscientious about their actions but still retain the willingness to help others in need and to work together as a community.  Its necessary to have both the ability to think for yourself, and the compassion to want to make sure others are taken care of too.
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it only takes one juror to swing a trial....

nice post!!
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