Instinct, Choice and Outside Influence

roads diverge

This is abstract so consider yourselves warned

I have been reading a lot lately about personality, the way brains are wired and I’ve been trying to figure out some things about my own thought patterns that have always been a little weird when thinking back on my decisions. In doing so, I had a great conversation with a friend about how we are influenced by others and what that crowd mentality does to our individuality.

He told me about a study done at a college years back. It went something like this:

The situation is set up and everyone knows something aside from one outside person (referred to here as the one in the dark), brought into the classroom without being told anything about the study about to take place. There are six people involved, as well as a classroom spectating. The six people are lined up in front of the class, the one person being kept in the dark is 5th in line. They  are each shown a piece of paper with two lines on it, one short and one obviously longer.

The test subjects are asked which line is longer, starting with the person farthest from the one in the dark. Each and every person says the opposite of the truth..that the shorter line is the longer one including the person that is in the dark, even though he knows that the longer line is longer. This happens with 80% of the time this test is done.

When the person in the dark gets asked, they stop and analyze his choice. “Why did you pick that line?” The answer is always, because everyone else did.

Now 20% of the people still spoke the truth, which leads me to believe that some people either are compelled to voice the truth, or compelled to be different.

I may catch some flack for this but I personally don’t care for Dave Ramsey. Why?

Because everyone else involved with finance reveres him so highly, he practically has a cult following..

I have been this way all my life, when someone has such a huge influence on a subject and they are considered an authority, but I haven’t found that for myself, I am compelled to think the opposite is true until I prove the material myself and make up my own opinion on the subject.

My point here being, how can we combat our natural instincts to become better in the ways we want to?

First, find out what kind of person you are. Do you question others beliefs when impressed on your or do you accept them as fact until proven otherwise?

Or like me, do you question everything until it’s proven one way or another?

Once you find out what kind of personality you have, you can make conscious decisions on your natural instincts.

I told you this was abstract, but I would love to hear your thoughts on thought. Are any of you psychologists?

Image by Paro for Piece

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5 People have left comments on this post

» YanaNo Gravatar said: { Jul 12, 2010 - 01:07:10 }

Good post. I’m not a professional psychologist, but am very interested in the subject. So are marketers, because we are all targets of their manipulation.

I can’t say I’m immune to societal suggestion, but I don’t accept ideas easily when they seem like an instruction. There’s no doubt that I’ve lived an alternative lifestyle as far as how I’ve managed my life, lifestyle, methods of acquiring income and methods of managing it. Truth be told, I haven’t always known exactly what I was doing as far as what would happen in the long-term. Experience and observation have guided me, and I am always eager to learn more about *how things work*. There are the things you are taught, and then there is how things work. Also, you are dealt a hand, and you have to play it one way or the other.

I’ve heard of Dave Ramsey, and think you’re probably right about him having a cult following. Some people want to be told what to do and how to do it, but to be fair, I don’t really know a thing about him other than having heard his name and how fabulous he is. I would rather follow blogs such as yours, Flexo’s, Jim @Bargaineering, because I like the information and opinions that I find.


jmichelsenNo Gravatar Reply:

That's a great point Yana that ou really have to play with the hand you are dealt. That is what I was trying to put into words when writing this post, and if you don't know what that hand is, it really makes playing all that more difficult. Finding yourself, strengths and weaknesses, will make you so more prepared for dealing with life as it comes at you.

I plan to someday read Dave Ramsey's teachings and see if they are in line with how I think things are, so I really try and leave my opinion of him out of conversation, but I thought it proved my point here today.

Another thing, I think blogs are so popular because readers can relate to the regular folk that write the blogs. I am no professional in the field, and neither are any of the major PF blogs, but they are regular people that have figured things out on their own which makes their writing relatable and their experience extremely useful.

Thanks for your thought provoking comment!


» Jon DeGroffNo Gravatar said: { Jul 20, 2010 - 10:07:49 }

It is interesting to know how people change their opinion based on the herd. If you haven't read my blog on my thoughts on Dave Ramsey, please read
Generally, my thinking is "if everyone thinks it's great, I'm going to be skeptical." For example, I don't like the Lakers, Yankees, Duke, or Notre Dame, simply because of the perception that these teams are always great and beyond the inevitable cyclical nature of anything. Nobody questions whether or not those teams are actually good, they only question why I wouldn't like them.

It's the same thing with a guy like Dave Ramsey. Simply because he has a large following, people will not question whether or not their advice is correct/right for them. They will only follow because it's what the other masses are doing, and it "sounds right."

Awesome post!
My recent post Yakezie Friday! Update and Links


jmichelsenNo Gravatar Reply:

You hit the nail on the head my friend, someone with so much power needs to be questioned! 🙂 Your post really embodied many of my thoughts on Dave, having met many of his fanatical followers. On the other hand I know some very level headed followers as well but they are not afraid of doing their own research. You have to supplement your own knowledge and experience with that of others, not replace your own with theirs because they have a book published or a radio show.

Rock on Jon! (loved your piece on being average today, by the way)