This article got me started thinking. It’s about how people tend to shift their thinking towards what the majority believes because they want to be part of the norm.
Participants, all female, had to rate 222 faces based on physical beauty on a scale from 1 to 8. Afterwards, researchers told each participant either that the average score was higher or that it was lower than her rating. Some participants were told the average rating was equal to her rating. The researchers then chatted with the participant before suddenly asking the participant to do the rating again. Most subjects changed their opinion toward the average.
The two leading theories of conformity are that people look to the group because they’re unsure of what to do, and that people go along with the norm because they are afraid of being different, said Dr. Gregory Berns, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.
Somewhere deep inside my cerebral cortex I began to worry that I’d have to be careful from now on about my reasons for believing something, but then a memory began to surface.
Earlier this week I had been in my Spanish class during a “study hall” period sitting with my friend. The boy he was talking to was discussing what he’d want his parents to get him if they were as rich as some of the other kids at school. I said that I’d want a library, or an observatory, or, better yet, a space telescope like Hubble.
“Normal kids would want their parents to get them a yacht, or a private jet. Having a library or an observatory would be less likely to make you popular.”
I didn’t think much of that comment at the time, it didn’t minimize my desire to have my own backyard observatory, but I later had a strange feeling.
Earlier this year I had been talking to a girl from China and I asked her what her favourite scientific discipline was. She responded, in Chinese, “Chinese girls don’t like science.”
How many teenagers, and adults, would actually love science but pretend that they don’t like it because they feel like they have to conform? Perhaps the issue that we face is not anti-science, but the simple human urge to conform to the norm.
This leaves me with a thought on a lighter note. Does this mean that fighting anti-science could be as simple as having kids in schools being open about their nerdom and prideful of it just so that other potential scientists and critical thinkers know that they’re not the only one? Could it be as simple as having the Disney channel make a show with a teenager who excels at math and science but doesn’t fit the socially-inept, unfashionable, unpopular creep stereotype?
It could just be the caffeine in me talking, but the idea’s out there now. Begin constructive criticism, or implementation.