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The Hidden Power of Others Over You [Video]

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Editor’s note: Brain Basics from Scientific American Mind is a series of short video primers on the brain and how we feel, think and act. Below is a synopsis of the third video in the series written by a guest on this blog, Roni Jacobson, a science journalist based in New York City.

By Roni Jacobson

Highly creative people may stand out from the crowd, but to be influential they have to understand their audience. One of our strongest motivations as humans is the desire for others’ approval. We’re programmed to follow social norms—the unwritten rules of society—because getting others to like us helps ensure our survival.

In the 1950s social psychologist Solomon Asch conducted a now classic experiment demonstrating the power of social influence. Asch and his assistants showed a group of participants a line and asked each person to choose which of three other lines matched the first line in length. The task was simple. But unbeknownst to one participant, all of the others in the group were actually working for Asch and purposefully gave the wrong answer. But after hearing the others’ responses, the “real” participant would agree with them a little more than a third of the time. This experiment and others since show how, in the right context, the pressure to conform can occasionally trump the evidence in front of our eyes.

Other Brain Basics videos:

A Transformation of Light: How We See

Quick! What Is The Word for a Pair of Opposites?

Ingrid Wickelgren About the Author: Ingrid Wickelgren is an editor at Scientific American Mind, but this is her personal blog at which, at random intervals, she shares the latest reports, hearsay and speculation on the mind, brain and behavior. Follow on Twitter @iwickelgren.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.



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  1. 1. 14072859 10:54 am 05/4/2014

    I found this article and the videos attached to it very interesting. People often want to blend in. Suppressing their own abilities and creativity while doing it.We encounter this everyday. In class rooms and at work. Too often we might do or say something to please others or do what might seem “right” according to certain norms.

    We should be aware of this. It might smother who you really are. You could miss out on big opportunities or even end up being unhappy in your work. Feel empty because you aren’t doing what you really want to do and what makes you happy.

    Each and every one of us are unique. We should learn to respect and see the beauty in one another’s differences.

    This article is informative and helps us to focus in trusting our own instincts and ideas.

    Link to this

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