We have rules. We have rules made by our families, our spouses, our schools, our churches, our jobs, our state, our government … ourselves. We have rules that we are taught and we follow for all kinds of reasons. The rules are often made for safety purposes, right? Wear your seat belt when you drive so the cops and EMTs don’t have to scrape you up off the road. Heroin is illegal because you are going to get addicted to it and destroy your life before you die from an overdose. Children must have their immunization records to be enrolled in school. These rules seem like they are made out of consideration for mankind and our health and future. This makes sense to us. We’ll accept it. Sure. Why not?
Based on the outcome of several different psychological experiments, all of you “nonconformists” should go find out what all the other “nonconformists” think about this. Luckily, Author James Surowiecki reminds us in his book, “The Wisdom of Crowds,” that we can be easily persuaded back to our original thought process if we have at least one person leading the resistance.
In essence, we are not complete sheep. We have the capability to think and act for ourselves. We just have an extreme amount of feelings and thoughts that intercept our ability to carry them out in many cases.
One example is the elevator experiment called “Face the Rear.” In this experiment, one person enters an elevator and face toward the doors. More people enter the elevator, but these people all stand facing the opposite direction. The original person appears confused and uncomfortable and eventually turns to face the same direction as the rest of the crowd … without reason.
Another example was a volunteer group of 24 male college students who responded to an ad in the newspaper for the Stanford Prison Experiment. This mock prison experiment divided the 24 students into groups of 12 “inmates” and 12 “prison guards.” The students had signed up to volunteer to play these roles for two weeks. The “prisoners” were emotionally tortured by the guards, who did not have reservations about carrying out the authoritarian and abusive roles that they were assigned to innocent people. The really crazy part of this experiment is that none of the “prisoners” ever protested to the way that they were being treated or asked to be removed from the experiment. After six days, the experiment was stopped due to the horrific nature of the outcome.
This second example is quite terrifying, because most of us would believe that we are not capable of inflicting this abuse and torture on another person. But this experiment and others show that when we are given permission, we will take on these roles. To me, this brings up the assignments of Nazi soldiers who later stated that they were told to carry out these orders and insisted that they were not bad people.
Other psychological experiments have been conducted that have shown a significant percentage of people failing to respond to an “ailing or dying person” because of lack of time or dismissing themselves as caregivers because they believed that they could pass the responsibility on to someone else.
So, as free-thinkers and do-gooders … we suck. We would fail society if we were in the Hunger Games. We need to get our shit together.