Hello and Welcome!
Having a long history in the study of human behavior I am intimately aware of the strong urge and pull toward following the group. Simply observing toddlers in preschool, young children in elementary school or witnessing the popular movement of music, clothing, and behavior of high school and young adulthood results in the observation that the in-group in society telegraphs to the human psyche how to be, what to think, who to follow and what will keep you in the clique.
This is built into the developmental structure of humans.
This draw to follow the group mind and to be inculcated into belief systems is the basis of societal strength. Unfortunately it can become the downfall of society over time and can become a tool to control people without their overt knowledge.
In the 1960’s psychologists studied university students to discover if an individual will follow the group and conform under various conditions. It was called the Asch Experiment (Wikipedia). And what they found was that when students were presented with a group of peers who offered the incorrect response they conformed to answer with the incorrect answer 75% of the time for at least one answer.
Also in the 1960’s psychologists studied whether a person would act against his or her own inner sense that something was wrong when told by an authority person or person in a position of power that it was necessary to act in this way against that subject’s inner sense that something was wrong. This was called the Milgram Experiment (Wikipedia). This study’s results provided serious information that seemingly “good people” with reasonable skills to evaluate the serious negative effects of an act would still follow through with causing harm to another person when told by an authority person (person in a position of power) that it was necessary and deferred responses to the effects of their actions.
The best way to avoid this is to use critical thinking in all of your decision-making. Critical thinking questions the basis of your belief systems and the underpinnings of powerful people’s opinions and positions. Rather then saying I agree with that icon, hero, politician, or cool person, critical thinking encourages an inner dialogue that questions why do I agree and what does that statement, philosophy, or belief system mean down and up-stream. This increases an individual’s chance to be congruent in his beliefs and it increases the specific individual freedom and empowerment that person can experience in his life course and development.
What is popular is not always what is best for a society. How those in power get their message out is a through subtle coercion. All groups have rules of inclusion and exclusion. The human goal is to feel included, liked, accepted and specifically to be part of the cool in-group.
A great tool is to pay attention when you feel you are being pulled along a flow toward something as if it is the only answer and that feeling is a pressure from the outside, cool in-group, not from an internal sense of knowing from within. This is a cue that you are caught up in something that may have propaganda in it.
When individuals become overly stressed or lack critical thinking they accept propaganda as truth, swallowing it whole. This is a shortcut due to stress or due to an unearned trust toward the group or those in power, thinking thay are indeed going to direct the society to the society as a whole‘s best interest.
Sociological theory and psychological theory, both, have shown that under various conditions those in power want to maintain that power. Power is the means to make money. The place wherein there is little critical thinking with respect to how groups are using propaganda to promote their money-making opportunities is through marketing, media, and what is cool.
The best response to your environment is to use your own critical thinking skills to evaluate the truth of what is being said. Examine how you know it is true, without accepting whole what someone says whom you perceive as a guru, leader, hero, or cool person.
There is power in being famous, this is related to the latent pull to follow the leader of the group. Following what a famous person says or does gives your psyche the sense that you are somehow connected to them, which feeds that hidden inner pull to conform and align with the group.
This is precisely the process that allows for odd or different children to be bullied in school. The cool person or the person perceived to have power, is followed, rather than an individual standing up and saying that it is wrong, or simply standing with the odd or different child. The latent quiet allowing of maltreatment for fear that the maltreatment may be directed at yourself is a way the in-group wields control.
There is a small set of individuals who choose to go outside of the norm. Sometimes this is someone who is following his inner sense of what is right. This small set of individuals can stem the flow of the propaganda. There is risk to this individual as he is often attacked. The first response of a powerful in-group toward this individual is to focus a spotlight on this set of individuals, to discredit them, and to divide and conquer the opportunity for like-minded people to collaborate or simply dialogue about other ways to behave.
Your critical thinking skills can best guide you. And the more you use these and model to your child their use, the more your child will use these. It is in this way that bullying, subtle power coercion, control through group-mind, and propaganda will be extinguished.
Innovation is a natural by-product of critical thinking. It comes as a result of questioning:
- is that statement true?
- how do I know the belief or statement is true from my own experience?
- and what is the other side’s argument and how is it true?
- what might be the reward for the person in power to deny the truth?
- what is wrong with a statement or belief?
- or what needs to be changed in a situation or environment?
Critical thinking is mindfulness.
The force through which someone states a thing is not truth. Truth is. And truth can be felt as an internal alignment – not in the agreement to the belief – but in an integration of the truth of all the positions and how that truth lines up. It is an internal heart sense and has a lightness to it not a loud booming voice. The latter is just a technique of coercion. The more punch and loudness in the argument the less critical thinking.
Critical thinking allows for the truth of all the sides to be accepted and incorporated into the solution or belief system.
- Subjectivity is loud, forceful, emotional, and pulls to accept, it blocks mindfulness and the critical evaluation of all sides.
- Objectivity is quiet, light, and non-emotional, it has an opening to reveal the truth of all sides.
Discover your truth through critical thinking and mindfulness. Model this behavior and thinking style for your children. This will result in bringing to light propaganda so that real solutions can be found to the difficult problems facing you.in love and light, beth
August 4, 2012 at 10:18 pm
(Painfully obvious comment) If only everyone would apply those steps of critical thinking to every political ad and speech. The state of the world shows clearly how natural it is to go along with the crowd and how little true critical thinking goes on. And just recently the Texas school board stated officially that they did not support the teaching of thinking skills in their state!
August 16, 2012 at 4:12 pm
The intellectual roots of critical thinking are as ancient as its etymology, traceable, ultimately, to the teaching practice and vision of Socrates 2,500 years ago who discovered by a method of probing questioning that people could not rationally justify their confident claims to knowledge. Confused meanings, inadequate evidence, or self-contradictory beliefs often lurked beneath smooth but largely empty rhetoric. Socrates established the fact that one cannot depend upon those in “authority” to have sound knowledge and insight. He demonstrated that persons may have power and high position and yet be deeply confused and irrational. He established the importance of asking deep questions that probe profoundly into thinking before we accept ideas as worthy of belief. He established the importance of seeking evidence, closely examining reasoning and assumptions, analyzing basic concepts, and tracing out implications not only of what is said but of what is done as well. His method of questioning is now known as “Socratic Questioning” and is the best known critical thinking teaching strategy. In his mode of questioning, Socrates highlighted the need in thinking for clarity and logical consistency.
August 16, 2012 at 7:56 pm
Excellent synopsis of Socrates and the Socratic Method. I am happy that this article is reminiscent of that kind of intellectual pursuit!