Tag Archives: conformity

Well, Join the Crowd

Story of the Day for Wednesday August 29, 2012 

Well, Join the Crowd

 

                    Strive to enter through the narrow doorway. 

                                                               Luke 13:24

George Evans served as the press agent for a young singer whose career had not yet ignited. But, after spending sixty dollars, Evans catapulted Frank Sinatra into stardom in one night.

In 1942, Sinatra was booked to sing at the Paramount Theatre in New York. In order to generate enthusiasm for Sinatra, Evans hired a dozen teenage girls and paid them five bucks a piece to follow his instructions.

The girls were paid to sit in the front row at the concert and swoon. They rehearsed in the basement of the Paramount. Some of them practiced fainting in the aisles when Sinatra sang his slow songs, and others rehearsed jumping up and screaming, “Oh, Daddy!” when Frank sang Embraceable You. Evans then made sure the concert hall was packed by passing out free tickets.

That night, a dozen girls earned their five dollars. About twenty girls, who weren’t paid to faint, also passed out. The crowd went hysterical. The next time Sinatra performed at the Paramount, a promoter recalled, “They went nuts. Absolutely nuts!”

Frank Sinatra became an overnight sensation, and soon was the most popular singer of his day.

 

George Evan’s stunt may be ethically dubious, but I admire his genius in understanding how easily people are swayed by the behavior of the crowd. None of us likes to admit that we tend to conform our behavior to those around us, but we do.

 

The Asch Paradigm, developed in the 1950s, was pivotal in our understanding of conformity.  Solomon Asch of Swarthmore College developed a simple experiment. He gave students a “vision test.” Participants were shown a vertical line, and then a group of three lines of various lengths. They simply had to identify which of the three lines matched the length of the first line. When subjects were given the test privately, only one of out 35 ever gave an incorrect answer.

But things got interesting when Asch gave the same test to a group. The first several participants were confederates. They were told, in advance, the answer Asch wanted them to give. The last student asked didn’t know this.

At first, the confederates would give the correct answer. Then, they were cued to deliberately give the wrong answer – to say a vertical line matched the first line, when it, obviously, did not. What would the unwitting student say when the rest of the group gave the wrong answer?  Seventy-five percent would conform their answer to that of the group.

 

Jesus wants us to be thoughtful about life and not be swayed by the opinions of others. Have you ever felt as if you were being manipulated to conform to the decisions of a group? Well, join the crowd. No, wait – that’s not what I meant . . .

(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre) 

 

 

Include the Humble Folk

Story of the Day for Saturday September 10, 2011

Include the Humble Folk

                      Be of the same mind toward each other. Don’t be arrogant in your thinking, but make accommodation for the humble folk. 

                                                                                          Romans 12:16

 Imagine a committee of ten members. Everyone has a degree in political science – except one man, who is a vacuum cleaner repairman. A political think tank wants to fly the committee to Washington immediately to help solve an urgent problem. The plane, however, can only seat nine passengers. One member of the committee  must stay back. Who do you choose to leave behind?

The vacuum cleaner repairman, right?

Well no. Actually, the vacuum cleaner repairman should be considered the one indispensible member of the committee.

 

The notion that the repairman is vital to the group comes from the Bible. Well, maybe not that specifically, but that’s where the principle first arose.

 

Researchers are confirming what we have long suspected: “stupid” people make a group smarter.

Have you ever been in a meeting when some lowly novice makes a comment so outlandish that the room erupts in laughter? And then someone says, “Hey, wait a minute – I think he might have a point here.”

When groups of experts get together, they support each other’s views. Their respect for each other’s expertise actually makes them more stupid.

Scott E. Page, a professor at the University of Michigan, posed problems for groups to solve. Some groups were all experts. Other groups included experts and not-so-smart members. Now, get this: the mixed group with the lower average intelligence was always better at solving problems than the group consisting solely of experts.

 

Cool. So, what’s the point?

Groups tend to exclude (or at least, look down on) the person who isn’t on the same wavelength as everyone else. The world thinks the quality of the group will improve when they get rid of the “misfits.”

The Bible says we must take pains to include the “humble folk.” Paul is talking about us as Christians, and about the need to work as a group – to share a common attitude and mindset.  But he makes the observation that wouldn’t be “discovered” for a couple thousand years. Paul warns us against haughtiness. We must renounce an attitude of superiority and show special attention to the “humble folk.”

Why? Because all people are important. And, besides, without them, we’d be pretty stupid.

                                                              (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)

No Bellybutton?

Story of the Day for Tuesday July 5, 2011

No Bellybutton?

 

                 Don’t conform to this age, but be transformed in the renewal of your mindset. 

                                 Romans 12:2

 

What if you didn’t have a bellybutton? You’d feel pretty stupid, right? It’s not as if our navel serves any vital purpose, but we still want one so we will be like everyone else.

Yeah, yeah – I realize some of you still insist you’re nonconformists, and don’t care if you have a bellybutton – or what anyone thinks about it.

Okay, then, let’s imagine you have three eyes: one in the middle of your forehead, and one over each ear. This, now, increases your peripheral vision. Yet, even with your physical advantage over others, you would still rather have two eyes . . . simply because everyone else does.

The fact is, we all have a deep desire to fit in with others. This desire to conform is not a sin – far from it, it’s the way God has wired us.  We are created to live in community. We need to conform to certain values and behaviors in order to exist as a society.

 

All that said, conformity sometimes gets us into trouble.  It’s one thing to want a bellybutton or to wear clothes like other people wear. But, many times we do harmful things simply because “everyone else is doing it.”

 

Three years ago, our family drove to the Midwest. We hit road construction in western North Dakota. Two construction crew trucks with flashing yellow lights, occupied both lanes, and slowly led us down the freeway.

Some drivers, however, kept weaving from one lane to the other to pass. They would find the smallest opening and squeeze ahead of the car in front of them – even though everyone had to follow the construction vehicles.

When we came to the town of Ray, the construction ended and the two pace trucks pulled off into a parking lot. Surprisingly, the cars that had spent the last half hour weaving to the front followed the pace trucks. They followed each other, and filled the parking lot so no one could move. Now, apparently, they would have to wait until the mile-long line of cars passed before they could even back up.

We shouldn’t find pleasure at the misfortune of others. But as I sped down the freeway east of Ray, I laughed so hard I could hardly see to drive.

 

When we’re immersed in a culture, it’s extremely difficult to recognize how our behavior mimics those around us – just as a fish may have a difficult time recognizing that it’s wet.

The Lord doesn’t want us to conform to behavior that doesn’t lead us closer to him. Instead, he tells us to be transformed by his way of seeing life.

To refuse to conform to a non-Christian culture, and to be transformed by God’s ways is fairly easy to explain. But it takes a lifetime to learn.

                                                                        (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)