Story of the Day for Wednesday August 29, 2012
Well, Join the Crowd
Strive to enter through the narrow doorway.
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)