If Your Friends Jumped Off a Bridge, Would You Do It Too?


| 5 Comments
Well...yes.

As it turns out, our brains are hard-wired for peer pressure. Scientists have found that the reward (striatum) and social reasoning (medial prefrontal cortex) centers of our brains activate much more when we engage in risky behaviors with peers as compared to the same behavior in a solitary environment. The effect is especially pronounced when we win - participants who won a lottery in the study were more likely to engage in even riskier betting behavior in future rounds. Some scientists believe this reaction has roots in evolution; in primitive times, the rewards for being at the top of the social totem pole had even greater perks (Namely, tons of food and sex. Can you really blame our ancestors?).

Everybody knows the negative influence peer pressure has on teens with regards to destructive behaviors (drug use, etc.), but its effect can go much deeper than that.

Quick - which line on the right matches the card on the left?

asch.png
Easy, right? Well if you were part of Asch's famous conformity experiment in the 1950s, there's a  75% chance that you would answer a similar question incorrectly at least once in 18 tries. The reason? He put actors in the experiment with you to intentionally give the wrong answer. Not wanting to be embarrassed by answering differently than the rest of the group, participants would often be "tricked" into believing the wrong answer - even for a question this blatantly obvious!

But not all hope is lost! Some social marketers see the potential for good in peer pressure. For instance, it tends to make people more generous (how many times did people give you money on canning weekends just because the people in front of them did?), reduce terrorism, and increase participation in "green" initiatives.

So what do you think? Is peer pressure good? Bad? Both? Neither? Let's start the discussion in the comments below!

5 Comments

Mark-
I remember learning about this in AP Psychology in high school. Conformity isn't just a social norm, but a psychological norm. I find this very interesting how humans really try to fit in regarding everything they do. It is often hard to go against the grain and do your own thing. This article shows the view of a "double-edged sword of conformity", which I found very relevant to your blog post. http://www.healthline.com/health-news/company-you-keep-double-edged-sword-conformity-021513

When you posted the line picture and began talking about the experiment of conformity, I also flashed back to my AP psycholgy class, like Gabrielle mentioned. I feel as though there are several reasons for peer pressure. Some people may find it fun, others are trying to fit in, maybe some people have always wanted to try the activity but never had the opportunity, or maybe some kids don't even realize that they're conforming to it. Check out this link if you want to learn more about peer pressure and other reasons why kids are willing to give in. http://kidshealth.org/kid/feeling/emotion/peer_pressure.html

I am very curious on how peer pressure reduces terrorism? I do agree that humans cave to peer pressure all too often, and that peer pressure can be for good and bad reasons. I propose to you, if there is peer pressure to do good things (Which is obviously better than doing bad things) is it still a good thing? Because you would not be technically doing it for the right reason, instead just because you feel pressured into it? This gave me a unique perspective on good peer "pressure". Hmm.http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Is_peer_pressure_good_or_bad

I am very curious on how peer pressure reduces terrorism? I do agree that humans cave to peer pressure all too often, and that peer pressure can be for good and bad reasons. I propose to you, if there is peer pressure to do good things (Which is obviously better than doing bad things) is it still a good thing? Because you would not be technically doing it for the right reason, instead just because you feel pressured into it? This gave me a unique perspective on good peer "pressure". Hmm. http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Is_peer_pressure_good_or_bad

I think peer pressure is a really interesting topic commonly discussed among parents and their children. This is mostly because I never remember my parents telling me specifically to not give into peer pressure. They taught me right from wrong and let me be on my merry way. They weren't watching over my shoulders like a lot of parents do to their children. I think parents engrave the idea of peer pressure being SO bad into their kids' heads that they have to rebel and give in. There's this stigma with peer pressure and I wish it didn't exist. Wouldn't it be nice to be pressured into stop smoking or drinking? Peer pressure doesn't always have to be bad, but that's the way we perceive it, especially with the saying, "if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?" I think this article accurately depicts what peer pressure is for adolescents who often fall victim to this issue because of their parent's opinions.

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