The Power of Others: Peer Pressure, Groupthink, and How the People Around Us Shape Everything We Do

Overview

"Entertaining, informative reading." - Kirkus Reviews

Discover how in almost every area of our lives, our behaviour is influenced far more by others than we'd like to imagine.

Teenage cliques, jihadist cells, army units, polar expeditions, and football hooligans — on the face of it, each of these groups might seem exceptional, but the forces that bind and drive them can affect us all. In recent decades, psychologists have uncovered how and why ...

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Overview

"Entertaining, informative reading." - Kirkus Reviews

Discover how in almost every area of our lives, our behaviour is influenced far more by others than we'd like to imagine.

Teenage cliques, jihadist cells, army units, polar expeditions, and football hooligans — on the face of it, each of these groups might seem exceptional, but the forces that bind and drive them can affect us all. In recent decades, psychologists have uncovered how and why our innate social urges holds huge sway over how we think and act, propelling us to both high achievement and unthinking cruelty. We are beholden to our peers, even when we think we’re calling the shots. This is the power of others.

In this captivating work, science writer Michael Bond investigates the latest breakthroughs in social psychology to reveal how to guard against groupthink, build better teamwork, identify shared objectives, become more ethical, and survive moments of isolation.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"What’s key here, Bond would have us realize, is that your emotional and social responses to a person are heavily influenced by that person’s emotions, feelings, or body language — and not as much your own feelings or thoughts or opinions. Bond successfully uses both studies and historical examples to illustrate these types of phenomena. The Power of Others is an interesting read."
- PsychCentral

"Bond renders a worthwhile subject into entertaining, informative reading.”'
- Kirkus Reviews

"In light of recent terrorist attacks ... passages on suicide bombers and lone wolves provide social explanations of these traumatizing events. Recommended for readers curious about the social psychology and human behavior in the face of disasters."
- Library Journal

"Important and compelling. Bond drives home a fact that we all must accept – we are never alone. The people in our lives affect every aspect of our behaviour in ways that we are often not consciously aware of."
- David McRaney, bestselling author of You Are Not So Smart

"Accessible, captivating, and fun. Though we think of ourselves as free individuals, our choices are influenced by others – and the scary thing is that we don’t realise it."
- William Poundstone, author of Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?

Library Journal
02/15/2015
Journalist Bond demonstrates that contrary to occidental values of individualism and autonomy, who we are and how we act have much to do with our social environment. Drawing from many examples in recent history, such as polar expeditions, the military, sports teams, and Stanley Milgram's 1960s obedience study, the author succeeds in showing the positive and negative influence of others on individuals. Groups and their power can enhance a team performance when cohesion brings trust, communication, and cooperation. But they can also have perverse effects, e.g., in groupthink, when the pressure to conform to group norms deteriorates individual mental efficiency and moral judgment. Bond tells us that humans can learn to defy authority and consider the suffering of others when the group acts in a way that is immoral. That does not mean that standing alone is the solution, since isolation and ostracism can trigger lone wolves. VERDICT The balance of how far the influence of the group should go on individuals' actions could have been further explained. Nevertheless, in light of recent terrorist attacks in Canada, Australia, and India, passages on suicide bombers and lone wolves will provide social explanations of these traumatizing events. Recommended for readers curious about the social psychology and human behavior in the face of disasters.—Maryse Breton, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec
Kirkus Reviews
2014-12-21
London-based writer Bond wades into the murky reaches of the human psyche in this exploration of how other people's opinions shape our behaviors and attitudes.Combining decades of experimental research by social scientists with summaries of historical events, the author presents an analysis of how peer pressure, groupthink, heroism, evil, extreme environments and isolation all affect our actions. Bond begins by explaining why it is natural for humans to want to be part of a group. He goes on to define social mimicry and looks at how this mirroring of body language, and even moods, "helps us understand other people's minds." The author notes the importance of caution and protecting yourself when making decisions in today's wired environment, with its vivid imagery and continuous "information cascade." Bond also discusses how group dynamics and perceptions affect those individuals who are perceived as the "Other," especially during times of stress or threat to the in-group, such as the months and years following 9/11. The author cites research exploding the theory of the madness of the mob, and he relates how this idea has been employed throughout history for political ends. Bond chronicles how authority, peer pressure and the environment can combine in dreadful ways, producing truly evil behavior such as that of Adolf Eichmann during World War II. The author recounts the shocking results obtained by Stanley Milgram during his infamous experiments conducted at Yale University during the 1960s, illustrating how important context is to how people behave. Bond devotes the concluding portion of the narrative to understanding human behaviors during and after prolonged solitary confinement or an extended solo stretch in a harsh environment such as the Arctic. "We can learn as much by looking at what happens to us when others are not there," he writes, "when we are forced to get by on our own." Bond renders a worthwhile subject into entertaining, informative reading.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781780746531
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications
  • Publication date: 3/17/2015
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 368,398
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Bond has been writing on psychology and human behavior for more than 15 years as a regular contributor to New Scientist, Nature, Prospect, The Observer, The Daily Telegraph, the Financial Times, and others. He lives in London.

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Read an Excerpt

"Milgram was not the first postwar scientist to highlight the transforming effect of social pressures on judgement and behaviour. His experiments were strongly inspired by his PhD supervisor at Harvard, the pioneering psychologist Solomon Asch, who caused a sensation in the 1950s when he demonstrated that people will often adopt the view of the majority even when it is patently wrong. Asch’s research set-up was as novel as Milgram’s and, for his subjects, just as disconcerting.

The volunteer turned up at the lab and was asked to sit with six to eight other people, all of whom were Asch’s associates. The experimenter then placed two large white cards before the group. One of the cards showed a single vertical black line; the other had three vertical lines of various lengths, one of them identical to the line on the first card. The participants were asked in turn to identify the line that matched.

For the first couple of rounds, the answers were straightforward and predictable: the task seemed as mundane as it looked. However, in twelve of the remaining sixteen rounds, the associates deliberately called out wrong answers, choosing lines that were clearly shorter or longer than the reference line. What Asch wanted to know was how the volunteers would respond in those twelve rounds – would they continue to trust the evidence of their own eyes or would they conform to the (incorrect) majority opinion. Although the task was extremely easy, seventy-six per cent of the volunteers conformed at least once, and only a quarter of them answered correctly every
time. On average, about a third succumbed to persuasion on each round.

Asch worried deeply about the social implications of what he had observed. ‘That reasonably intelligent and well-meaning young people are willing to call white black is a matter of concern. It raises questions about our ways of education and about the values that guide our conduct’, he wrote."

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