Does Your Effort Make Any Difference?
Each of our Individual Voices Is More Important Than We’ve Realized
I’ve previously written about the importance of 9/11 polls, as most people
follow the herd. In other words, since polls show that the majority of people
doubt the government’s version of 9/11, citing the polls is very important in
convincing people who are not aware of the facts.
Well, I just read a study which says that even one dissenting voice can give
people permission to think for themselves. Specifically:
Solomon Asch, with experiments originally carried out in the 1950s and well-replicated
since, highlighted a phenomenon now known as “conformity”. In the
classic experiment, a subject sees a puzzle like the one in the nearby diagram:
Which of the lines A, B, and C is the same size as the line X? Take a moment
to determine your own answer…
The gotcha is that the subject is seated alongside a number of other people
looking at the diagram – seemingly other subjects, actually confederates of
the experimenter. The other “subjects” in the experiment, one after
the other, say that line C seems to be the same size as X. The real subject
is seated next-to-last. How many people, placed in this situation, would say
“C” – giving an obviously incorrect answer that agrees with the
unanimous answer of the other subjects? What do you think the percentage would
Three-quarters of the subjects in Asch’s experiment gave a “conforming”
answer at least once. A third of the subjects conformed more than half the
Get it so far? People tend to defer to what the herd thinks.
But here’s the good news:
Adding a single dissenter – just one other person who gives the correct
answer, or even an incorrect answer that’s different from the group’s incorrect
answer – reduces conformity very sharply, down to 5-10%.
Why is this important? Well, it means that one person who publicly speaks the
truth can sway a group of people away from group-think.
If a group of people is leaning towards believing the government’s version
of 9/11, or believing the official mythos of the war on terror, or that the
U.S. holds “free and fair elections”, or that impeachment should “stay
off the table”, a single person who speaks the truth can help snap the
group out of its trance.
There is an important point here regarding the web, as well. The above-cited
article states that:
when subjects can respond in a way that will not be seen by the group, conformity
What does that mean? Well, on the web, many people post anonymously. The anonymity
gives people permission to “respond in a way that will not be seen by the
group”. But most Americans still don’t get their news from the web, or
only go to mainstream corporate news sites.
Away from the keyboard, we are not very anonymous. So that is where the conformity
dynamic — and the need for courageous dissent — is vital. It is doubly important
that we apply the same hard-hitting truthtelling we do on the Internet in our
face-to-face interactions; because it is there that dissent is urgently needed.
Bottom line: Each person’s voice has the power to snap entire groups out of
their coma of irrational group-think. So go forth and be a light of rationality
and truth among the sleeping masses.