July 24, 2008


This man is easily influenced.

The theme at Goat Rope lately has been insights from the social sciences about human violence, cruelty and...well...evil. Once again, I highly recommend social psychologist Philip Zimbardo's book The Lucifer Effect and its accompanying website.

One of the themes that jumps out over and over again from all the research (not to mention history) is that people are extremely susceptible to situational and systemic pressures which can make them do things they would otherwise never have done.

The sad thing is that a lot of the things that can get us into trouble are basic human tendencies we all share, such the need for acceptance, the desire to be liked; reciprocity; the sometimes very useful trait of obeying authority (which is only as harmless as the authority itself); our tendency to take cues from the actions of others (social proof); etc.

While the focus at Goat Rope lately has been on violence and cruelty, we can all fall under different forms of social influence in less extreme settings, including the workplace, buying and selling, relationships, etc. Not to mention advertising and politics...

At the Lucifer Effect website, Zimbardo and Cindy X. Wang have a useful section on resisting social influence that covers most of the bases. It's worth checking out.

So like obey me or something...

WHAT WENT WRONG? Conservative thinkers are trying to figure it out. El Cabrero has an idea or two...

NEEDED: A NEW SOCIAL COMPACT. That's what she said. I concur.

SLOWING DOWN THE NEXT WAR. Here's a positive assessment of recent citizen efforts in the US to prevent war with Iran.

MINIMUM WAGE. The federal minimum wage is increasing to $6.55 per hour. Twenty three states and the District of Columbia already have laws mandating a higher minimum.


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