Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Atlas Brookings Nottingham Magician and Mind Reader

That's right, I've completed the international move and am now finally starting to feel a bit more settled - and that means I have time to post on the old blog once more!

It has been a strange transition, moving to the UK was not an easy feat.  Things are very different here, but overall, that is not a bad thing.  Over the last year or so, we've moved house, and I've started performing all over the UK.  One thing that I find a bit odd is that while I perform feats of mind reading, I have to advertise myself as a magician in Nottingham and the surrounding areas (Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, etc.) as people just know they are looking for entertainment and never think to Google a mind reader.

That fact has made me think a bit about HOW people tend to think.  Mind reading is a bit of a unique performance area and as such it rarely occurs to people seeking entertainment.  They love it once they've experienced it, but most people don't set out searching for it.

They tend to stick with things they know.

This phenomenon is seen all over people's lives - three routes may take you to the same place, but you tend to only drive the one.  A menu displaying varied and succulent dishes can be presented at the restaurant, but we seek only the dish we know we like.

And people are the same when around other people.  We play it safe - we all know that the nail that sticks up gets hammered down and so we accept 'groupthink' rather than plan our own paths.  Social psychologists have long theorized that humans as a species were not successful until they formed groups.  According to this theory, groups helped to ensure the safety and survival of the individual, and thus, on an instinctive level, most people tend to feel the safest when they follow the group.

This is a big reason why politicians seek out celebrity endorsements as the 'Halo Effect' of the celebrity is seen to transfer to them.  Indeed, politicians also constantly tubthump over polls that are favorable to them and their situation:  If they can steer you away from your own questions and instead guide the conversation toward how others are voting, then, due to social psychology, the odds are better than 50-50 that you will vote with the group.

As an American abroad, I have no vote in politics here in the UK.  But I watch it with fascination, partially because it is so different to what I am used to.  Recently, Scotland voted to remain a part of the UK.  The group that wanted independence from the United Kingdom was called the SNP, or Scottish Nationalist Party.

In the run up to the referendum, the SNP based the economic welfare of the new independent nation of Scotland on the oil industry and their projections for their economy were created upon the basis that oil would trade for $112 per barrel.  The SNP lost the referendum, and only four months later, Saudia Arabia's oil production decisions have forced the price of oil down below $50 a barrel.

Interested to see what the SNP had to say about this (the North Sea Oil Industry is now begging the government for help), I took to Twitter to have a look at Nicola Sturgeon's (the new head of the SNP) posts.

I could see no acknowledgement on her part that the SNP had got their projections so wildly wrong.  Instead, I saw numerous 'Halo Effect' posts regarding celebrities alongside posts telling people how well the SNP was doing in the polls.  Here are a few screen grabs:

Now, I want to make clear that I'm not picking on Nicola Sturgeon or the SNP, but my point is this: four months ago, they were insistent that Scotland was better off outside the UK, and made projections and promises to an electorate that, if the vote had gone the other way, could have crippled an entire country.  Real people losing jobs, losing homes, facing desperation, hunger and plight.


A critical thinker might subsequently question the credibility of this group of politicians.

But they don't want to talk about how they got it so wrong - and only FOUR months ago too. That's exactly why they are doing all they can at the moment to shut down your critical faculties by telling you what the polls say the group is going to do.

It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Now, as I said, I'm not particularly anti-SNP, I'm anti-groupthink and anti-manipulation - which is why politicians seem to so often crop up in this blog (in fact, next week, we'll look at a recent episode from the Conservative party).

I guess my point is that groupthink is a concept that is outmoded.  Humans are now the dominant species on the planet, and this need to follow the group is anachronistic and has led to some of the greatest atrocities in history.

People like the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ghandi said 'NO' to groupthink and challenged the status quo.

Critical thinking builds the future.  It sees through falsehood, self-serving agendas, and manipulation.

It gives you freedom.



1 comment:

  1. While I agree group think can be bad I also benefit from it all of the time and don't mind it in many situations.

    For example, when a sporting event comes to my area certain traffic patterns emerge. The majority travel a certain route. That enables me to take a less travelled path and arrive to the designation much sooner.

    This is just one of many examples I could share. In the end group think creates opportunity for those that look for it and are creative.

    Gene K.