A few things have come together lately, from an interesting collection of sources. I’m taking an online Intro to Sociology, and our weekly readings give great insight on human behavior and some of the causes for that behavior. Especially the movie Quiet Rage about a social experiment in the 70′s at Stanford University. College students assume the roles of guard or prisoner and embody their roles based on perceived expectations, having not been trained for these roles. I also read an article suggesting that stereotyping is to blame for having fewer women in the sciences. As a female engineer, I encourage all women to think different that what this stereotype suggests.
And a few conversations with friends touch on similar points, how college life seems to be defined by what people see in movies and on TV. What about “dying up to expectations”? I read in The New Yorker that people in Greece have been committing suicide because they are unhappy with personal effects from the austerity measures? Japan has a history of suicide that is also influencing their 20 somethings to take their own life during this recession. What in our brain tells us that suicide is better than tax debt, if it’s not peer pressure and influence from seeing others take that action. Researchers have found that suicide and car accidents increase when a suicide is reported in the news. And many sociologists are researching the unusually high rate of suicide in Micronesia. It almost sounds like the kids think it’s a cool thing to try, and relate to the celebrity aspect of being in the news because of suicide.
People are social creatures, having most of our likes, dislikes, and preferences influenced by the society around us.
So what would happen if we collectively change our expectations for the way we interact? That is kind of the story for success behind the program Ceasefire which quieted the inner city violence related to gangs in many US cities.