2013年4月20日 星期六

[Brain] Why We Conform to the Group: It Gets Your Brain High

By Maia Szalavitz 
Nov. 04, 2010

Target Presents Variety's "Power Of Youth" to Benefit St. Jude - Inside
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 04: (L-R) Singers Ariel Moore,
Paris Monroe and Destiny Monroe of The Clique Girlz attend
'Target Presents Variety's Power of Youth' event held at NOKIA
Theatre L.A. LIVE on October 4, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.
(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage)
You may remember the experiment from Psych 101: the one in which people are compelled to doubt their own good judgment and give wrong answers to simple questions, just to go along with the rest of the group. Now, brain research reviewed by the Dana Foundation offers more insight into why people conform: the feeling of fitting in activates brain regions that spur pleasure.

One study published this summer by researchers Chris Frith and Daniel Campbell-Meiklejohn found that people’s reward regions lit up strongly when their ratings of pop songs agreed with those of two “experts.” From the Dana Foundation:

This could explain that small but extremely satisfactory sensation you feel when proven right — this, after all, is basically realizing that what you thought conforms with reality or at least with the expert view you most believe does so, anyway. (More on Time.com: Special Report: Kids and MentalHealth)

The idea that conforming would bring pleasure makes evolutionary sense for a social species. After all, it probably doesn’t often promote survival to stand out from others in a small, tight-knit group on which you depend to meet all your fundamental needs.

Obviously, there are times that bucking convention is necessary and beneficial. But determining what allows some individuals to overcome the discomfort of standing out — or even prefer being the rebel or the outsider — is much more challenging for psychologists. (More on Time.com: Why SpammingYour Friends With Cute Kitties Is Good Karma)

Frith and Campbell-Meiklejohn’s work shows the biological underpinnings of a long-studied phenomenon: yielding to peer pressure gets you high, even when you aren’t saying yes to drugs.

To get a sense of the power of peers, see the video, below, on the famous Asch conformity experiments from the 1950s:

Szalavitz's latest book is Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential — and Endangered. It is co-written with Dr. Bruce Perry, a leading expert in the neuroscience of child trauma and recovery.

[LETTER FROM CHINA] Education as a Path to Conformity

Published: January 26, 2010

BEIJING — It’s known among a small circle of scholars in China as “the Qian Xuesen question.” Four years ago Mr. Qian, the rocket scientist and genius architect of China’s space and missile programs who died in October at the age of 97, asked a prominent visitor a troubling question: “Why does China produce so many clever people, but so few geniuses?”

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s answer isn’t recorded, but my friend Bai Hua thinks she knows.

Our education system is like ancient Sparta. Not physically, but mentally,” she said over coffee in a Beijing mall, where white marble sparkled under powerful lights. “Our children learn to calculate fast, play the piano, to do everything well. They have a lot of skills. But when they grow up they are lost, because no one ever asked them to think about what they want.”

The agoge of Sparta took 7-year-old boys and molded them into an elite corps of disciplined warriors loyal to the state. At Chinese school a powerful blend of Communist and Confucian ideologies demands obedience to hierarchy, bone-hard study and uncritical thinking.

Starting at 6, children are buried under an avalanche of studies until they graduate from high school. Twelve-hour days (less on weekends, but no days off) are common among first-graders. For his first Chinese New Year semester break, my 6-year-old son was given 42 pages of math and 42 pages of Chinese homework to complete in four weeks. The goal? Entrance to an elite college like Peking or Tsinghua University.

Yet once there, laziness can set in. Many students kick back, relying on their elite network to smooth a path through life. After the slog of the previous 12 years they feel they deserve a break. Perhaps they do. But it’s no incentive for academic brilliance.

Hua, a financial sector I.T. specialist who took the unusual step in China of giving up her job to raise her family, also has a son at elementary school.

She is part of a tiny minority that worries about the implications of all this for her child and her country. People overseas might worry what a highly skilled, ambitious and uncritical Chinese population means for the world. But here, most parents think things are working just fine and, if they follow the formula, their single child will emerge an honor to the family and not a dreaded deadbeat.

To justify a study routine Hua calls “miserable,” parents have begun framing the system as imparting “kangya nengli,” or the ability to resist pressure. Tough is good, runs the logic. Only wimps can’t cope. At the bottom lies an intense fear of failure, often expressed thus: “He won’t even be able to find a wife.” There is no equivalent for a girl, but in a deeply patriarchal society that doesn’t matter.

Hua sees only mediocrity. “We don’t produce Bill Gates, or the Google guys, or Steve Jobs, because we don’t let these people grow. We don’t even come close. Everyone says Chinese people are clever. But where’s the evidence?”

When I was growing up in the colony of Hong Kong, my British headmistress would glare when we asked to learn Chinese, and hiss: “If you want to learn Chinese, go onto the streets!” I learned later, at college. Writing, especially, was years of hard graft, and the process is never-ending. Even Chinese who don’t regularly read and write forget how. So for me, raising two children here, learning the language was nonnegotiable. We chose the local state school.

Yet there is a price. The penny dropped one day when I heard my son sitting on the toilet. “Piping! Wo piping ni!” (“Criticize! I criticize you!”) he trilled in his boyish soprano.

I rushed over to ask what was up. “Oh, nothing, Mom, just that’s what teacher says,” he answered, little legs kicking. Hurled at class enemies for decades after the 1949 Communist revolution, the phrase drips moral and political censure. It’s a part of the deep psychological and linguistic fabric of the nation. Coupled with regular scolding (“ma”) and, in the worse kind of schools, a slap or shove (“da”) it is a powerful weapon in a teacher’s arsenal of instruction. “If teachers don’t scold, people think they aren’t doing their job,” Hua said.

Every autumn, China frets that once again it hasn’t produced a Nobel laureate. The 2009 physics laureate, Charles Kao, was duly noted as the sixth China-born laureate, though all became foreign citizens and only Gao Xingjian, the free-thinking 2000 Nobel literature laureate whom the party despises, was entirely educated in China.

There is little pressure to change. After all, isn’t this system producing a superficially impressive generation of people? Retail clerks memorize 11-digit mobile phone numbers in a flash and can recite orders faultlessly; perhaps they play the piano quite well, too. Yet, young Chinese struggle to think for themselves.

I’d sit there in tutorials and tell myself, ‘Don’t just write it down, think about what the professor is saying,”’ said a Chinese friend who studied at the London School of Economics. She found the experience daunting but deeply rewarding.

The obedience system also produces a herd instinct. Once, the nation’s elite wanted to be scientists and build their country. Today they want to be bankers, or stick with safe state jobs.

They don’t know what they want, but they hear bankers make the most money and everyone else is doing it, so that’s what they want to do,” Hua said.

This year, too, 130,000 university graduates applied for jobs with the People’s Liberation Army. In a politically controlled society without access to independent justice, where freedom exists only around profit-making and personal consumer choice, money is more than king — it is the biggest determiner of destiny. A job in the state sector guarantees guanxi, or personal contacts, which can protect your family from an unpredictable system.

Creativity is a nuisance and China doesn’t need a Bill Gates, runs the thinking. What it needs is cheap labor and factories, and no one to rock the boat. That Qian Xuesen’s exceptional genius grew during his two decades in the United States, where he did a Ph.D. and experimented widely, is forgotten.

Though not by everybody. Prominent educators like Zhu Qingshi, first president of Shenzhen’s new South University of Science and Technology, long to set up more liberal universities where academics, not party members, are in charge, and students can think and experiment freely.

As for my son, it’s not all bad. His teacher is personally kind, his times-tables are impressive and he can already write hundreds of characters. I’m counting on a more democratic, Athenian-style of thinking at home to balance Sparta. Then hopefully, by 18, he’ll have some idea what his passion is, and how to follow it.

E-MAIL pagetwo@iht.com

A version of this article appeared in print on January 27, 2010, in The International Herald Tribune.

[IDEA LAB] Case for Fitting In

Video stills by Pablo Zuleta Zahr

Published: March 30, 2008
When Eliot Spitzer resigned his governorship for committing the very crimes he’d publicly denounced only a few months before, he seemed mystifyingly inconsistent. Yet one character trait does shine through the separate, supposedly incompatible compartments of his life. A self-described “steamroller,” he had that self-confident drive to do what he’d decided needed doing, never mind others’ expectations, never mind who or what gets hurt. In politics, and in his sexual life, he embodied nonconformity. Voters ate it up when he ran for governor, because Americans have a prejudice in favor of lone wolves. Moral superiority, we like to think, belongs to the person who stands alone.

Until recently, social science went along with this idea. Lab-based research supposedly furnished slam-dunk evidence that, as the social psychologist Solomon Asch put it, “the social process is polluted” by “the dominance of conformity.” That research, though, was rooted in its time and place: The United States in the aftermath of World War II, when psychologists and sociologists focused on the conformity that made millions give in to totalitarian regimes.

Lately, however, some researchers have been dissenting from the textbook version. Where an earlier generation saw only a contemptible urge to go along, revisionists see normal people balancing their self-respect against their equally valuable respect for other people, and for human relationships. For evidence, revisionists say, look no further than those very experiments that supposedly proved the evils of conformity.

The psychologists Bert Hodges and Anne Geyer recently took a new look at a well-known experiment devised by Asch in the 1950s. Asch’s subjects were asked to look at a line printed on a white card and then tell which of three similar lines was the same length. The answer was obvious, but the catch was that each volunteer was sitting in a small group whose other members were actually in on the experiment. Asch found that when those other people all agreed on the wrong answer, many of the subjects went along with the group, against the evidence of their own senses.

But the question (Which of these lines matches the one on the card?) was not posed just once. Each subject saw 18 sets of lines, and the group answer was wrong for 12 of them. Examining all the data, Hodges and Geyer found that many people were varying their answers, sometimes agreeing with the group, more often sticking up for their own view. (The average participant gave in to the group three times out of 12.)

This means that the subjects in the most famous “people are sheep” experiment were not sheep at all — they were human beings who largely stuck to their guns, but now and then went along with the group. Why? Because in getting along with other people, most decent people know, as Hodges and Geyer put it, the “importance of cooperation, tact and social solidarity in situations that are tense or difficult.”

In a similar spirit, others have taken a new look at the famous experiments on “obedience to authority” conducted by Asch’s student Stanley Milgram. Milgram’s subjects, assuming they were part of a memory test, were asked to administer what they thought were increasingly strong electric shocks to another person (who was, in reality, another experimenter pretending to be pained). Encouraged only by an occasional “Please go on” and the like, every one went well beyond “Very Strong Shock,” and the majority went to the 450-volt end of the scale, which was two notches above the one labeled “Danger: Severe Shock.”

Horrifying, in most retellings. But, as the University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein has argued, Milgram’s “subjects were not simply obeying a leader, but responding to someone whose credentials and good faith they thought they could trust.” Without that kind of trust society would fall apart tomorrow, because most of what we know about the world comes to us from other people. Milgram’s experiment, then, doesn’t prove that people are inclined to obey any nut job in a white coat. It shows instead that in difficult situations, when they wrestle with the line between trust and skepticism, trust often wins. Much of the time, that’s a good thing.

In other words, the interesting data in the Asch and Milgram studies have been distorted into a simple takeaway: “Call it like you see it”; never mind others’ feelings, opinions or traditions. Of course, no society should ask for knee-jerk obedience to any command. But, as the dissenters point out, there are dangers in a knee-jerk refusal to get in line. For example, in a version of the Milgram experiment in which the dupe is seated in a group of three, he will defy the “experimenter” and behave humanely — if the other two people refuse to inflict further shocks. That kind of conformity is, to put it mildly, desirable.

David Berreby is the author of “Us and Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind,” which will be published in paperback in the fall.

Social conformity

Social conformity
undefined|Added on January 15, 2009

CNN.com's Elizabeth Landau explains new research indicating that group opinion actually shifts perception in the brain.

Click the picture or the link below if you want to watch the whole video!



The Asch Conformity Experiment(HowTheWorldWorks)


Asch Conformity Experiment


2013年4月13日 星期六

[Submission]Bad influences about video games? College Students:"Not Really."


from microsoft art pattern

   When I was a high school student, some of my male classmates are addicted to video games, they always discuss about it as if video games are the most important thing in their life. So I want to know whether all the students, especially male, have the same situation as them.

  According to the poll ──College Students vs. Video Games── I released during 2013.3.10 to 2013.3.19, 64.84% of the 91 voters have the habit of playing video games, and almost 69% of the responders play video games more than 4 days a week.
 Although the high frequency of playing video games, they seem not highly indulge in games, 86.2% of  those polled don’t think it is the most important thing, and only 25.86% of them don’t know what to do besides playing it.
  But from the viewpoint of those who doesn't play video games and has friends who plays it,  only 17.29% of the responders think they are prone to violence, but 71.43% of them agree that they always talk about games.

   From the data above, we can know that even though many students play video games, its influence have only affected on their daily topic, and probably some kind of alienated from the reality. To my surprise, it even has some advantages.

   “Actually, video games sometimes can release our pressure,” said my friend Jill Lin, 19, she also noted that after her sister play video games, she became milder.

   Dangerous pastime or harmless diversions, what do you think?

Want more information? Check out my survey


P:Change the title"Video games v.s College Students" because it can't tell the topic of your news clearly.
R:I will change the title to"Bad influences about video games? College Students:" Not Really.""

P:The numbers in it are too big, they will
R:I will

P:Maybe you should put the picture's link on it?
R:The picture is from the database of pictures in Microsoft Word, so I'll just put "Microsoft"below.

P:In paragraph 5&6, "From the data above, we can know that..."followed by "Actually, video games sometimes can release..." is a little strange.
R:I will add a sentence between to mention the advantages of the video games to connect the two paragraphs.

P:Delete "So, to college students, video games are some kind of dualistic."(Use Jill's dialogue as a kind of summery.)
R:Yes, I accept that.

Interesting lead / Headline / Summary
The summary is not good enough
Who / When / What / Where / How
Interesting level
Other materials
Pictures, survey
Not very obvious

2013年4月1日 星期一

Video Games vs. College Students(modified)

  When I was a high school student, some of my male classmates are addicted to video games, they always discuss about it as if video games are the most important thing in their life. So I want to know whether all the students, especially male, have the same situation as them.

   According to the poll--College Students vs. Video Games--I released during 2013.3.10 to 2013.3.19, 64.84% of the 91 voters have the habit of playing video games, and almost 69% of the responders play video games more than 4 days a week.
   Although the high frequency of playing video games, they seem not too indulge in games, 86.2% of  those polled don’t think it is the most important thing, and only 25.86% of them don’t know what to do besides playing video games.
  But from the viewpoint of the people who doesn't play video games and has friends who plays it, 17.29% of the responders think they are prone to violence, and 71.43% of them agree that they always talk about games.

  From the data above, we can know that even though many students play video games, the influence of the games have only affected on the topic, and some kind of alienated from the reality.

  “Actually, video games sometimes can release our pressure,” said my friend Jill Lin, 19, she also noted that after her sister play video games, she became milder.
  So, to college students, video games are some kind of dualistic. 

  Dangerous pastime or harmless diversions, what do you think?