“you made me do it” – part 2

more on making people feel things … (continuation from yesterday’s blog)

right now, i am reading the tipping point by malcolm gladwell. it turns out that what he talks about is very a propos to our discussion here.

in his book, gladwell discusses three different types of people who can make a huge difference in terms of making trends happen: mavens, connectors and salesmen. salesmen, he says, are powerful, charismatic people who exert a soft, probably often even unconscious influence over people.

psychologist howard friedman has researched this phenomenon and suggests that their source of power may stem from the subsconscious tendency of others to imitate these “salesmen”.

human beings are social animals. one of the things we do as social animals is to adapt to each other by imitating each other. this behaviour is so well developed that an objective outside observer watching us closely can see an intricate dance where we constantly mirror each other’s body movements, voice inflections, pauses, etc.

psychologist william condon did research on this. after analyzing many conversations between adults, he noticed that, without being conscious of it, the participants in the conversation started co-ordinating eye blinks, nods and finger movements. what’s more, electroencephalography (brain wave graphs) showed that their brain waves were moving in harmony with each other.

this starts already with newborns and is just as obvious in children. anthropologist edward t. hall filmed children playing at recess. it only seemed that they were acting individually – but looking really closely, it became obvious that they were moving together at a certain rhythm.

just as friedman, hall recognized one girl who seemed to be the “choreographer” of this dance. a possible conclusion from this and other research is that as humans we are not really isolated units.

in yesterday’s blog entry, i argued that one person cannot “make” another person do or feel anything, using as an example the fact that when a teacher says something to a class, every student in that class will have a slightly different reaction.

today, however, i am bringing in another piece of evidence. some research seems to suggest that there are indeed people, like gladwell’s salesmen or hall’s choreographer girl, who can exert powerful influence over what we do and how we feel.

quite contradictory, isn’t it? what’ll it be?

stay tuned …

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

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