Sunday, February 03, 2008

Let's join the crowd

Jonah Lehrer of Frontal Cortex links to a video of a prank ( The day New York froze) and says it reminds him of that Stanley Milgram experiment where people were made to stop on busy New York City sidewalks and look up. When only one person was stopped, about 4 percent of pedestrians joined the man and looked at whatever he was looking at. But as Milgram increased the crowd size, more and more people stopped and stared. In other words, it was a positive feedback loop. A bigger crowd staring at the sky led to even bigger crowds. And everybody was looking at nothing. Such is the power of "social validation", he explains.

Jonah then notes wryly that perhaps this is what explains the popularity of American Idol.

If I can add, equally wryly, this perhaps explains the popularity of Shah Rukhkhan’s movies as well as the several brain-stopping serials on television. The first 5000 na├»ve people fell for the publicity gimmicks, then the next 5000 thought that maybe there was something to it and joined in; then the next 10000 and so on, till the critical mass was acquired. Then the snowballing went on uncontrollably.

In some situations, I am part of the first 5000; in some other situation, I am in the ‘join-the-crowd’ mode and in certain others, I cling to the exterior of the snowball. The pull of the correspondence bias, is hard to resist.

Even if we are staring at nothing.


Anonymous said...

Well, I watch all the movies of Shahrukh.. because I would love to criticize EVERY damn scene of the movie!
yes, really.. but that doesn't mean in anyway that I go to the theaters :)! we see on DVDs and we spit acid on anyone who asks us how the movie was.. and we enjoy spitting acid :)

Raj said...

Veens, you are part of the third batch of 5000, then...

Revathi said...

Always thought provoking :)
What is your actual profession, may I ask?
I am not able to guess at all.

Raj said...

revathi, actual profession? Well, I have an engineering background and work in the power sector. Does that help in understanding me?