The Power of Others

The majority of people perceive themselves as individual thinkers who make their own decisions and formulate their personal opinions independent of others. Could this perception be far from the truth?                                                                                               

Are most of our decisions predetermined by others?

Is free choice an illusion created by the elite to give the masses a pseudo-sense of freedom?  

Has the human thought for the past two to three thousand years been nothing more than a futile activity of plagiaristic re-enactment cloaked with a veneer of self- aggrandizement and deception?

Do others have the power to impact our views of ourselves, actions, and perceptions?   

Do acculturation and socialization performed by parents, schools, and governments pave the way for our transmogrification from human beings into human doings? 

Is social mimicry a true and natural occurrence? 

Is fear effective to manufacture consent and morph us into thoughtless and self-preserving acolytes?                            

Will humanity ever be able to justify the parasitic and brutal behavior of colonial powers, and the atrocities of the savage Nazi and Stalinist regimes? 

Can people’s bad behavior be rationalized as a divine right or a blind duty to authority figures? 

Is heroism an exaggerated cliché used by social architects and manipulators to inspire altruistic behaviors in downtrodden societies? 


The questions are many but the answers are few and difficult to ponder. Fortunately, Michael Bond, a prolific science writer, journalist, and researcher for the Royal Society has recently published an interesting and entertaining volume titled “The Power of Others,” which tackles the various aspects and influences that others have on our actions and constitution as human beings. The book consists of a prologue, eight stimulating chapters, and selective bibliography with a thorough index.  

Bond’s book eloquently elucidates the possible mechanisms of action behind the social contagion phenomenon. The author uses a constellation of citations of research by social psychologists laced with summaries of historical facts connecting the influences of the past to the present. He also scrutinizes the impact of peer pressure, groupthink, fear, crowd behavior, and heroism on people’s actions, and how these elements can be manipulated by unscrupulous leaders to manufacture consent and compliance. He also identifies how authority, peer pressure and the environment can intertwine in horrid ways to produce evil behavior such as that of Adolf Eichmann during World War II and his brutal Nazi party.                                                                                                               

Moreover, the author wields classic psychological research like the Milgram and the Zimbardo experiments to illustrate the impotence of the individual in the face of authority and social systems. He also dedicates the final portion of the book to the impact of prolonged solitary confinement and the extended lone living in a harsh environment on the human behavior.

Bond’s volume is a compelling mélange of social psychology and case studies that successfully delineates the components of social contagion, which impel people to behave in certain ways. Furthermore, the book will provide the reader with safeguards against peer pressure and groupthink. In addition, it underscores useful tips that might help the individuals govern their group capriciousness, as well as their own social impulses and susceptibilities. 

“The Power of Others” will make fascinating reading for anyone who is interested in social psychology and the influence of others onto their lives.

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