02/26/2008 | 9:26 am
Is use v. non-use of social networking sites leading to “digital inequality”? (Earlier)
Study finds crowds can be influenced by 5% minority.
Incarceration rates for crack-cocaine users on the rise. (Earlier)
Biofuels expert named among the “fastest growing” jobs of 2008. (Earlier)
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The crowd study seems silly. If you put people in a room, tell them to move around, avoid other people, and tell some people to move in a particular manner, where will the others go? It seems like the easiest way to stay an arms length away from another person is to occupy the position just vacated by another person. Yes, I’m following somebody.
I’d like to see a study where you don’t tell everybody to move around. Will the other 95% start walking around? Let’s try another experiment. Set an alarm off in a room with multiple exits. Tell 5% to use a particular door. Will the others follow? What about levels of alertness? Could you cause a panic by telling 5% of people to panic? What about ideas? Could you get an entire room full of people to love Ron Paul if 5% were really passionate about it?
Sounds like a point made well by Cass Sundstein.
I’d like to second all of Josh’s points. The only result of that experiment was that people were able to fall into a state of optimizing behavior for their sole goal: that of not running into each other. I think we’ve gotten a lot more information for decades on this topic from countless cocktail parties and high school dances.
I also really like the Alarm/Exit experiment that he proposes. What if there is a door with an “EXIT” sign, but you tell 5% to use another door? If you tell n% to use a door not marked EXIT, what % will abandon reason and follow? My guess is it will be surprisingly high. I bet you could even warn them an hour or so earlier to use a certain door in the event of a fire, and a large % will still follow people using another door.
I had an experience with this in my workplace. I worked on the 44th floor in Manhattan, in a building with regular fire drills, and regular alarm testing, which was always preceded by an announcement. So what happened when the alarm went off for real? I did manage to follow the evacuation plan, but I assure you it was only while I continuously checked cues from everyone else’s behavior to be sure we were doing the same thing. All my instincts were SCREAMING “Safety in numbers!” Turns out it was another alarm test.
Among the guilty pleasures I have in my life, one is the necessity to watch The Biggest Loser. In between the tears and sweat, the show has me emotionally invested. However, every week they talk about ways to tackle the obesity issue in America throughout hard workouts, avoiding desserts, and eating whatever sponsored food brand is on the show that week. Just wondering if there are additional points that may present an alternative resolution to Americas obesity issue??
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