Editorial: Social Pressure and Decision Making

How many times has the phrase “do it and you’re cool” been said to get someone to do something they otherwise wouldn’t? It’s become accepted knowledge that part of the human experience is dealing with the pressure to fit in. But does social pressure really affect an individual’s decision making?

Humans are social creatures by nature and as such will do things that they may not agree with in order to be accepted into a group. Our ancestors used this principle to ensure the survival of the species: middle schoolers use it so they don’t feel left out at their seventh-grade dance, and some people use it to gain fame online by following a trend to eat pods of laundry soap.

If a person feels that the continuation of a valued friendship hinges on a particular action or opinion, it is very likely that they will comply with what they are expected to do.

A psychological study done in December 2014 examined the effects and outcomes of social and peer pressure on adults and adolescents when making decisions. Part of what this study and experiment found was that both adults and adolescents are willing to make risky decisions or change their minds based on advice and comments from their peers.

People are more likely to exhibit brash decision-making when they are with friends rather than when they are around strangers or new acquaintances. It goes back to that question parents ask their children when they make the argument that they are allowed to do something because all of their friends are doing it.

“If all of your friends were going to jump off a cliff, would you join them?”

The answer is usually no, but that doesn’t change the fact that the child will feel left out and worry about what they are missing out on.

As it turns out, life is just middle school over and over again. Everyone wants to feel like they fit in, and in some cases that means changing or not admitting what their actual thoughts or opinions are.

It is this worry about not being accepted or kicked out of the group that makes humans crave things like fame, followers and admiration. If a major internet celebrity or anyone that people look up to says something is cool to do or think, then the odds are that people will go along with it.

Do social pressures really affect an individual’s decision making? Yes, and if people realize and accept it, they can become more aware of their decisions and the reasons they are making them.

Story By
Carlee Jo Blumenthal

Cartoon By
Sam Sherrill