A proper repartee

Southern-belle-civil-warThe group of women were discussing their mother’s instructions on being a “Southern Lady,” and in their story telling manner they competed with each other trying to relate the most outlandish piece of advice.

“I never could understand that bit about making sure I had on clean underwear before going on a car trip in case I was in an accident,” drawled one.

“Me neither,” agreed a second woman with a honeyed giggle, “If I were in a car crash and bleeding, I doubt anyone would be worried about how clean my underwear was.”

“Still she would remind me every time we got in the car.” The first woman continued with a laugh, “Sometime she simply would insist that I go back in the house and put on another pair.”

“My mother would insist that I put on clean underwear, too,” a third woman chimed in. “I simply refuse to do it.”

“What a great way to stand up to your mom, by intentionally wearing dirty underwear.” I commented straight faced.

At first they looked confused, and finally one of them shot me a dirty look. Which brings me to the difficulty with using sarcasm as humor. I realize it is a biting way of saying what I really don’t mean to bring attention to a flaw. Unlike satire, a type of buffoonery often expressed when the subject of ridicule is not there, sarcasm almost always requires the presence of the person caught in the act to make sense. The inflection of a sarcastic comment is subtle. It is not accompanied with “Let me tell you this one…” or the laugh and giggles that often mark brazen attempts at humor at the expense of others. Without these cues some people sometimes are unsure how to respond.

However, there is a benefit to getting the gist of this kind of humor, even if it is aimed at you. The extra work to understand unspoken meaning behind sarcasm actually seems to make us smarter. In a study in Israel, college students listening to complaints on a customer service line were able to come up with more creative solutions to problem if the complaint was delivered in a sarcastic tone of voice. University of Haifa psychologist, Simone Shamay-Tsoory noted that people’s ability to understand sarcasm is related their level of social cognition. She found the area of the brain responding to comments that means the opposite of what one is saying also enables us to recognize emotions and social issues. When people suffered damage to the prefrontal lobe, which controls executive processing, they have a harder time picking up sarcasm. The loss of ability to “get” a sarcastic remark may be the beginning of a brain disease.[1]

Psychologist Penny Pexman from University of Calgary confirmed in her study that people are more likely to use sarcasm with the friends than strangers. She also found that children as young as five can be adept at picking up the real meaning behind facetious comments. They evidently learn it from their parents. But then research has also have uncovered significant regional differences. A whopping 20% more Northerners in the U.S found sarcasm funnier than people from the South did.[2] So I suppose I shouldn’t look too harshly on the trio of “Southern” women not knowing the appropriate way to respond to sarcasm – with an even wittier barb.

[1] David Adam, “Highest functions of brain produce lowest form of wit” Guardian.com, Monday 23 May 2005
[2] Richard Chin, “The Science of Sarcasm? Yeah, Right” Smithsonian.com, November 14, 2011
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But am I funny?

A-fest12 022 cThere are advantages to being considered humorous, even if you do not want to spend your life in front of an audience as a comedian. People who communicate with humor are often perceive as being more socially attractive and more competent communicators. They also tend to be less lonely. Students feel that teachers who appropriately use humor are more in touch with them, and workers view bosses who crack a few jokes as having a great immediacy.

However, before you gather your collection of puns and one-liners remember that believing you are funny doesn’t necessarily make you so to others.  There is a skill involved here. Traits that are found in people who are considered humorous include: adaptability in communication, desire to make a positive impressions, orientation towards feeling/emotions, and being able to see the irony in a situation. So how do you know if you are funny? The Humor Orientation Scale has been developed by a pair of West Virginia University researchers so you can rate your Humor Orientation or HO. But there is a caveat, your peers must also think you are funny, so recruit a couple of acquaintance that will honestly rate you according to this scale.

Humor is not just the content of what you say, but also the manner of delivery. People who have high HO scores are perceived as being funnier than those with low HO scores, even when delivering the same jokes. However there are other dimensions to what is considered funny. For example, in a class room instructors who had the ability to get a group to laugh were considered more humorous by students also had high HO scores. The students with low HO scores simply did not see them as being as funny. But maybe they have stiffer requirements for humor, because instructors with low HO scores were not considered funny by either group of students.

A study from Baldwin Wallace University has linked decoding ability and humor orientation. Decoding ability involves three parts: conversational sensitivity, nonverbal sensitivity, and receiver apprehension. The more sensitive the person was to both verbal and non-verbal cues the higher the person’s humor orientation tended to be. However, sometimes sensitivity results in apprehension which led to a negative correlation to being perceived as funny.

Content of humor, however does still matter. Verbally aggressive people tend to use humor at the expense of others. Targeting others for laughs doesn’t necessarily cause a lower perception of their humorous ability but it caused their “likeability” or rating for social attractiveness to plummet according to research.

Finally, understanding the language and culture of your audience is crucial for being funny. On time I sat listening to an educational speaker who often managed to get a chuckle out of others bemoan the time he was presenting in China. “I was using the same jokes and puns that always get a laugh, but the just people sat their deadpan,” he complained. “So I asked the translator if she was translating me word for word or restating the meaning in her own words. She admitted she was restating the meaning. That’s why it wasn’t funny.”

I was taken back that he failed to comprehend that jokes and puns don’t translate well. These kinds of humor rely on words sounding similar in a particular language. I tried to explain that if she had translated his speech word for word it still wouldn’t have been funny and the Chinese audience might have thought his presentation was a bit nonsensical. However, he continued to whine about how the translator ruined his humor, which got eventually got a chuckle out of me.

Booth-Butterfield, S., & Booth-Butterfield, M. (1991). Individual differences in the communication of humorous messages. Southern Communication Journal, 56, 205–218.
Merolla, Andy J. Decoding Ability and Humor Production, Communication Quarterly 05/2006; 54(2):175-189.
Wanzer, M., Booth-Butterfield, M., & Booth-Butterfield, S. (1995). The funny people: A source-orientation to the communication of humor. Communication Quarterly, 43, 142–154.
Wanzer, M. B., Booth-Butterfield, M., & Booth-Butterfield, S. (1996). Are funny people more popular: The relationship of humor orientation, loneliness, and social attraction. Communication Quarterly, 44, 42–52.



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How does laughter affect learning?

01 enthusedHumor was not my initial intention. I had collected a number of paired items to demonstrate the concept of a logo as a symbol, including a heavy sign from an upscale realty company complete with wooden post. The college students soon caught on to how a logo provides more than information. It also elicits a feeling. As I held up the realtor sign for them to compare to the generic “For Sale” placard, I asked “What would you call this?” From the back of the room came the response “Stolen.” A series of giggles and snorting guffaws rolled through the class.

I could have protested. Having legitimately borrowed the sign from the local realtor’s office rather than sneakily removing one from a neighbor’s yard, I was no thief. But I did not complain. The bit of humor grabbed those whose attention had wandered. A joke is definitely a way to wake up a group growing drowsy from too much information. However, the incident left me wondering if laughing actually helps people learn?

Imagine two different scenarios: one class in which the instruction is always logical and serious; another class in which the instructor frequently interject jokes that tangentially deal with the subject. In which class do students learn more? It depends both on how the comedy relates to the course and to the students. Researcher Melissa Bekelja Wanzer, , of Canisius College finds inappropriate humor, especially that which is directed at students, interferes with learning.

One of the first rules is too make sure the humor, used inside the class or on-line communication, is not offensive. Mark Shatz, and Frank LoSchiavo, Ohio University-Zanesville psychology professors, discovered that when a professor used self-deprecating jokes, and appropriate subject-related cartoons their students utilized the online instructional system more and also said they enjoyed the class more. However Wanzer warned that repeatedly putting oneself down could lead students to view the instructor as less competent.

Secondly, comedy must fit in with the course material. Wasner found that when professors use a dry sense of humor when instructing, the students perceived them as better communicators. In the same manner doctors who occasionally spoke in a witty manner were viewed more favorably by their patients. However most of the studies on how humor affect learning end up with mixed results. Possibly because what each person finds as sufficient, but not overdone humor is different.

John Hopkins University professor, Ron Berk, PhD, uses humorous skits to promote learning in his biostatistics class. His goal is to help students with different learning styles see how statistics work and encourage divergent learning that is applicable in real life. But humor’s role in relieving stress is what makes it valuable in his estimation. “It helps relieve fear and reduce anxiety…prior to or during an exam, humorous directions or test items may relieve students’ tension and help them perform better.”

So remember to keep your best, most relevant joke to tell just before that killer exam.

Shatz,, Mark and LoSchiavo , Frank, Teaching of Psychology, Vol. 32, No. 4, pages 246-248, 2005
Stambor, Zak. How laughing leads to learning. Monitor , Vol 37, No. 6, June 2006
Wasner, Melissa. “Use of Humor in the Classroom” In Our Teaching Behavior, Communication Education, 48—62
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No laughing matter

StateLibQld_2_177635_Serious_faced_group_of_school_children_The support shown for the people killed in the attack on Charlie Hebdo’s office appeared wide spread throughout the news. Candle light vigils, crowds proclaiming “Je suis Charlie.” It would almost seem like a great show of solidarity. But of course if this satirical journal truly had such widespread support the attack would have never happened. Satire draws selected people and current events in an absurd perspective. People are more likely to pay attention to satirical lampooning than a serious discussion of flaws. The political humor makes people feel superior, as long as their group is not the ones being lampooned. But most people made to look absurd feel more wounded when they are mocked than when they are openly critiqued.

Charlie Hebdo had a particularly irreligious brand of mockery. They been sued jointly by Islamic organizations – the Grand Mosque, the Muslim World League, and the Union of French Islamic Organizations – but not as often as they had been sued by the Catholic Church. However, this journal tended to avoid anti-Semitism. Cartoons with anti-Jewish sentiment had appeared frequently in Nazi Germany while the holocaust was going on. So this subject was no longer a laughing matter.

Which brings us to the power that satire actually has. Satirical works, whether they are cartoons and articles, or full blown books and movies, deride some person, group or belief. The idea is to shame the target so that the object of the attack seems ridiculous or grotesque.  Satire has the power to cause disregard or even hatred for the target. There is no requirement for the satirical work to be true – in fact it almost never is – but it must only be funny to a large enough group. If satire wakes the public to a great wrong, offering a backhanded viewpoint that would right that wrong, such as in Daniel Defoe’s Modest Proposal, it has a strength that simply preaching against the problem does not have. But satire’s power to be destructive is just as potent. There is little way to combat the ideas expressed by satire, other than by government suppression, which seems unthinkable to those who so proudly cling to freedom of speech.

As I was watched CNN with their constant coverage after the attack on Charlie Hebdo, I heard a man interviewed in France compare it to the September 11 attack on World Trade Center in New York. I winced. He couldn’t possibly believe these two events were similar in scope. The masses of people who died in the twin towers did nothing to provoke the attack. I could have mocked him; making him look ignorant. But satire doesn’t work that way. It is an offensive game; you must strike first. Speak back in a serious manner and you are seen as humorless. Squash it with any sort of power and it is seen as an affront.  Once satire has been attacked it takes on an aura of respectability. The best thing to do is simply not to laugh.


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Uneasy laughter


My son had looked eagerly towards the six grade field trip to the science museum. So it surprised me that on the afternoon of the field trip I received a call from the vice principal saying there was a problem. Evidently my son and his seat mate, annoyed by the student behind them who wouldn’t stop kicking their seat, tied the student’s shoe laces together.  They had tied them so tight that they couldn’t be untied and had to be cut. Now the vice principal was demanding that my son write a letter of apology.

So I asked to talk to him. “Now tell me exactly what happened?”

“I asked Chad to stop kicking the seat, but he wouldn’t.” My son explained.

“Then, how did you tie Chad’s laces together?” I asked a bit perplexed.

I could hear the vice principal warning my son not to mention names.

“Well, his shoe laces were untied, flopping around,” my son continued. “The bus stopped because of all the people…  near the museum. He stood up to look. So we reached under the seat and tied them together. But we couldn’t see what we were doing. We tied them in front of the bar, the one under the seat. When he tried to get out he kept pulling them against the bar, really hard. We could have untied the knot it if he hadn’t pulled so hard.”

If the vice principal had been listening closely, he could have heard me laughing on the other end of the phone. In my mind I could see the annoying  Chad kicking the back of their seat, or popping up and down in his own – a regular hyperactive nuisance so unaware of what he was doing that he didn’t notice the two boys in front of him surreptitiously tying his laces together. And when he did notice, his attempt to jerk the knot lose through brute force only made things worse. So I told my son not to mention my laughing, and just go ahead and write the apology. I would talk to him at the Boy Scout meeting after school.

My son had not mentioned which friend had helped him pulled off this caper. However it became evident half way through the Boy Scout meeting when another mother entered with the look of a slow boil and called out “John, I need to talk to you!” with an intimidating tone of rebuke that caused everyone to tremble. However, I had to bite my cheeks to keep from laughing again. My son and the other boy were “trustworthy scouts.” So much so that their leader gave them extra responsibilities. It crossed my mind that perhaps he had taught the typical lore of tying knots too well.

But there was another reason the John’s mother was so irritated at him.  John’s father had a scar all the way around his ankle. It was the result of a prank that occurred when he was much younger. Two boys had a strung a wire tightly across a trail, hoping to get their kicks laughing when some one tripped and fell down. However, it was strung so taut that when he ran into it, the force caused the wire to recoil and almost completely sever his ankle. His parents had rushed him to the hospital with his food barely attached to his leg. Fortunately there was a doctor skilled in this kind of surgery living in the town and through very meticulous surgery he was able to re-attach the foot in a manner so it would function normally, but the huge scar remained.

We all want to laugh; it feels good. My son and his friend didn’t cause any lasting damage to Chad in their practical joke that was an attempt to teach him a lesson. But our laughter often comes at the expense of others. Sometimes it results in permanent harm. It is not just laughing at others in their embarrassing moment. Often it involves extensive planning to cause the embarrassing moment. So what is really behind this uneasy kind of laughter?

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The sexual side of laughter

Fotothek_df_roe-neg_0006547_Once I heard a bit of advice spoken by one adolescent boy to another. “Do you want to know if a girl likes you? Tell a really stupid joke, the stupider the better. If she laughs, she likes you.” It has been obvious for eons that laughter has a sexual side. I am not referring to sex as the subject of humor, but the differences in the way that the sexes perceive what is funny and how they respond with laughter.

Allan Reiss and colleagues of Stanford University studied the response of male and female brains when reading comics. To a large degree that used similar parts of the brain, those used of to make sense of semantics and juxtaposition of ideas in speech. However the part of brain that deals with executive processing where activated more in the womens’ brains than the men’s. Part of the mesolimbic reward center was  more active for women when they found a comic funny, which indicated that finding humor was both more pleasurable and unexpected for them.

Let’s return to our first example. If an adolescent boy told a really stupid joke, a typical female laughing in response would be an indication of approval. His male peers would be more likely to respond with a kind of laughter known as scoffing, to show him how stupid the joke really was. Boys, and even men, commonly use humor as a kind of competitive social humiliation. We tend to think nothing of the way they poke fun at other males, putting each other down. However, when adolescent girls laugh at other girls in a ridiculing manner, they are considered “mean girls,” the kind of cliquish queen bees who use cruel humor to maintain their superiority over others.

Women’s humor is expected to be socially supportive, whether they are laughing at a man’s not so funny joke, or with their female friends about a common situation. According to Don Nilsen, a linguistics professor at Arizona State University, a woman who employs the typically aggressive or competitive male sense of humor, finds that both men and other women are critical of her.

So what about men who laugh in the way  that society proscribes for women to laugh? In an appeasing manner that shows cohesiveness with the ideas of those around them? Yes, men laugh that way… in front of their bosses. So the sexual side of humor is not affected as much by the way genders perceive what is funny – the brain functions only have slight differences according to the Standford study – as it is by role society has assigned to humor for each of the genders.

Photo from Deutsche Fotothek
Allan Reiss, MD, the Howard C. Robbins Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences Research. Dean Mobbs, Nov. 7 online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Willow Lawson, “Humor’s Sexual Side” Psychology Today, article 200508, published on September 1, 2005 – last reviewed on December 20, 2012



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Laughing at or laughing with?

Return_To_Innocence cIt was a preschool performance put on for parents and doting grandparents; rehearsed, but not enough, with the teachers scampering back and forth to locate students that were supposed to be one stage. During one of these interludes a group of 4-year-olds waited patiently for their teacher to reappear with the missing students. Except for one girl, she knew she was supposed to recite first.  So she walked directly up to the microphone, and giggled nervously.  A few people in the crowd laughed back softly, so she giggled a bit louder,  and the crowd responded in kind. This back and forth crescendo of laughter, between the chuckles from the young girl and loud guffaws from the amused crowd continued for a full two minutes before the teacher rushed on stage to  gently snatch away the microphone. However it is the only part of that preschool recital that I remember. Possibly, because that 4 year old girl was my daughter.

Years later, she still recalls that moment. My daughter told me how she started laughing because she was nervous, not knowing what to do without the teacher. (Many adults respond the same way when placed in unfamiliar social situations.) When the people laughed back, she thought they were pleased, so she kept up the dialog of giggles. “I thought they were laughing with me, not laughing at me. I didn’t know the difference.”

The difference, which is not that clear cut, has given birth to the various theories of laughter.  Thomas Hobbes described laughter as the response of one person trying to express superiority to another person. For him humor was always at someone else’s expense. It called attention to other’s faults and foibles in a way that glorified oneself. In an ironic twist the people who laughed the most, were the ones who felt the need to establish superiority because they obviously were inferior. Of course he was not the first to express this idea, named the superiority theory of laughter. Plato recorded a very similar idea.

Sigmund Freud, who theorized that life in civilized society required repression of man’s sexual and aggressive drives, had a different take on laughter. It was an acceptable and pleasurable release from energy bottled up by all this repression. He saw humor as a defense mechanism, it which a person could express what they repressed in a tolerated manner.

But neither of these theories really expresses what was occurring during that preschool performance, so I looked for other theories. In the eighteenth century Joseph Addison and David Hartley, reiterated a theory that had appeared in the past. Laughter is a response to incongruities.  Such is the humor found in a visual or verbal pun, two different meanings, which express both a resemblance and an opposition, create a tension that results in humor. Recognizing the unexpected reversal causes laughter.

Although the crowd at the preschool performance may have been laughing at my daughter, it was done in a kindly manner, not such as Hobbes theorized. And part of the laughter was generated by my daughter’s innocent belief that the crowd was laughing with her. Their response could hardly be considered a sociably acceptable way of expressing aggression. Perhaps there was an incongruity, although I find it hard to pinpoint. Maybe for a brief two minutes we all laughed because it felt good.

Photo by Syed Touhid Hassan,  cc-by-2.0

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The giggling girls have power

It's_so_funny_cropWhy can’t we be all like adolescent girls, and laugh more? The topic of the discussion thread caught my attention. Evidently girls between the ages of 11 and 18 all over the world laugh more than any other group. In the past, I have often been in classrooms where teenage girls were unable to suppress their laughter. Most of the time there was nothing particularly amusing to start the laughter. However, the very sound of an initial giggle seemed to generate the impulse for laughter to spread. It frequently turned into a high pitched and disruptive twitter, bringing the class to a halt. I suspected that was the reason the girls were giggling so much.

It turns out that I was not far from right. Girls don’t giggling all the time because they are having fun, but because they are building their first line of defense. Giggling is an attempt to gain allies in a conflict. They are waging war from a position of weakness as evidenced by their weapon of choice, laughter, but waging it nonetheless.

The gigglers sense that they have little authority over others. They may be a female in a male dominated society, a youth in culture where older people are acknowledged leaders, or less educated and experienced in a world espousing intellectual ability and technological savvy. Delicate chortling is a way of seducing those in power into helping and not attacking them.

The people for whom the giggling is performed are often well aware that it is done to appease them rather than for any humorous words they have said. Still they are flattered. John Morreal, a professor of religion at William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia, noted that the “degree to which a woman laughed while talking to a man was indicative of her interest in dating him. How much the woman laughed also predicted the man’s desire to date her.”

The gigglers live within a hierarchical framework, a kind of caste system based on power in society. They have discovered that the placating nature of a chuckle usually works better than attempting a rational discussion, which places both parties in a position of equality. Laughter is their choice tool for manipulating others. They typically laugh to appease someone they view as having a superior position. However, if you observe a giggler talking to someone that they feel they are above (such as a younger sibling or child) and the laughter frequently disappears, and is sometimes replace by a demanding voice.

While researching the psychology of laughter, I found an interesting Radio Lab called “How Does Laughing Affect Us?” Vanderbilt University associate professor of psychology JoAnne Bachorowski concluded that men laugh more around their bosses and women laugh louder around men they don’t know because “the giggling girls have power.”  They use excessive laughter to shield themselves, by gaining the attention and protection of those who are stronger in society. If you want to know more you can listen to the program – http://www.radiolab.org/story/91593-how-does-laughing-affect-us/

Photo by Emanuele Spies. CC by 2.0
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The unprincipled conformist

char1012_imageryEven as I have spent the past few weeks writing about people’s admiration for the person who deviates from the group norm for a good cause, I have been planning how to discuss the “foil” of the principled rebel – the unprincipled conformist. Conformity requires that a person at least appear to follow a set of rules. So how can a conformist be unprincipled? A required similarity within a group can mask controlling force that is actually harmful to the people within the group.

The nature of this harm can express itself in a number of ways. One of the most common is the exclusion of people for insignificant reasons. In order to create the strong camaraderie a common enemy needs to be found. There are two reasons groups do this; one is the age old reason that wars exist – to take something of value from another person. Exclusion allows the group to gain. The second reason is to shift what the group doesn’t want onto the shunned people; blame for any problems is shifted onto the scapegoats.

The difficulty with both of these actions is that in the end they destroy the group.  Whether the exclusion is used as an excuse to take away wealth or credit or influence from the other person, or simply a social snub, it results in physical pain. This pain tends to cause the excluded people to avoid interacting with those people, even if they would prefer to conform in order to fit in. [1] This results in the group seeking out a fresh scapegoat, and this process continues until an apparently cohesive group crumbles from the inside out.

The other “harm” caused by unprincipled conformity is the squelching of creativity. People placed in new situations tend to gather in groups based on superficial similarities. However, the enforcement of these similarities often lead people to become rigid in their behavior. It appears that a clique, which initially occurs to help people deal with the changing world around, actually prevents them from innovating and adapting to change. Authors Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster who have studied the effect of this in business environments warn that “Very few cliques are populated by the highest performers…”[2]

[1] Eisenberger, N. I.  (2012)  Broken hearts and broken bones: A neural perspective on the similarities between social and physical pain.  Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21, 42-47,
[2] Crowley, K. and Eslter, K. (2007)Working with You is Killing Me: Freeing Yourself form Emotional Traps at Work


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Rebel with a cause

Lego_StarWars_Han_Solo_on_ice_planet_HothAs much as people may be willing to mimic the behavior and appearance of others in order to fit in, secretly they often envy  those who show intentional dissent. According to many researchers  people admire the person who has the guts to do what they do not – challenge group norms – as long as the person is not challenging their own norms.

“Indeed, people may speak up and dissent from important group norms not because they want to be difficult and destructive, but because they care for the group and its future.” [1]

The heroes of novels are often principled rebels, not lacking in loyalty but willing to speak up against those with power for the benefit of the group. In the world of fiction the group is eventually swayed by stirring words from this altruistic rebel. But in real life? If you want to craft a story with a  true uphill struggle  you should look at studies on how the minority voice of dissent is able to influence the majority. Group dynamics affect the challenge of being a real-life rebel with a cause.

In social reality groups tend to seek a consensus (i.e. get everybody to go along) if the opinions of the majority are not rooted in reality. In this case the uniformity in opinions serves the purpose of  validating ideas that really cannot be validated. If a group member questions the idea or backs someone who does they run the risk of being excluded. [2]

If rebels wish to sway others to follow their cause they must learn the importance of consistency (It is not necessarily the hobgoblin of small minds). Majorities start with the assumption that the minority is not correct but the persistence on the part of the minority creates a complexity. ‘How can they be so sure and yet so wrong’? [3] If the minority view is going to have any chance of gaining a following the supporters must remain consistent over time and behave consistently with one another. If this sticking to their guns is seen as attention seeking, or a rigid belief rather than consistency, it will fail to gather support.

Also the rebel with a cause does not have the luxury of both ‘winning friends’ and ‘influencing people.’ If the rebels remains adamant in their position they may influence others, but most people will not like them. Those that persist in their minority views, are often punished by the powers that be in a group. However, if the proponents of the minority view attempt to gain power through appeasing others in the group, they are seen as giving in, and lose any chance to influence others. [3]

The uniformity of the majority is often not as solid as it seems. People will appear to adopt the majority position but privately disagree with it.  On the other hand the dissenter must convert others to the minority position. People can be influenced privately, but this private change will eventually have to stand up under scrutiny.

But most importantly when a rebel speaks up they must do so before members of the group have a chance to follow through with the action that the rebel disagrees with. When a person complies with group demands before the rebel speaks up, they often view the rebel’s disagreement as a personal rejection. They tend to preemptively reject the rebel even if in agreement with the principle that caused the defiance in the first place.

Those in the group that have yet to show an opinion by acting in conformity with the majority are those most willing to admire the person who dissented for principled reasons. When the defiant persons voices an opinion that is not held by the majority, these people often feel liberated and believe that, by following the rebel they have done the right thing [3].

“Lego StarWars Han Solo on ice planet Hoth” by Klapi – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
[1] Monin, B.and and O’Connor, K. (2011) Reactions to Defiant Deviants-Deliverance or Defensiveness? In J. Jetten, and M.J. Hornsey,(eds) Rebels in Groups: Dissent, Deviance, Difference, and Defiance. 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
[2] Levine, J.M. and Vernon L. Allen, V.L. (1968) Reactions to Attitudinal Deviancy, Report from the Per Group Pressures on Learning Project. Vernon L. Allen, Principal Investigator. Wisconsin Research and Development Center for Cognitive Learning, The University of Wisconsin
[3] Nemeth, C. J. & Jack A. Goncalo, J.A. (2011) Rogues and Heroes: Finding Value in Dissent.  In J. Jetten, and M.J. Hornsey,(eds) Rebels in Groups: Dissent, Deviance, Difference, and Defiance. 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
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