Why even your independence goes through a dependent phase

I believe everything I read and I regularly fall to peer pressure.  Just like you do.  Just like everyone does.

photo by fotologic

photo by fotologic

The most independent free spirits among us may seem a law unto themselves, but they may just be better at working beyond an acceptance of what other people tell them.

If that sounds far-fetched, check out this fascinating piece on PsyBlog about it.  Whether it’s group work, a lecture, a textbook, or just some random late-night conversation, our natural instinct is to do a couple of things:

  1. Believe what’s being communicated to us;
  2. Follow the actions of our peers.

That’s why young children often believe everything they hear and why they want to copy other people (their parents, their friends, a stranger…).  It’s pretty natural.

Now, you may think this is beyond you.  You may think peer pressure is for other people and that you disagree with more than enough things to believe everything.  But apparently you’re just better at overcoming the instincts.

I bet it can go the other way too.  There are probably subjects, beliefs or people that automatically trigger an alarm in your head that turn you so cynical that you won’t believe anything that’s put to you.  It may be more of a learned process, but it works on a similar level.

In academia, it’s important to overcome the instincts and come to your own conclusions.  You don’t need to find a unique opinion (it’s okay to agree with someone else), but you do need to understand why you think a certain way.  An independent view is a massive step toward critical thinking, which is so crucial to effective study in your degree.

photo by fotologic

photo by fotologic