This weeks lectures on social influence have allowed me to gain a lot of insight into my own life, and specifically about how I gain information from my peers. When I was living to Boston and going to Tufts full-time, I was constantly surrounded by people my own age, who were doing similar things to what I was doing. Since moving to Minneapolis, I’ve stopped taking in-person classes at school, and I’m working with a much older group. This means that the opportunity to gain information from my peers is much more limited, and I’m trying to make many more decisions without the insight of people around me who are experiencing similar circumstances. This results in me having to make many more decisions based on my instincts alone, and being less confident in those decisions because I am less convinced of their correctness.
One example that springs readily to mind is my approach to getting into graduate school. I have what I consider to be a good plan in place: take requirements one at a time to ensure a high GPA, apply to many schools in order to maximize my chances of getting accepted, and live cheaply in order to save money in the meantime. But as far as things like course selection and which schools to apply to, I’m left mostly to make these decisions on my own. Although much of this advice is available online, I feel that I’m willing to give more credence to the ideas of people that I know, or who I speak to in person. Back at Tufts, graduate school and career plans were common topics of discussion, but in my new life here most of the people I know are older, with established careers and educational backgrounds.
Being in a new situation also means that I’m more likely to go along with what other people are doing. Right now, I’m living in my girlfriends dad’s house, who shows more enthusiasm for his career (structural engineering), than I did when the Patriots beat the Falcons in the Superbowl last year. This week I had to drive him downtown so that he could pick up a piece of lumber using my truck. Although it takes much longer, he wanted me to take surface streets downtown instead of the highway so that he could talk about the construction of all the old buildings in downtown Minneapolis. I wouldn’t normally have done this, because I was in a rush, but being in the new and unfamiliar situation of living in a new city in his house made me much more likely to comply with his request. This made a lot of sense in the context of the Milgram study. I find that if you put people in a situation for which they have not developed schemas, they are more likely to go along with the person in charge, possibly because it is the cognitive path of least resistance.