Humans are social animals descended from a long line of hunter gathers who lived in small social groupings of extended families (i.e. tribes). We are programmed to care about what other people think of us. Rugged individualism is probably an imaginary facade in most cases. This book explores ways in which peer pressure can be adjusted to create positive behavioral changes.
The book provides examples of how efforts to motivate people with information or by using fear simply don’t work and sometimes have the opposite of the intended effect. Advertisers have known for many years one way to sell a product is to associate it with the “in crowd.”
We’ve heard about how peer pressure can cause people to behave badly (or stupidly). This book suggests that it can also cause good behavior and then proceeds to provide examples related to controlling AIDS, quitting smoking, improving grades, fighting terrorism, overthrowing oppressive governments, and improving infant mortality. This book refers to it as the "social cure."
This book has convinced me that the social cure is real. The problem is that it's difficult to create the required peer group to exert the required social pressure to cause the desired behavior.
Some quotes that caught my eye:
Quoting from “The Nurture Assumption” by Judith Rich Harris:
“She argued that once parents have passed along the genes, they have very little influence over their children--except to choose their child’s peer group.”
Referencing a study published in JAMA:
“Among children aged three to six, more knew Joe Camel than they did Mickey Mouse.” (prior to 1997 when Joe Camel ads ceased)
Other miscellaneous quotes:
“... joining a group that meets once a month will increase your happiness as much as doubling your income.”
“The short answer to the question of what makes people happy is this: other people.”
Referencing the results of study of body weight issues:
“...weight is socially contagious. If your friends are overweight, your are also likely to be overweight, even controlling for other factors. The contagion also works in the other direction; people with thin friends are more likely to be thin. Oddly, the connection also skipped a link--in the study, participants were significantly more likely to gain weight if a friend of a friend did, even if the friend who connected them gained no weight at all.”