10 Strange Ways Social Conditioning Influences You
By Gregory Myers, Toptenz, 17 October 2017.
By Gregory Myers, Toptenz, 17 October 2017.
Most people are certain that their fears, habits, or other beliefs are something innate to them, their upbringing, or in the case of the aforementioned beliefs, are simply facts. However, social conditioning from popular culture, confusing consumer education, and urban legends that have existed for thousands of years have created false ideas and strange, illogical habits in even the most reasonable people. The more people buy into a false idea, the greater the social effect, and the quicker and easier the entire idea spreads, as you can see in the examples below.
10. Fear Of Clowns Has Less To Do With Uncanny Valley And More To Do With Scary Movies
Today, clowns have become almost synonymous with other horror monsters like vampires or werewolves to the point that those in the profession of clowning are starting to seriously wonder about the future of their chosen careers. If nothing else, they may have to rebrand themselves into showing up for horror-themed events, instead of being funny and silly. In fact, the fear of clowns has gotten so bad recently that McDonald’s pulled Ronald McDonald from most advertising until (if and when) clowns become a whimsical thing again.
Now, when you look at the vast amount of people who now claim to be afraid of or freaked out by clowns, some will point you to all sorts theories, but most of them miss the point. The most popular of these theories is that people are afraid of clowns because of the uncanny valley effect - the fact that they look mostly human, but not quite, and you cannot really make out what specific human they might be. However, this is sort of trying to justify people’s fear of clowns as something innate after the fact. Some people will point to clowns sometimes being more grim, satirical figures, but they were never meant to be scary and up until recently, that wasn’t really a popular perception.
The truth is that people are afraid of clowns because popular culture has conditioned them to be afraid. Both IT movies were truly terrifying, and the clown serial killer John Wayne Gacy has forever besmirched the name of clowning, but fearing those things does not mean we think clowns themselves are scary. What those fears mean are that we think that trans-dimensional, shape-shifting, child-murdering clowns (and real life serial killer clowns) are scary - which, as you might notice, are things that have nothing to do with clowns themselves.
9. Modern Ghost Hunting Is Basically Just One Big Mess Of Confirmation Bias And Theatrics
Ghosts are a topic that will always be a subject of heated debate. Some people are convinced that there is a scientific explanation to everything, and others are firmly in the camp that there are supernatural beings who are somehow communicating with us and sometimes science doesn’t always explain everything so neatly. However, some choose a third option wherein they believe that ghost activity exists, but despite being partially supernatural, since it’s communicating with our world, they could quantify its existence with scientific measurements.
Before long, TV shows started showing up with “ghost hunters” who would perform stakeouts in allegedly haunted locations at night, with the lights out. These ghost hunters would bring along all sorts of ridiculous equipment, to listen for sounds inaudible to the human ear, or look for spots of extreme cold, or magnetic activity, and other such things. These “ghost hunters” have claimed to be all about the scientific approach, but really what they are doing is nothing more than bad theater. While it sounds very scientific on the TV shows, the problem is that there is no quantifiable evidence of any kind that these measurements have anything to do with ghosts, or that ghosts even exist in the first place.
Because these special instruments may not mean anything at all, the most effective way to observe is truly our own senses, and regular video and audio equipment. Turning off all the lights is also dramatic, but as some who have tried to take the paranormal field more seriously have explained, if there really were ghost activity most of it tends to be a shadow or something similar seen on the wall - with the lights out, you aren’t going to be getting any shadows, and activity may be harder to notice if there is anything at all.
8. The Full Moon Hysteria Is Totally Baseless, But Social Expectations Cause People To Believe It
One of the most common myths held among any kind of emergency worker is that people are just crazy on full moon nights, as if something truly otherworldly was actually going on. In fact, this myth has been ingrained in the human imagination for so long that the word lunacy actually has roots in the world lunar (for moon) - this dates at least as far back as the Ancient Greeks. Today, every nurse who has ever worked at an emergency room will absolutely insist that it is true, but despite thousands of years of belief, the evidence just does not hold up. Countless studies have been done, and then those studies have been reviewed en masse multiple times. The conclusion has been that if you account for the days of the week, there is no evidence whatsoever that full moon days lead people to behave statistically any stranger than normal.
Some people can be presented with studies about this, but still believe it because their social conditioning is so strong, and they have personally trained themselves to believe it is true. Because they believe so strongly, they remember all the strangest things on full moon days, or think of the craziest things that happened when they were told a day was a full moon - the human brain loves to confirm things it already thinks are true. The truth is that anyone who works in an ER likely has crazy stories they could tell you almost any day of the week - the full moon just seems more significant, so they remember anecdotes from that day better.
7. In Many Countries, Schizophrenic Hallucinations Are Seen As Friendly Because Of The Culture
In the United States and some Western cultures, schizophrenic hallucinations are seen as overwhelmingly negative. In many situations people will report the voices being evil, or trying to get them to hurt themselves or others. There have been many sad cases where schizophrenic people have gone insane and hurt others, because they were driven mad by these voices. However, not every culture is upset by schizophrenia in quite the same way, because some more communal cultures tend to look at hallucinations in a more positive light.
Test subjects from Africa and India, as opposed to those from the USA, did sometimes hear hissing or other unpleasant sounds, but overall they had a much more positive view of the situation. Some of them even thought of the voices as a friend they could talk to without having to leave their house to interact with others, and for some people the voices manifest as long dead relatives giving them advice. In a strange way, this cultural difference actually seems to soften the blow of schizophrenia. People are not seen as crazy for talking about hearing from dead relatives, and most schizophrenics from these cultures don’t really see themselves as mentally ill at all. They integrate well with society, and are used to a wide group of social connections - the voices are just another person to talk to.
6. Only Certain Cultures Expect Women To Be Rage Monsters On Their Period
Before we get started, we should be clear about a couple important things here. We are not saying there are not physical symptoms that women experience while on their periods, which can be unpleasant or cause the fatigue. There is certainly evidence that there are non-psychosomatic symptoms that women can experience during their period. However, in a way that is really quite insulting to women, popular culture has been pushing the trope for decades that because women have some physical discomfort during their period, they turn into nasty, angry people who everyone just wants to stay clear of.
The entire invention of women being uncontrollably angry during their period is only a relatively recent invention, and has its roots in the made up disease of female “hysteria” which was often diagnosed with women who had any kind of spirit, instead of simply being docile and meek all the time. This new version of the hysteria theory back in the 1930s was just another patronizing way to claim that women simply couldn’t control their emotions, and it has taken hold rather strongly in the culture since then. Women should still be given consideration when they are going through their periods, but it is disrespectful to expect them to be unable to control their emotions because of some period cramps.
5. Slenderman Was Wholly Manufactured As An “Ancient” Monster To Scare Teens, And It Worked
Slenderman is the new horror kid on the block, but the people who still make memes and stories about him would like you to believe he’s truly ancient. The monster started out as a project on the Something Awful forums by a user named Victor Surge, who posted all kinds of creepy content that made it look like Slenderman was an ancient horror being who had been creeping around the world for thousands of years - or perhaps even longer. With creepy newspaper clippings and videos and photoshopped old drawings that made it look like ol’ Slendy was hiding in the background of very old photos, he quickly captured people’s imaginations.
Before long others were joining in creating other creepy content to add to the story, and a viral sensation was born that spread all over the internet. For those in the meme generation, this was a monster that was truly horrific. You see him, or read about him in memes, internet videos and creepy pastas, and after that, he telepathically can link with you, hypnotize you so you walk out of your house, and into his domain deep in the woods where you will never come back. He especially loves to target children, and once he’s taken notice of you there’s no escaping him. While it sounds creepy, most people accept at the end of the day that despite being genuinely well done, it’s just a story. Unfortunately, this wasn’t so for a couple of young teen girls from Waukesha, Wisconsin who are being tried as adults for a very horrible crime.
Their lawyer believes they are not properly mentally fit, and it is easy to understand why. The two girls believed that Slenderman really was real, despite all the non-believers, and that he had gotten to them telepathically. He had threatened to harm their families if they didn’t take their friend into the woods and kill her for him. They stabbed her 12 times, and somehow she miraculously survived. Despite attempts to make them see reason, the girls still insist that Slenderman is real.
4. No Evidence For Wind Farm Syndrome Exists, But Social Influences Cause Many To Insist They Have It
Wind farms are becoming much more popular as the world races to use as much renewable energy as possible, but they have been dealing with some considerable blockades. To begin with, even finding an appropriate area that is big enough and has enough wind regularly can be difficult, but then to make matters worse the locals will sometimes be against it simply because of how it obstructs their view. Once you get past these challenges, some communities have now complained that the nearby wind farms, despite not making any audible noise that the local community can hear, are causing them headaches, insomnia, nausea and other symptoms so general that they could be caused by literally anything (except Slenderman, of course, because - say it with us - he’s not real).
And this is really the problem with all of the claims. Multiple studies have been done on claims of Wind Farm Syndrome, or WFS, but have found no evidence whatsoever that the wind farms are causing any actual medical effect at all. It is also interesting to note that the communities that have recently had advocacy groups in the area speaking out against wind farms tend to have by far the highest amount of people claiming to have this fake syndrome. In other words, people are being taken in by mass hysteria and basically making themselves think they are sick with the reverse of the placebo effect. While wind farms may not be perfect, there is still no reason to believe that Wind Farm Syndrome exists.
3. Confusing Expiration And Best By Dates Cause Mountains Of Good Food To Be Thrown Away
According to a Harvard study, roughly 40% of food in the United States is uneaten, and much of this is because people are throwing it away early due to misinterpreting labeling. The current system we have is not designed to be malicious, nor are food companies trying to mislead anyone; in fact their own labeling system makes sense, if you understand it. The problem is that people have been conditioned over the years by force of habit and sheer cultural osmosis to throw away foods when you see it reach the date on the label, and this is incredibly wasteful.
The problem is that most labels actually don’t indicate a real “expiration date” at all. Even products like meat, eggs, or milk will often last longer than the labels tell you, as long as you keep them stored properly. And when it comes to products that aren’t so perishable, the labels mean way less than you think. Most people at least assume that when you reach the date, the product is at least getting fairly close to spoilage, but many products do not spoil that easily. Labels like “use by” or “best by” just indicate how long the companies’ food scientists thought it would be before the food started to lose its peak flavor and quality - it doesn’t mean it has gone bad. And labels like “sell by” are actually for the stores themselves, and aren’t even meant for the consumer at all. If we had a much more consistent and easy to understand food labeling system, food waste in the United States would drop dramatically.
2. Many People Still Believe Drug Dealers Are Pushing Candy Drugs On Children - Due To Mass Hysteria
Every year or two, especially around Halloween, people will share on social media the pictures of drugs like MDMA in a form that looks like candy, sometimes even in colorful bear shapes. The pictures will be accompanied with hysterical captions shouting about how you had better watch out to make sure your child does not get a pillowcase full of molly this Halloween, courtesy their local drug dealer - lest they become an addict at age 12 and spend the rest of their teen years sneaking out of the house to attend raves and wave glow sticks around. However, while people will share this nonsense far and wide every year because their worry about children temporarily overrides their common sense, the whole thing breaks down pretty quickly when you apply logic to it.
To begin with, children are not the only ones who like candy or the association of candy. Dealers have long made MDMA in colorful candy shapes to give to their adult clients, who find it extremely amusing - this is a very common practice. Furthermore, no dealer is going to take an expensive drug like that and randomly give it to school children. He would be needlessly risking getting caught by the police, for no gain whatsoever. He would almost certainly already have adult clients, and school children don’t exactly have a lot of money to spend on drugs. While it is a good rule to go by on Halloween to throw away anything handmade or that looks broken or tampered with, you don’t need to fear molly being slipped into your child’s candy bag.
1. Because Of Movies And Popular Culture, People Are Totally Unaware Of The Real Threat Of Artificial Intelligence
Due to Star Trek, Star Wars, and just so much popular culture, most people’s idea of artificial intelligence is often humanoid-shaped entities that seemed to have gained a level of sentience and self awareness. Many stories in science fiction have gone over the scenario of hyper intelligent AI gaining sentience en masse and taking over the world, wiping out humans or reducing us to slaves. And many people have been especially scared of all of this lately, because Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and others have come out recently cautioning against the rise of AI and how dangerous it is to use it the way we are planning.
However, as far as we know from current science, there is no plausible way for a machine to gain actual sentience or self awareness. Now, this doesn’t mean that the fears of these tech geniuses are unwarranted, just that most people don’t understand what they are actually afraid of. While AI is not going to gain awareness, the problem is that as we put more and more important systems, especially self driving cars, into the hands of artificial intelligence, the greater the chance of great damage if the AI learns the wrong thing and makes the wrong decision. In other words, the real problem is not that the machines will be too smart, but that we will give them automatic control over too many things, and they’ll be too dumb to handle it properly. While many people think we are on the verge of thinking robots, the truth is that we are actually much nearer the beginnings of our understanding of the concept than many people think.
Top image: Artwork depicting the Slender Man. Credit: LuxAmber/Wikimedia Commons.
[Source: Toptenz. Top image added.]