Title: The Social Animal
Author: Elliot Aronson
Year: First published: 1972; New edition published: 25/06/2003
Length: 431 pages
Genre: Psychology, Nonfiction, Sociology
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Short Description: A compelling introduction to modern social psychology. The main benefit of reading The Social Animal by Elliot Aronson is that will show you a much clearer way of understanding how fellow humans operate and how to influence them.
The Social Animal by Elliot Aronson is considered as one of the best books about human behavior. The reason the author wrote the book is admirable. He wanted to strengthen the positions of psychology and how the world perceives this science. Also, he wanted more people to get involved in the subject and use the knowledge the psychology revealed.
There is definitely a lot to that can be gained from these pages. Mainly, you can learn various techniques, terms, and ways to become a better communicator.
Even though we transcendence all living things on this planet, at least with potential, we still remain animals. The main difference is that we have technology. We are like monkeys with smartphones.
I’ve always been fascinated by social psychology – why other people, and me, behave the way we do and what makes us click. The book it’s like a novel full of real-life stories that explore the human mind. How we behave in different situations. Even though the writing is mostly firm and scientific, it’s still a very interesting read. You get to understand why people do some crazy things, why we act in a specific way, how mass media try to persuade us and influence our every decision.
Exploration of the human mind and social psychology is a broad subject and it definitely can’t be covered in one single book. Still, Elliot Aronson presents us various of illustration and examples of how we operate.
Here are some of the most insightful things, for me, I would really like to remember from this book:
Why Understanding People is Important
No matter whether we like it or not, we are surrounded by fellow humans. Our lives are dependent on our daily interactions with them: going to the local store, our jobs, driving around town, walking down the street. At any given moment your life may depend on the person sitting next to you.
Imagine a situation where you are in an elevator with another person, a colleague of yours. This other person is someone you don’t like, and he kind of knows it. Last month you were both working on a project and you had a fight with him about what color to use for the presentation background. With each passing floor, the tension and the hatred are increasing in the atmosphere. Suddenly, there is a loud sound of metal being crushed. You feel it with your whole body and your arms instinctively cover your ears, which doesn’t make it more pleasant. A moment later, the metal prison that supposed to take your asses to the top floor shakes for a moment, like it warns what will happen next, and the next thing you know is you start falling. In the middle of your final prayer, the elevator suddenly stops, sending both of you on the floor, breaking your leg. The doors slightly open, leaving enough space to escape from this nightmare. However, the vibrations going through the whole structure are clearly stating that this idle position won’t be for long. At this point, you’re no longer capable of moving on your own. Your colleague who is laying right next to the open door starts creeping through it. Just before he moves his whole body from the tiny hole, he looks back at you. Then, he…
Is he going to help you, or, leave you to kiss the bottom of the shaft? Well, this is something that was probably predetermined weeks ago.
We spend so many hours trying to understand how different software or a machine works. We read books, watch tutorials on the topic, till we’ve mastered it. Still, we never take the needed time to figure out the people we work, live and communicate with. What drives, motivates, disgust them. What makes them angry, sad or will put a smile on their faces. We don’t think that this is important. But it is.
Social psychology is extremely important. It can play a vital role in making the world and your personal life a better place. Take the needed time to observe the people around you. Takes notes if you have to.
Conformity is the change of someone’s behavior or opinion as a result of the people around. It’s basically the behavior norms which are imposed on us by society. That’s why we pee in designated places, also known as restrooms, not on the street, in front of others.
It’s important to know the three major compliances adopted by us. They might help in various social situations:
Compliance: Is acquiring a certain behavior in order to be able to win a prize or avoid punishment. This social influence response mostly occurs in institutions like school or our work environment. The moment when the threat or the reward is no longer a factor, our behavior is back to normal. For example, in class we are quiet, we don’t talk and we listen to what the teacher has to say. This peaceful act guarantees us that we won’t be punished. Still, the moment the clock starts ringing and the teacher out of the room, we no longer feel obligated to keep our cool.
Identification – Adopting someone’s behavior to make him like us, or the other reason we might do it’s because we admire, respect, or like him. This is a very important moment when dating. If you notice that the other person is constantly accepting your opinion, trusting your judgment, that will mean that he likes you. He’s identifying himself through you. This social act, is also commonly used by people who want to join a certain group. When you want to join a gang, you accept everything they do, or tell you to do, in order to join the new company. Basically, you become a follower. Not something you should be doing when the group of people you are admiring is doing stupid or illegal stuff.
Internalization – Acquiring the beliefs of other people. This is the most resilient of the three major social influence responses. It mainly means that we incorporate the way of thinking, the beliefs, the movements, and sometimes even the words of people we trust or communicate most often. Precisely because of this term, Hans Hansen said the following: “People inspire you, or they drain you – pick them wisely.” If you’re surrounded by people who smoke, you will most likely become one. The counter-argument is also true: if you’re surrounded by people who don’t smoke, you will probably quit cigarettes. Bottom line: make sure you communicate who resonate with your beliefs and your understandings.
Effort justification is the reason we don’t the reason why we do not appreciate free stuff, or stuff that we achieve too easily. Let me describe a situation from the real world so you can understand this term:
Suppose you are looking to hook up with a girl. If she gave away too easily, you will immediately think that she is an easy girl and she does the same thing with every man who buys her a drink. I know, it’s a very shallow thing to say, but it does happen in the real world. We think the same way about pretty much everything that comes too easily into our hands. The effort we put into a task will determine the expected outcome.
If you work hard every single day in your daily job, you will probably want something in return, right? A raise, a reward, or simply being mentioned in the monthly newsletter sent to all employees – if your company is into this kind of motivation.
You can use this kind behavior to build an image of an inaccessible person to attract the attention of the opposite sex. Women use this technique all the time. By playing hard to get, men tend to want them more. Which, of course, resonates in full with the mentioned above.
Another purpose of this social tool can be used to increase the value of your brand, site, business. Being different, innovative are only a few of the ways to make more people buy your products. Making something limited, in terms of quantity, for example, will create the desired buzz around your product, which will eventually lead to more people trying to sign up for your updates, newsletter, products.
Another important term that will bring us closer to understanding our own actions and those of the people around us is the term known as behavior justification. In short, this means that we justify our own actions no matter what.
We, people, always strive to be right: in front of ourselves, our understandings, the people we meet on the street, our boss, but above all, our spouse.
Precisely because of the above, if you ask a prisoner, who is sentenced for lifе, “are you guilty?” Тhe answer you will get, in 99% of the situations, will be: “I am innocent! I was framed!” Although these people have been brought to justice, a judge and jury decide the sentence, they still think they’re innocent. Why’s that?
Let’s talk about something different. Let say you’re about to make a decision – about what kind, and brand, of a laptop to purchase. You set a budget, than, you start reading and watching reviews, comparing specifications. Finally, you decide to purchase a Lenovo laptop. What will happen next? Your behavior will change favoring the brand you’ve just trusted with your money. Chances are you may begin to spend more time talking about Lenovo laptops. What people say will no longer be registered in your brain. The decision is already made, your brain now considers Lenovo as the best laptop on the market.
When we make a decision, or we act in a certain way, we internally convince ourselves that this is the best decision we could’ve done. Especially if this is in regards something difficult. Even if that thing, is harmful to us, we still “tell” our mind that’s “it’s ok.” That’s why we stay so long, sometimes forever, in relationships that are destroying us. Also, that’s why we smoke. We know it’s slowly killing us, it’s scientifically proven, but we still keep doing it. What we tell our minds is sometimes devastating.
Now you know why quotes like the one below are so true:
Beware of no man more than of yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us.” Charles Spurgeon
The secret of persuading people – Credibility
Let me ask you something, would you believe a man – wearing а tracksuit, sneakers and thick black glasses – who stops you on the street and kindly asks you for 10 bucks? He also promises to return the money in less than 10 minutes. Also, he is keen on letting you keep his ID card for the time he will be away. 10 dollars is a small amount, but it’s definitely not a sum you will give to a stranger on the street. It’s your money, right? Yes, he mentioned that I can keep his ID, but if this is a stolen card it won’t matter. Police also won’t move a muscle to make a case for 10 bucks. So, it’s definitely a no-no.
Now, imagine the same situation but this time a man wearing a suit, nice shoes, freshly shaved, good manners asks you the same thing. What would you say? Hmm, I am sure you will think about it and even consider giving this well-shaped-model-looking-guy 10 of your precious dollars.
So, what’s the point of all of this?
What I want to mention here is that we’re more willing to trust someone who represents credibility. Society established, long time ago, the foundations of persons who we perceive as trustworthy. The profile of such people includes: manners, natural beauty, intonation, body language, rank, clothing, famousness.
Often we buy things just because our favorite athlete is recommending them. Same applies when we visit the doctor. We believe his judgment – a stranger in a white coat – more than what our mothers tell us.
Two things to use in your daily life:
- Our opinions are influenced by individuals who are experts in the specific field. Position yourself as such, if you want to win the trust of your clients.
- Become more likable to the people you want to influence. We tend to listen more the people we actually like.
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