Authority, Influence and Compliance
I was reading one of Phil's recent posts. It seemed, like most of his ideas to be on point, mildly confrontational for the status quo, but factually correct. The debate ensued and was pretty much "rope a dope"stuff. Phil stuck to his usual solid workrate. The opponent chased him with low blows, hectoring and bombast. Eventually the fool gets tired and gassed, saddles up his/or her favourite mule and clip clops off (unchanged) into the sunset. Here endeth the tale.
It brought to mind a question. Why does the authoritarian voice so often play falsetto to the mob?
Within psychology is the continuum of agreeableness and disagreeableness. Phil is a self described contratian, but my feeling is that this does his contributions a disservice. Being cognitively aware, yet disagreeable seems like a good recipe for the modern world and for personal sovereignty. I like much of the work of Jordan Peterson and he too, often, falls foul of the "moral majority."
Lets take a quick side road to a piece I did (eight years ago) on some strategic thinkers on influence and compliance.
In his excellently written book on universally adopted influence and persuasion
strategies Robert Cialdini (2001), shows that influence is a tool with no meritocratic
In the broad fields of advertising, education and psychology the application of
models eventually meets a validation test, whereas much psychological therapy theory
still remains within the province of subjectivity and conjecture.
The human brain runs first class simulation software. Our eyes don‘t present to our brains a faithful
photograph of what is out there or an accurate movie of what is going on through time
Dawkins (2006 p 112)
Stealthy mindcraft, which depends for its success on being covert can not only fail but
seriously backfire if it is recognized, Kathleen Taylor (2004 p252).
Whether influence is overt, covert or unexamined within the research material is not
central to arguments for "change," but it must be acknowledged that the continuing modeling
power (within the domain) of the authority figure is a key factor. Authority is (often, not always) based on power, power is both persuasiveness and payback. It relates not to the issue at hand, but to lineage.
This is the "authority"paradigm - they sound like they know what they're doing, and, most likely, think that way too.
Research has shown that what is important for influence is the establishment of a social relationship
that facilitates influence between the source and the target of influence, Pratkanis (2007 p30).17
People desire to hold a correct attitude and relying on an expert and trustworthy
source is rewarding in terms of meeting this goal, quoted by Pratkanis (2007) Petty &
Cacioppo (1986). Research finds that the mere presence of others, even when the
nature of their character is unclear, can influence a target through conformity or what
Cialdini (2001) terms "social proof," Pratkanis (2007 p30) "groupthink," Janis (1972)
quoted by Turner Pratkanis & Struckman (2007 p223-246) or "social identity
maintenance," Turner Pratkanis et al (1992, 1998, 2007 p230).
Petty and Wegener(1993) demonstrated how people use their beliefs about the influence of preceding
judgements to correct subsequent assessments. Bless, Feidler and Strack (2004 p140)
Cialdini (2001) showed that expert authority easily supervenes over personal
judgement quoting the seminal work of Asch (1951/1955), Millgram (1974/1977),
Ontological security then is derived from a secure psychological and
emotional state, as Giddens puts it, "a confidence or trust that the natural or social
worlds are as they appear to be, including the basic existential parameters of self and
social identity," Giddens (1991) quoted by Higate in Richards et al (1997 p110) Bowlby
(1988) Bolsover ( 2007)
So, having read the preceding psychobabble, what's the point..
Well one point is to watch for the "shouters"- they rarely have control of the facts, so they rely on power, authority and conformity...which is, yes, you guessed it, mob rule. In fact, the lack of facts is what drives the appeal to emotion, derived from having an influence position and a public mouthpiece.
So, whats the moral...
There is no moral. Feel free to think for yourself :)
Bowlby, J. (2005) ―A secure base Published by Routledge classics
Chomsky, N. (1966) ―Cartesian linguistics: a chapter in the history of rationalist thought Published
by Harper & Row
Cialdini, R.B. (2001) ―Influence” Published by Allyn and Bacon
De Waal, F. (2005) ―Our inner ape Published by Riverhead hardcover
Frankl, V. (2004) ―Mans search for meaning Published by Random house
Ford, C.V. (1996) ―Lies, lies, lies, the psychology of deceit Published by American psychiatric press
Taylor, K. (2004) ―Brainwashing Published by Oxford University press
Ames, D. & Bianchi, E. (2008) The Agreeableness Asymmetry in First Impressions: Perceivers'
Impulse to (Mis) judge Agreeableness and How It Is Moderated by Power
Personality and social psychology Bulletin; 34; p17-19