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Are You an Original Thinker? Are You Easily Influenced by Other People? Find Out Here

Updated on October 15, 2015
Image Courtesy of Wiki Commons
Image Courtesy of Wiki Commons

Are you an original thinker? Are you easily Influenced?

Are you easily influenced? Do you have original ideas?

We often hear about ‘original thinkers' and people that ‘think outside the box'. Are you one? Do you know someone that you think of in that way? Religion and Politics teach us a lot about influence, and the nature of conformity. You may think that you make your own decisions, and walk your own path, but when you start to look more closely at your lifestyle, and the choices you make day to day, you might be surprised by your readiness to follow the trends. Have you, for example, voted more than once for the same political party, even when you've been unhappy with their policies? Do you perhaps adhere to a religious belief even when you disagree with some its fundamentals? Perhaps, in many ways, we humans have much in common with sheep, happily joining in with the rest of the flock.

Try this fun quiz to find out whether you're a leader or a follower:

Are you a leader or a follower?

  1. Do you ever buy branded food products because you believe they are in some way superior to supermarket's own brands?
  2. Have you ever paid more for an item of clothing simply because it features a particular brand label? (e.g. Levi jeans, Gap sweaters, etc.)
  3. How did you select your insurer? Did you ring round, or use a comparison web-site, or did you go for the one that always advertises on TV?
  4. Have you ever bought a product simply because a friend recommended it?
  5. Have you ever bought an item because friends or colleagues have commented on your old, but perfectly serviceable mobile phone/hi fi/camera/car etc.?
  6. Have you ever gone along to an event that you didn't feel comfortable about just because your friends or colleagues would laugh if you didn't join in?
  7. Do you vote the same way in every election, and if so, is it the party that your parents always supported?
  8. Do you believe that people in authority must know more than you do, or they wouldn't be there?
  9. Do you believe that the interpretation of events that you read in your preferred newspaper is accurate and fair on every occasion?
  10. Do you believe that if it's in print or on TV then it must be true?
  11. Do you trust your doctor to give you the best diagnosis on every occasion?
  12. Do you believe that every professional you come in contact with has your best interests at heart?
  13. Do you read your daily horoscope to find out what the day has in store?
  14. Did you know that the word 'gullible' has been removed from the dictionary?
  15. Do you still believe you're an original thinker?

Mankind as a herd species

For a long time now, I've come to see our kind as a herd species. Don't laugh! I'm more than half serious here. How else do you explain how fashion works. One season all the girls are wearing floral dresses, and the next they're all in suits. Twenty years ago everyone had wall-to-wall carpets, and now stripped wood floors are de rigeur.

The study of hypnosis gives more clues as to how these things work, and it is quite staggering how easily influenced even the most original amongst us really is. The human brain acts just like an on-board computer. It is pre-programmed to make connections, and guide our actions and reactions in response to external prompts.

Perhaps, on an instinctive level, we humans are not too dissimilar to other creatures in the animal kingdom. If you have ever watched ducks in flight, you might perhaps have marvelled at them achieving a perfect ‘V' formation. You may perhaps, have seen a collie dog rounding up a flock of sheep, and witnessed how they obediently gather together, when they could so easily divide and conquer. You will almost certainly have seen a colony of ants on the march, or observed bees swarming, or flocks of starlings swooping about the sky on a perfectly synchronised flight path, and wondered how they communicate, and how they know to act as a single entity. But do you really believe that humans are different, that as individuals, we walk our own path?

A quick lesson in influence courtesy of Derren Brown

I am including this link to a Youtube video of Derren Brown because it demonstrates perfectly just how many stimulations and influences we are bombarded with on an average day.

The clip shows two advertising professionals being played at their own game by master hypnotist, Derren Brown. They have been invited to come up with an advertising campaign for an unlikely project, and they are given a limited amount of time to produce slogans and sketches. Meanwhile Derren Brown has also produced sketches and slogans prior to their meeting, and these are sealed, and left in the room with the advertising guys. When Derren Browns marketing concepts are revealed at the end of the experiment, it is immediately clear that Brown's ideas are almost identical to those of the Ad pros. The video goes on to demonstrate exactly how this synchronicity was achieved, and it quickly becomes clear that influence takes very many forms.....

The advertising industry understands the nature of influence all too well. If a message is repeated often enough, it will gradually becomed hot-wired into our consciousness. Present the desired message in a particularly catchy way, and you're surely on to a winner. Jingles, slogans, eye-catching packaging, linking products to celebrities, these are all proven ways to ensure success in advertising.

The important thing to understand, however, is that I'm not just talking about the influence of advertising here, although that is a powerful presence in the media and in any retail environment. I'm also thinking of visual cues, such as changing scenery, litter on the streets, other people's clothing and behaviour. Audio cues include other peoples opinions, radio, music, and the sounds of nature. Some people are also strongly influenced by taste and smell, and the associations that they inspire.

Influence and inspiration are very closely allied, and true originality is therefore a very rare jewel indeed.


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