The fact that many studies have proven that we would rather agree with other peoples’ opinion than voice our own … is terrifying. Famous Solomon Asch Conformity experiments have proven that even when we know (or are at least very sure) something is incorrect, we still agree with the majority in the room, even when their opinion is ridiculous.
Unfortunately, given today’s access to social media this means that anyone with enough of a social media following can not only promote, but encourage change of thought based on little or no facts.
I had really hoped to avoid voicing my opinion of Nicole Arbour. Partly because I think participating in debates over social media is silly, but mostly because I believe that if you don’t agree with someone’s view, the worst thing you can do is add to it by posting your own comments.
However, given that her videos have stirred such controversy, I find the need to present another view which I haven’t yet seen. Hopefully one that gets you thinking critically instead of nodding your head in agreement because a pretty blonde sounded convincing.
Dear fat people:
If I really cared about your weight loss and wanted to promote positive change, I would never start a video off with the introduction: dear fat people.
Why? Because to start, numerous social psychology studies have shown that the only way to promote positive change is through positive reinforcement.
This may sound like psycho-babble but if you think about it, it really makes sense.
Let’s say you’re in class and your professor, Mr. Smith, gives you an hour to write an assignment. During the class he walks around the room staring intently and reading student’s papers over their shoulders. Every now and then he makes a critical remark out loud for all to hear, and the bashful student quickly turns his pencil upside down to make their changes as the rest of the students laugh at their pointed error.
Eventually Mr. Smith comes up behind you and peers over your shoulder to read your work. He stands there for a minute, peering intently and then after what seems like an eternity says loudly, for everyone else in the class to hear “Ah, I see your second paragraph starts with a proposition. If you had listened to my lecture you would have known that this is not best practice for the assigned article.” He pauses for a minute to let it sink in, and looks around the room to ensure all students have heard his criticism. Finally as he slowly walks away he scoffs (loudly enough for all students to hear), “hopefully some of you were paying more attention to my lecture!”. You suddenly feel the entire class’s eyes staring at you, and even when their gaze turns you still feel their eyes on you… looking and judging your every thought, move and error.
Now let’s take the exact same scenario, although this time instead of Mr. Smith you have Mrs. Pankin teaching the course. Everyone is writing the assignment as Mrs. Pankin walks around the room. You feel Mrs. Pankin walk up behind you, peering over your shoulder. This time, rather than making a loud boisterous statement she bends over and whispers “ah, I have started many papers with a proposition, as you have – a secret for you: if you begin with a bold statement instead you capture the reader’s attention and make them intrigued enough to want to read more.” She makes quick eye contact with you – a positive excited glimmer – before sauntering away to tap another student on the shoulder. As she walks away you glance around the room at your classmates, who are peering over at you intriguingly, wondering what sort of nuggets of knowledge she has given you.
Your inside tip not only gives you the information you needed to make a positive change to your assignment, but also boosts your self-confidence just enough to give you the courage you needed to add in that extra paragraph you weren’t sure about beforehand.
The result? As Mr. Smith’s student you are so self-conscience that your paper not only contains a word count much lower than expected, but also includes grammar mistakes and typos that you don’t even recognize as your own. As Mrs. Pankin’s student on the other hand, you not only write an engaging and insightful paper, but you go above and beyond the expectations to include arguments contrived from insightful, out of the box thinking, which were not even part of the initial assignment.
In both cases the student was the same – you. And yet, your outcome was significantly different.
The reason why I use this example is simply to display the impact of positive reinforcement. Nicole Arbour states that she talks about fat people to bring awareness to the topic in hopes of promoting positive change.
The problem is, that much like Mr. Smith, Nicole is attempting to promote change through negative reinforcement… and as any introductory social psych course will teach you, you can’t promote positive change through negative reinforcement.
So, Nicole, If your goal was to gain fame and attention for your videos, you have certainly succeeded. If it was to promote positive change though, as you so state – perhaps you should rethink your strategy.
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