Tuesday, May 20, 2008

social conformism

So I'm riding my bike home from the mall in rush hour today. I live on one side of the river, the mall is on the other; I have to go over a bridge. Since I was feeling really sick I decided to take the flattest bridge. This bridge however does not allow bikes on the sidewalk, I normally ride on the road, but it was rush hour and I would have had a to j-walk to get where I wanted to be.

Now, normally, despite the signs, I would probably ride my bike across the bridge on the sidewalk. I've done it before, and I'll probably do it again. Today however, the guy in front of me dismounted and started walking his bike across the bridge. I then felt the social pressure to do the same thing and thus walked my bike across the bridge too.

I found this interesting. It just goes to show how other people influence our actions for good or for bad. If this guy had ridden across I definitely would have ridden across too. But because he did the right thing, I did the right thing too. Now granted, I don't have strong values relating to riding my bike across the bridge. I'm sort of ambivalent about it, or beyond ambivalent, I just don't care. If my values about the subject were stronger, maybe I wouldn't have been as easily influenced.

So if one person can influence me to walk my bike across a bridge, what can I influence people to do? What can a group of my friends and I influence people to do? If enough people start to do something differently, will the rest of society follow? It's an interesting thing to thing about...

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