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Responding to Mass Influence

Since the earliest times, our social rhythm has been set by the natural world. The rise and fall of the sun and moon, the firmament full of stars and other natural phenomena dictated so much early human behavior. Today companies and governments alike have molded patterns of mass behavior shaping the lives and choices of millions of people hearkening to our inherent vulnerability to being steered. Some of the “choices” we make as consumers or voters appear to be voluntary and pleasant. The reward of being the first in line for a new iPhone would fall into this category. Meanwhile, other choices may be involuntary – autonomic even – and often come with adverse economic and social impacts, at times bordering on irrationality. Our innate susceptibility to lemming-like mass behavior is not lost on organizations and people wishing to create predictable outcomes. Understanding these triggers will help people navigate the modern maze of mass influence.

Critically, recognizing that we are constantly being influenced is the first step toward understanding these patterns and taking control of the forces exerting pressure at every turn. In order to do this, we must appreciate the societal proclivity of “falling in line” and “conforming.” While societies have been falling into place for eons, the modern industrial applications of mass influence blossomed during the industrial revolution and went into overdrive in the digital age. The first industrial examples of mass order began on assembly lines, where legions of compliant workers donned the same outfit and performed menial, often dangerous repetitive tasks like so many automata. Even the academic model that dominates many schools hearkens to this era, where schooling systems adopted uniforms, alarms signaling class times, regimented lunch lines and other examples of mass (educational) production. Even the concept of going against the gods and changing time to suit farming and industrial production with Daylight Savings is an example of broad influence on a macro level.

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