By Bosco – (Irish Sentinel Contributor) – Saints & Scholars – October 5th 2021
One of the most studied areas in social psychology concerns group behaviour and influence. Experiments on group influence date back to just under a century ago where Arthur Jenness’ conducted research in 1932 on conformity to a group norm.
Jenness had put beans in a jar and asked all the participants to examine it and declare their estimate of the number to other members of the group. All the participants having declared their estimates, they were all asked to re-estimate the number of beans in the jar. In most cases, the participants’ estimates moved closer to the mean demonstrating the draw of the group on individual beliefs. This relatively harmless little experiment demonstrated conformity to a group.
Further research on conformity was undertaken by Turkish American psychologist Muzafer Sherif who proposed an experiment in 1935 with the aim of demonstrating that people conform to group norms when they are put in an ambiguous situation.
Sherif used a lab experiment to conduct his study on conformity. Using the autokinetic effect –where a small spot of light (projected onto a screen) in a dark room will appear to move, even though it is still, he discovered that when participants were individually tested their estimates on how far the light moved varied considerably. The participants were then tested in groups of three. Sherif manipulated the composition of the group by putting together two people whose estimate of the light movement when alone was very similar, and one person whose estimate was very different. Each person in the group had to say aloud how far they thought the light had moved.
Sherif discovered that over numerous estimates of the movement of light, the group converged to a common estimate. The person whose estimate of movement was greatly different to the other two in the group seemed to conform to the opinion of the other two.
The results tended to show that when in an ambiguous situation (such as the autokinetic effect), a person will look to others for guidance. People tend to want to do the right thing but may lack the appropriate information in accomplishing this task. Observing others can provide people with the appropriate information, a phenomenon known as informational conformity.
In 1951 social psychologist Solomon Asch attempted to expand the knowledge of group dynamics and conducted an experiment to investigate the extent to which social pressure from a majority group could affect a person to conform.
Asch believed that the main problem with Sherif’s conformity experiment was that there was no correct answer to the ambiguous autokinetic test. How could. Therefore, could we be certain that a person conformed when no correct answer existed?
Using a lab experiment to study conformity, Asch involved 50 male students from Swarthmore College in the USA participated in a ‘vision test.’
Using a line judgment task, Asch put a naive participant in a room with seven confederates or stooges who were co-conspirators to the set up. The confederates had agreed in advance what their responses would be when presented with the line task.
The real participant wasn’t aware of this conspiracy and was led to believe that the other seven confederates/stooges were genuine participants like himself.
Every individual in the room had to state out loud which comparison line (A, B or C) most resembled the target line. The answer was always obvious. The real participant sat at the end of the row and gave his or her answer last, again out loud to the group.
There were 18 trials in total, and the confederates gave the wrong answer on 12 trails (called the critical trials). Asch was interested to see if the real participant would conform to the majority view.
A control condition where there were no confederates, only a “real participant.” Was also factored into the experiment.
Asch measured the number of times each participant conformed to the majority view and found that on average, about one third (32%) of the participants who were placed in this situation went along and conformed with the clearly incorrect majority on the critical trials.
Over the 12 critical trials, about 75% of participants conformed at least once, and 25% of participants never conformed.
In the control group, with no pressure to conform to confederates, less than 1% of participants gave the wrong answer.
Asch attempted to explain why the participants were so eager to conform. In post experiment interviews the real participants said that they did not really believe the answers they gave but had gone along with the group for fear of being ridiculed or thought “peculiar. Some went as far as to admit that they really did believe the group’s answers to be correct.
Asch posited that people tend to conform for two main reasons:1) because they want to fit in with the group (normative influence) and 2) because they believe the group is better informed than they are (informational influence).
Interestingly academics, Perrin and Spencer (1980) suggested that the Asch effect was a “child of its time.” And they attempted to carry out an exact replication of the original Asch experiment this time using engineering, mathematics, and chemistry students as subjects. Both academics found that on only one out of 396 trials did an observer join the erroneous majority.
Perrin and Spencer argue that a cultural change has taken place in the value placed on conformity and obedience and in the position of students. In America in the 1950s students were unobtrusive members of society whereas now they occupy a free questioning role.
However, one problem encountered when comparing this study with Asch is that very different types of participants were used during the research. Perrin and Spencer instead had used science and engineering students who might be expected to be more independent by training when it came to making perceptual judgments which might have had an impact on the results. Or that was the reason given for the difference in results.
Professor Mattias Desmet of the University of Ghent, who proposed a concept called mass formation may necessitate a rethink. Mass formation is a phenomenon which leads to irrational thinking within an anxiety, detached and discontented rich environment where the faulty thinking is maintained by new bonds and mental intoxication allow even blatantly false narratives to be sustained. The present Covid 19 lunacy, accepted by many scientists and technical experts tends to suggest that the perceptual judgments and independent training mentioned afore, may not in fact, preclude such a category of people from being so influenced. In fact, there seems a preponderance of such inclined experts who have indeed fallen prey to the mass hypnosis currently inveigling science and medicine.
The implication by Perrin and Spencer that conservativism was the only ideological landscape susceptible to the power of conformity must now also be under serious scrutiny. Given that academia is dominantly liberal leaning, including in practical and scientific fields highlighted by the intellectual class who have especially detached themselves from reason and objectivity during the present Covid debacle, it can properly be asserted that susceptibility can attach itself seemingly to any category whether conservative or liberal. Moreover, anyone with any experience of a communist environment would consign the canard further to bed given the high levels of conformity within communistic societies. Opponents may argue such conformity is attributable to fear, yet conformity it still is, the means of ensuring it may be altogether different.
A side note with regards to Perrin and Spencer’s research did reveal that that participants in Asch-type situations were highly emotional was obtained by other academics, Back et al. in 1963 who found that participants in the Asch situation had greatly increased levels of autonomic arousal. This seems congruent with Desmet’s work on mass formation.
Regardless, the search to understand group behaviour continued especially after the second world war where obscenities, evil acts, and atrocities on all sides of the the conflict had started to filter back into post war society, a society returning to some semblance of civility. As stories of butchery entered the public domain, a perpetual mantra was presented in an attempt to exculpate participants of their responsibility, “But I was only obeying orders”.
The banality of the response was not lost on political theorist Hanna Arendt who analysed the trial and implications of the defence of war criminal Adolph Eichmann, who was being tried in Jerusalem. Arendt concluded that the prisoner before the bench was not a fanatic or mentally unstable, but that he had perpetrated evil deeds in a business-like manner and did so because he believed he was simply obeying orders. Arendt discovered that, rather than a stereotypical monster, Eichmann appeared non-descript. Arendt described him in such a way that he appeared a man in beige, the consummate bureaucrat. One could argue that the over-reaching and heavy handedness performed by the police in most countries, especially in Victoria, Australia during the Covid19 fiasco has manifested similar automatising indifference and vague deference to authority.
It will be interesting to see in the future if tribunals were ever to take place to reprimand the shocking abuses of power prevalent during the Covid tyranny whether similar defences of ‘superior orders’ will be pleaded by the defence. It will also be interesting to see whether the courts will reject such pleas in the same way the judges did in the Nuremburg and Eichmann trials.
In 1961, another researcher, Stanley Milgram picked up the baton from Arendt’s thesis and tested whether he could deceive people into perpetrating evil through blind obedience to an authority figure. Milgram set up a fake scenario where participants believed they were delivering powerful electric shocks to others in obedience to a man in a clinical technician’s coat and with a clip-board informing them to “please continue”. Asked by Milgram to predict how many would go to a lethal dose, most top professors of psychology and psychiatry said “not one in a thousand” would be so evil. The actual percentage who gave a 450V shock was recorded as 65%. For many commentators, such deference was alarming yet offered more evidence for explaining mass atrocities.
The baton soon passed to another psychologist, Stanford academic, Philip Zimbardo who conducted an alarming experiment in the basement of Standford university. Zimbardo detailed the experiment, and his conclusions in the aptly titled book, ’The Lucifer Effect’, published first in 2007.
Zimbardo’s work seemed to suggest that transformations of human character, in which ordinary, even good people begin to engage in bad deeds that qualify as evil, whether for a short time or longer, can occur as long as the system in which they operate is in some form unjust or dysfunctional.
In “The Stamford Prison Experiment” Zimbardo arranged for a group of volunteer students to be randomly assigned into two groups, one, the role of prisoners and two, guards, for a two-week experiment on conforming to social roles. The guards took to their role so well that quickly they began to bully and harass the prisoners and to dehumanise them. Such was the power of the recreation that Zimbardo himself, in the role of prison governor, become utterly detached from reality until his future wife jerked him out of his stupor. Zimbardo seemingly had demonstrated how good people can learn quickly to do bad things.
Zimbardo found that the main factor at play in treating a group less favourably was the process of dehumanisation. The process involves taking away the humanity of the victim and reducing them to a lesser, more animalistic status.
As discussed before in a previous article, the present age seems to suffer from an egotism never witnessed before, a self-hubris so to speak, leading the self-congratulating into the delusion that they as a society could never behave in such barbaric ways as their ancestors, that modernity was far too sophisticated for any repeat of the cruelties of yesterday. This is evidently false given present history.
The abortion campaign and victory in Ireland provides a very interesting case study of both cruelty and indifference to suffering. Several narratives were created by the media that rendered the population both higher anxious, paranoid and susceptible to pro-abortion propaganda. The Savita Halappanavar case was mercilessly distorted to harness a corrupt narrative that a misfortunate migrant was denied proper “healthcare” through the refusal of an abortion. This is blatantly false. Halappanavar died of sepsis and there was never a situation where a baby couldn’t be removed to save the life of a mother. Abortion is the intentional direct killing of an unborn child. There is absolutely no relationship between removing a baby who may die once extracted because of its prematurity, and going into directly kill the baby. The former is a procedure always carried out in Ireland, the latter is an abortion. Both can achieve the same end for the mother, but one directly and intentionally kills the baby. The problem with the latter, despite the obvious was that abortion, as understood from the legacy of Roe V Wade, and its companion case Doe v Bolton, was that abortion is never ideological restricted to the cases the abortion lobby tell the public. “Safe, legal and rare” was never their goal as we see today. The Halappanavar case was merely used by propagandists to persuade a critically illiterate public to demand abortion on demand.
Noam Chomsky, the doyen of the left, retains some merit despite his contradictions and myopia. Chomsky has explained how corporate vested interests are in bed with the mass media, who in turn manufacture consensus. This helps explain why the media have been at the forefront of the abortion industry resulting in a horrific figure accumulated since the 1980s that reads 1.6 billion dead babies, a figure gleaned from the pro-abortion Guttsmacher institute. Over a billion babies mutilated, dismembered, and discarded since the 1980s, and yet, despite the incessant negative news stories churned out this most blatant holocaust is rendered silent such that even so called “human rights” groups, intentionally ignore it.
The reason for the silence from the so-called human rights sector is that a lot, if not all, of the campaigning that brought about these 1.6 billion deaths is produced by the very organisations charged with protecting the very human beings they warrant to defend . It also explains why we might expect a progressive celebrity who coincidentally is always photographed while doing their charitable work to break into uncontrollable fit of tears at the thought of a lama, or mule being euthanised but remain steadfastly silent at the butchery of babies. Or worse, extol the virtues of abortion abattoir providers like planned parenthood or the Marie stopes clinic and fund them generously.
Ignoring the realities of abortion, it is the Rwandan genocide, and the Balkan conflicts that provide more acceptable examples to the left of a process of dehumanisation. These conflicts are recent in memory but also highlight the fact that once considered neighbours and friends could ultimately resort to exacting unimaginable cruelties on each-other primed based on dehumanisation, provides us with answers that we perpetually fail to learn. One should note also that the very act of ignoring one category of dehumanised (the aborted) while canvassing the disapproval of other categories (Rwandan and Balkan genocides) exacerbates the dehumanisation of the former.
Language, as we know is a very powerful tool. It can be used in such a way to remove the inhumanity of an act, simply because the recipient of the act is considered less than human. One event that still traumatises a nation of over one billion people today occurred during World War two, the invasion of China by Imperial Japanese forces.
The city of Nanjing (Nanking) fell to the Japanese on the 13th of December 1937, where Japanese soldiers unleashed an unrelenting savagery on the Chinese population consisting of wanton destruction, burning, rape, robbery, and the murder of thousands of civilians and non-combatants. According to historian Jonathan Spence, these atrocities must rank among the worst in the history of modern warfare. For almost seven weeks the Japanese troops, who first entered the city on December 13th, unleashed on the defeated Chinese troops and on the helpless Chinese civilian population a storm of violence and cruelty that has few parallels. .
During the massacre over 20,000 women were raped by the Japanese soldiers during the six weeks of the Nanking Massacre. Most were brutally killed afterwards. The Japanese soldiers even raped girls less than 10 years old and women over 70 as well as pregnant women and nuns. The soldiers even forced incest on families and bayoneted infants for fun. Anyone who resisted any of these were killed immediately.
In trying to understand how such evil could be unleashed psychologists became to examine issues of authorization, routinization, and dehumanization.
According to academics Kelman and Hamilton,
“…through authorization, the situation becomes so defined that the individual is absolved of the responsibility to make personal moral choices.”
This is the precursor to the superior orders defence that would be pleaded in the tribunals after the war had finished.
With authorisation, individuals performing the actions do not feel personally responsible for their behaviour due to the explicit orders or implicit encouragement of an authority figure. In an authority situation, people behave according to their role obligations rather than their personal preferences, causing them to obey without thinking about the consequences. Academics began to trace explanations that were found in the authority structure present in the Japanese army which most likely contributed to the massive violence that occurred at Nanking. Early in the training of Japanese soldiers, the pressure to conform to authority is ingrained and reinforced. According to former soldier Azumo Shiro, the Japanese army was not an army for the people of Japan, but rather the emperor’s army. The Japanese Imperial army consisted of obedient soldiers who served the emperor’s interest.
Much like the Eichmann narrative, repeated today by police enforcers throughout the Covid pandemic, Japanese soldiers were trained to obey like robots.
It was said that a climate of “Vicious hazing and a relentless pecking order” usually eliminated any spirit of individualism in a Japanese soldier. According to Chang, “Obedience” was touted as a supreme virtue, and a sense of individual self-worth was replaced by a sense of value as a small cog in the larger scheme of things. This type of intensive training focused on extreme obedience to authority helps to explain how the social process of authorization, as described by Kelman and Hamilton, played a massive role in the Nanking tragedy. In the soldier’s minds, they were doing the right thing since they were executing orders from an upper authority. Where have we heard that recently?
In the personal accounts of several Nanking soldiers, it is evident that the focus was on the details of the job (for example – how and where they should kill and rape) rather than on the actual meaning of their action.
Japanese soldiers would line victims up with their heads positioned downward so that beheading them would be quick and easy. Commanding officers would often hold “killing contests” among their soldiers in order to sharpen their swordsmanship skills. According to a testimony at the War Crimes Trail, officers would continuously yell “Kill and count! Kill and count!” as soldiers participated in these killing contests.
The soldiers killed, maimed and raped in “an automatic, regularized fashion” as typically found in situations governed by routinization. Little, if any, thought was given to the moral implications of their actions.
According to Kelman and Hamilton the victims of the Nanking tragedy were deprived of two essential qualities of being human – identity and community. Identity involves the “standing as independent, distinctive individuals, and entitled to live their own lives” and community involves “a sense of belonging to a network of individuals who care and respect one another”. Since elementary school, many Japanese were taught to believe that the Chinese were subhuman, and “no better than pigs.”
This process of de-legitimacy of course echoes the pro-abortion mantras of today, where the unborn are denuded of their proven humanity, being labelled “a mere clump of cells” or “waste product from a termination”. A “Doctor” Gunter even described the unborn as “zombies” and those who oppose the butchery as “forced birthers”. Worryingly we are increasingly hearing similar dehumanising branding, disseminated in media, of the unvaccinated.
One might have taught too those sections of society who tend to remind the world of their own victimhood would be first to defend the truly marginalised, but this doesn’t appear so. In a deposition given in 2018, vaccine advocate Dr Alan Plotkin sniggered while the detail of a three-month aborted baby being dismembered for research purposes was conveyed to him. The irony here is Plotkin is a member of the Jewish community in New York and no doubt would join in the appalled chorus when it came to historical accounts of dehumanisation aimed at his own people. However, Plotkin appeared not only unmoved by the barbarity he was complicit in but derided brutalising those, he obviously considered inferior. This is the true essence of dehumanisation. Despite established acquaintance with similar acts of dehumanisation experienced by his own kind but under one set of circumstances, he chose to deny them in another, the unborn.
During the Nanking massacre, the process of dehumanization was most evident in the actions of the Japanese soldiers whose barbarity is etched into the Chinese consciousness as much as the genocidal famine is written in ours. According to Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking, Japanese soldiers were “hardened for the task of murdering Chinese.” To trivialise the actions further, various games and exercises were conceived by the Japanese army “to numb its men to the human instinct against killing people who are not attacking.” For the Japanese, the Chinese were thought to be the enemy, and an explicit threat to Japan.
One can equally apply this process of distorted rationalisation to pro-abortion advocates who see pregnancy in terms of a threat. Actress Michelle Williams used her platform at the Oscars several years ago, to promote her “right to choose” and her own abortion story, considering it the gateway to her successful glitzy Hollywood career. In her eyes, the unborn were reduced to nothing more than an obstacle to financial success and fame. The resounding applause in the audience furthered the process of dehumanisation.
In Nanking, the extreme hostility towards Chinese by the Japanese originated from a very early age and only grew stronger around the time period of the Nanking. The dehumanized portrayal of the Chinese was not only forced upon soldiers in their military training, but also engrained in their upbringing and education. For example, throughout their education and military training, the Chinese were portrayed as inhumane, power-driven people equipped to take the most extreme measures in order to secure and spread the institution of communism. After Chinese killed many Japanese soldiers in battles prior to Nanking, this extreme hatred only grew.
The dehumanized victims of Nanking were seen as bodies whose heads helped to keep score in a killing match. Former soldier Azumo Shiro admitted that after one month in the battlefield, he learned to kill people without any remorse (Choy video). It was not unusual for Japanese soldiers to torture citizens by mutilating body parts and burying them alive. Furthermore, women were victims of gang rape, forced to perform countless sexual acts and then brutally killed or mutilated after the soldiers got tired of them. “When raping, women were considered objects for sexual gratification, when killing, they were considered nothing more than a pig,” as one soldier later confessed. Japanese soldiers even went as far as creating a generic term for raping women.
According to Kelman and Hamilton, labels help deprive the victims of identity and community. The term “Pikankan” was used to mean, “let’s see a woman open up her legs.” Then, the soldiers would say, “it’s my day to take a bath.” Whoever said this phrase first got to rape the woman first, and the second to say it would be the second to rape, and so on. After the woman was gang raped, she would be stabbed and killed, “because dead bodies don’t talk
According to Chang, the Nanking atrocities became routine, and almost banal for the soldiers – clearly demonstrating the influence of dehumanization. We can recall that Hannah Arendt also identified this banality when she observed Eichmann. It is arguably this banality today that allows people to vote to dismember unborn babies without a glimmer of regret. The banality operates from a place of abstraction where abortions are branded as another routine operation, no different to excising a kidney stone or an appendix. Routine becomes so engrained today during the Covid scam, that people lose their civility, their tendency to tolerance and forbearance to berate a stranger in a shop who happens not to be wearing a face mask.
According to Kelman and Hamilton, the process of dehumanization feeds on itself – the only way to make sense of the absurd events in which soldiers find themselves is to believe that the victims are subhuman and need to be rooted out.
The greatest mistake for today is for people to conclude that evil is consigned to the past, that cruelty is as stuck in the past, as a sword from the past might be stuck in the mud. The truth is very different. The only thing separating us from the past, and from our base human behaviour is a genuine awareness that recognises the humanity in others, even those we might disagree with. However, as we have shown, even a person from a community of people who are unrelenting in their reminders to the world of past tragedies, can themselves perpetuate new evils in the present. What is deeply bothersome is that people who would otherwise call themselves cultured, well-educated and civilised seem blissfully ignorant of their own potential or actualised debasement.
Psychology has demonstrated that we are not always in control of our behaviour as individuals, even more so when we act within a group, especially one manipulated by evil doers.
As they sit down for the evening in the comfort of their living room, the television playing on their LCD 40inch TV, chiding a character in a world war two movie who behaved cruelly towards some prisoner, MR or MRs Joe public may have spent the morning nodding his or her head in approval reading a story glorifying abortion, scolding a stranger for not wearing a mask, ratted on a neighbour for having a non-sanctioned child’s birthday party, or engaged in dehumanising thoughts towards the unvaccinated and hoping one would die.