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Psychology: interacting with the world

We all interact with the world we live in and with other people. There are people we like and people we dislike. There are people we admire and perhaps we would like to be like them and there are some people that we react to negatively. Without realising  it we try to copy the people we admire.

When I was a child, many children disliked wearing glasses because often they were told they would have to wear glasses that weren’t very fashionable. They were round and quite plain. They looked quite old fashioned. Then along came John Lennon wearing round glasses just like the ones children had hated for so long. No longer were they unfashionable, now they were cool.

People also wore jackets with no collar which was unheard of before the Beatles made it fashionable. Many other fashions have been inspired by celebrities that people admire and want to copy. It’s not just celebrities that are copied but teachers in schools and professors in universities. Role models not only inspire changes in fashion and dictate the length of women’s skirts and whether men shave or have fashionable ‘designer stubble’. They also affect the behaviour of their admirers and even affect the way they speak. People will use the same adjectives for effect as their heroes and change their behaviour to become more like them.

It is important that people in the public eye or in positions of power have standards of behaviour that are generally acceptable to the public. Illegal drug use has been copied by young people because their pop star idols have virtually promoted the behaviour through the media.

Many young men drive too fast, because they want to be like  their favourite media star. Their role model doesn’t even have to be a real person. The role model with enormous power over people’s appearance and behaviour, can even be a fictitious character in a film.

Catch phrases are popular on television and are frequently copied and become fashionable. Even popular catch phrases from advertising become popular in everyday conversation. The more easily a word or phrase is understood, the more popular it tends to become. Some words in our language are rarely used and are unpopular because their meaning is a little ambiguous. The media and advertising can clarify the meanings of words and phrases by using them in a recognisable context. They even become used as analogies such as ‘it does what it says on the tin’, to reinforce a totally different message.

There are many elements that go to form acceptability. We have to find something acceptable before we will make it our own. Many areas of government have their own ‘language’. This office speak is confusing to new employees, but they soon accept it, because they want to fit in. The same applies to dress and dress codes, we all want to conform in some way. The people who don’t conform are often the ones who lead change. They are the ones who tend to dress in an Avant Garde style and because of their position of power will often be copied.

What we accept tends to be subject to a twisted logical reasoning that seems quite logical at the time, but with detailed analysis will be found to be flawed. We might get a distorted view of BMW drivers if a few speed past us within a short space of time. Having witnessed such driving and knowing the cars are quite sporty, we might conclude that all BMW drivers are fast drivers; based on the fact we have seen just two of them. Often we can form a view of a whole race of people from observing just a few, despite there being millions or even billions of other people of the same race who are quite different.

The way we interact with the world and other people is influenced by what we find desirable and acceptable. There are conflicts, we even use conflicting words to describe the thing we admire. Young people use words like ‘cool’ and ‘wicked’ to describe the desirable. Language determines much of what we believe and find acceptable.

What do you think? Please use the comments box to share your thoughts. You can also follow me on Twitter.

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