Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Herd Instinct


This article talks about the lack of success in scolding people to lose weight.

“Telling people what they ought to do, even giving them the facts is unlikely to change much - I knew the facts of smoking and its likely damage to my health but still persisted for years.

Much of it is considered and helpful but almost all of it misses the big point about this kind of thing: far from being "reckless" or "immoral" or "irrational" behaviour by independent individuals, over-eating, smoking and alchohol abuse tend to be things that spread through social means, as for example,..

We do these kinds of things because those around us are doing them, not because we are - any of us - acting independently. We are social not reckless.”

This seems so obvious – you are who you hang out with.

How do people get to be expert at an activity? They hang out with others who are better than they are or at least striving to get better. Dave MacLeod discusses the previously cited article as it relates to climbing:

We are social beings and it’s too hard to act individually swim against the tide of what everyone around you is doing….Go on a holiday where there isn’t a culture of sitting around, drinking, eating and not doing much (like a mountaineering trip) and you’ll probably come home a pound or two lighter, without even trying …

Some goes for your sport performance, training, whatever. The best way to get into a national team is to spend a stack of time with everyone else who is doing the same. I feel that it’s not necessary to make this a permanent move. It’s about hardwiring a new set of habits, norms, standards.”

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