People Like Popular Things

What does this mean, why does it happen and how can we understand this phenomenon to help us make better decisions?

Peer pressure has its roots in social learning. Someone successful (or important) likes something or does something and it makes the less successful and less important like it or do it too, quite regardless of whether or not ‘it’ has any positive intrinsic qualities.

Many people like astrology. There may be a tiny grain of truth about our formative years and personality being influenced by the seasons but none of the major claims made by astrologers has yet been verified. Yet people spend time reading about it, and grant it authority as a reliable source of information despite this not being the case. If nobody else liked astrology, it would be very unlikely that you would be interested either, but because your friends do it appeals to you more.

In short, the way things are presented to us is very, very important and can be the difference between us believing it or disregarding it. If we think we like the music genre ‘jazz’, we are more likely to appreciate another piece of music that has been labelled ‘jazz’ too. This is categorical perception.

Ultimately, critical thinking skills will help us distinguish between good and bad reasons for liking or doing something, but most human beings will continue to be swayed by all manner of errors in judgement including the attraction to both the already popular and to the familiar. These ‘errors’ are incredibly hard to correct as they are hard-wired in us as habits that are very difficult to judge without personal bias.

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